By Sarah Tibbitts
We've all reached “that point” of the semester at least once before. You know the one I’m talking about. You were feeling in a decent groove with your classes and extracurriculars, and all of a sudden, things are ramping up: you have a midterm coming up in your hardest class, a research paper due in another, and your parents are getting on you to study for the ACT. On top of that, your team is practicing every day, you have to come in early for band, and when are you supposed to update your fantasy football team??
Sound familiar? I bet. Maybe the activities are different, but we’ve all hit that point midway through the semester where assignments are starting to pile up, and you’re feeling totally overwhelmed. Lucky for you, we have a few tips to help!
It all needs to get done at some point, but it most likely doesn’t all need to get done today. Make a list of assignments, projects, upcoming tests, and other personal commitments, and work backwards from there. Some students prefer to check off a bunch of smaller assignments first, so their to-do list feels less overwhelming. Others simply want to tackle whatever is due first. Find out what works for you!
Keep Track of Deadlines
Daily readings and assignments can sometimes be easier to plan around, because you’re used to making time in your schedule for homework each night. Longer-term assignments, such as papers, research projects, and upcoming tests (either for school or college admissions) can feel more daunting, and sometimes they sneak up on us. There are ways to chunk out your work, so it feels less overwhelming. Be realistic. You’re probably not going to study every single day on top of your other work, nor should you. You also aren’t likely to start studying for a midterm three weeks in advance. Work backwards to figure out when you should start studying for an upcoming test, or working on a draft of a longer paper so that you’re not surprised when the due date rolls around. Keep track of those dates you’ve set for yourself, and add them to your to-do list for that day, so they don’t get pushed off.
Block Out Your Schedule
Any prior readers of my blogs know that I love a calendar or planner moment. Roll your eyes all you want, but keeping a calendar—whether electronic or paper—will undoubtedly help you keep track of assignments and feel less overwhelmed. There are even some helpful organizational apps that can help you keep a checklist of assignments. Take a look at your commitments outside of school and use those as a basis for planning your study/homework schedule. If you have a big away game for your sports team one night, plan to do your ACT studying on a different night! Maybe you have family coming in town for the weekend—plan to work ahead on that paper that’s due soon, so you can enjoy time with your cousins! Using a calendar to block out your schedule will help you visually get a sense for when you have some solid chunks of time to get ahead on work, and when you really don’t.
Reward Yourself and Take Time to Rest
No one is a robot. Being in school all day, having commitments after school, and mountains of homework to complete—all on probably less sleep than you really need—is exhausting. You deserve leisure time, and it will likely actually help you be more productive at your schoolwork! Rather than absentmindedly scrolling on TikTok while also trying to get homework done, put your phone down and do a focused hour of work. Then, treat yourself to a break by Facetiming a friend, spending a few minutes on Instagram, or heading to the kitchen for a bowl of ice cream! You’ll feel better about what you’ve gotten done and will hopefully finish faster than you would have—so you can have some leisure time before bed! On the weekends, make sure you’re getting some time with friends and family, spending some nice time outside, and catching up on sleep! If you love to sleep in, looking forward to one day over the weekend where you can catch those extra Z’s can make waking up early easier during the week!
Ask For Help When You Need It—and Ahead of Time, When Possible
From time to time, there’s just too much going on to get it all done at once. Maybe you’re feeling sick, had an unexpected family emergency, a looming early decision deadline for college, or simply had too many assignments all due at one time. Teachers often try to avoid scheduling major assignments at the same time as one another, but their communication doesn’t always line up. Teachers are people too, and chances are, if you come to them and tell them you’re feeling overwhelmed, they’ll be understanding. However, you’re much more likely to get this positive reception if you’re proactive about asking. Rather than missing a deadline or falling behind on your assignments, go to your teachers ahead of time. Let them know that you’ve looked at your schedule, and having a few-day extension on this one assignment would really make all the difference for you with that ACT around the corner or midterm coming up. I can’t promise they’ll grant it, but they’re way more likely to than if you approach them sheepishly afterward.
You’ve got this! Thanksgiving break is coming faster than you realize, and in the meantime, use these handy organizational tips to keep yourself from getting too stressed. Don’t forget to appreciate the beautiful fall days, and congratulate yourself on having gotten this far into the semester!
Sarah Tibbitts is a 2nd year law student at Case Western Reserve University, where she is concentrating in public interest/criminal law.