College Prep: Managing Projects and Studying

Around mid- to late-semester is when projects and exams begin to pile on, and this can be very overwhelming and stressful to deal with. In this post I will talk about strategies that have been helpful for me to manage everything and not lose my head (completely). Even if you’re not in college, I think these tips can be helpful for anyone who has a lot on their plate.

1. Create a “Pipeline”

It wasn’t until I was nearly finished with my masters that one of my supervisors introduced the metaphor of thinking of your work in terms of a pipeline. Just having a mental representation of what stage my work was at, where things maybe “clogging” the pipeline, and how I could move things along in the pipeline was very helpful to me. So what I do is I make a list of things that I have on my plate. Let’s make up an example… Say you have:

  1. Exam in Class 1
  2. Exam in Class 2
  3. Paper in Class 3
  4. Paper in Class 4
  5. Presentation in Class 5

Whew, that’s a lot of stuff on your plate! Now, list when everything is due….

  1. Exam in Class 1 Due 11/23
  2. Exam in Class 2 Due 12/4
  3. Paper in Class 3 Due 11/30
  4. Paper in Class 4 Due 12/7
  5. Presentation in Class 5 Due 12/11

And then put those in order….

  1. Exam in Class 1 Due 11/23
  2. Paper in Class 3 Due 11/30
  3. Exam in Class 2 Due 12/4
  4. Paper in Class 4 Due 12/7
  5. Presentation in Class 5 Due 12/11

The key to managing your pipeline is to go ahead and start working on things gradually. The worst thing you can do is start on everything at once and “clog” your pipeline. So, go ahead and make an outline for that first exam. That’s your first step in your pipeline. Once you have that done, go ahead and make an outline for your paper that is due, and find the information that you will need for that. Then go back to your first exam and start studying on that. Once you feel like you’re in a good spot and have moved that down your pipeline a little bit, go ahead and start preparing for the 2nd exam. Do you understand what I doing here? It’s just gradually starting on things and moving them down the line so you aren’t focused on one thing and you are managing and preparing for future tasks.

2. Make a Weekly and Daily “To-Do” List

In most of my posts I talk about how planning and scheduling will help you to stay on top of your life. It always helps me to look at my planner and write down everything that needs to be accomplished that week and when. I also make a daily “to-do” list to help me keep on top of everything.

3. Schedule Breaks

For every hour that you work, be sure to schedule a 10-15 minute break to yourself to stretch, check your phone, call your mom, go on Pinterest, check your Instagram, or anything else to take things off of your mind. It is so important to take a break, but just be sure that you get back on task!

4. Schedule Meals and Eat Healthy

When you’re in the groove of studying or working, you sometimes lose track of time. Be sure that you schedule in time to eat. This will also serve as a time to take a break and relax your brain a little bit. But it is so important that during these high-stress times that you eat healthy meals. It’s so convenient and satisfying to just eat comfort food during this time, but you should fuel your body with good food to have a sharp mind. Bring healthy snacks to the library or keep some near your desk.

5. Get Some Rest

Along with scheduling your meals, make sure that you are getting good sleep. Be aware of how long you have been working and know when it is time to call it quits for the night. Staying up late and cramming is never a great idea. Set a time for yourself for when to stop studying or working and then get up the next day and continue. This will help you study your best and have quality work!

6. Avoid Distraction

I think this is probably the most important tip I have. Turn your phone on vibrate or silent and put it away! Try to avoid online shopping, Pinterest, or any other online habits you may have while trying to study. Find the best environment for you to do you work in (everyone is different!). I like to study and work alone from home with the TV or music on in the background, while others like to study and work together in groups in the library. Find what is best for you, but do not let things distract you! Like I said before, take a break in your schedule to allow time to be distracted by things, then get back to work!

I really hope you find these tips to be helpful and that you can use some of them. I am really interested to hear what some of you do to manage your time, projects, and studies. Good luck!



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