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The reason why so many students are procrastinators, why everyone defaults to cramming, and why everyone has at least two stress freak-outs during the last week of class: we picked up these awful habits in high school, and brought them to campus with us on move-in day. The stereotype that college students never sleep is, unfortunately, accurate – especially as the semester is coming to a close. It’s one thing to buckle down and do some hard core studying for a few weeks, and another to walk around the library like a zombie with Starbucks in hand at 3 AM. Guess what, book worms? Time management is the deciding factor between the two.
We at Verge Campus Binghamton have come up with a few tips to help you end your semester in the most efficient, least stressful way possible. Use this checklist as a guide to getting your life together in time for finals without the caffeine and sleepless nights.
This is a no-brainer. One of the most helpful things you can do for yourself is invest in a planner that’s lightweight and easy to carry around – preferably, one with monthly calendar pages. Any time you’re given an assignment or a deadline in class, mark it on the monthly calendar and jot it down in the “notes” section for that date. This will help you avoid those “We had homework?!” situations in the future, and give you plenty of notice for upcoming exams. Apps like Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook serve the same purposes and can be accessed from most of your devices.
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After writing all of your deadlines down, your month can look a little intimidating. You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of you; maybe you don’t know where or how to begin. This is why prioritizing is key. Look at your calendar and take note of the nearest due dates and deadlines. Ask yourself, “What needs to get done first?” and “Which tasks take the longest time to complete?” Rank your assignments from most urgent to least through the rest of the week (or beyond). This will point you to the best place to start (hint: Item #1). You can use this as a “To-Do” list of sorts, and it will feel so satisfying to cross tasks off as you complete them!
Here’s where you take into account everything going on in your life outside of your schoolwork. Do you have a part-time job? An internship? A social life (hopefully)? What does your class schedule look like? It’s very important that you identify days or times when you know you’ll be busy with other commitments, so you can assess how much time you do have to get work done. If you know your nights are busy, for example, you can plan accordingly to finish your studying by late afternoon. Similarly, if you know you only have about five spare hours on Mondays, you can designate three of those hours to studying ahead of time.
Set deadlines for yourself and then adhere to them – this is most efficient way to get things done. Don’t try to multitask! It’s in your best interest to sit down with one assignment in mind and work on it until it’s finished. This will keep you centered and help you focus on the task at hand. If you’re going back and forth between multiple projects in the same sitting, you’ll definitely get distracted and confused between the two. Try to dedicate a certain length of time (say, an hour) to getting one thing done. If you have to, set a timer to keep yourself working toward your “deadline.” It will force you not to dwell on your work and maintain a steady pace. This brings me to my next point…
Trying to make everything perfect will not only stress you out exponentially quickly, but it is a straight-up time waster. It’s physically impossible to write an impeccable essay or to study everything perfectly, and going over the same work again and again in attempts to achieve that will only hinder you. Time you’re spending agonizing over the smallest details is time you could be spending doing other work. Look at your syllabus – does your work meet all of your professor’s criteria? Would he or she be able to tell that you spent time and effort writing up this assignment? Do your answers reflect your best knowledge of the topic? If so, you did your job. Time to move on to the next task.
Most students waste hours of study time scrolling through social media after they sit down to study. Try putting your phone in your bag and muting your laptop notifications to minimize distractions. If you still can’t keep your hands off of your phone, try downloading an app called “Forest” to motivate you. Here’s how it works: open the app and plant a seed. The longer you go without touching your phone or exiting the app, the taller your tree will grow. However, if you can’t resist, your tree will wither away.
Last (but certainly not least) on this checklist is the Golden Rule: Be kind to yourself. You’re only human, after all! You get hungry and tired, and you should seriously never disregard your needs during or because of a study session. This checklist exists to help you manage your time so that you don’t have to pull all-nighters, cram or study straight through meals without breaks. Likewise, if you’re feeling sick or overworked, know that your health is more important than any grade. Take breaks whenever you need it, and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Dina Rabie is the Social Media Manager for the Binghamton University Chapter. She is a junior studying English and Comparative Literature. She is also a copy editor for BU's newsletter, PRISM.