Salvaging Sanity on Finals Week
April showers bring May….. stress. Well, maybe they bring flowers too, but who’s got the time to even notice them when you’re rushing to finish papers, study for exams, move out of your dorm, graduate, say goodbyes, and/or finalize summer details? For me, May always comes with a minor feeling of dread; there’s much to be done, I procrastinated too long, and time is always shorter than expected. It’s easy to spend these last days in a perpetually haggard, sleep-deprived, delirious state. I’m here to remind you that it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some strategies to keep your head above water.
The first step of getting a hold of your life is to make a game plan. You should make at least a rough schedule for yourself between now and your departure. In order to stay on top of your tasks in the coming days, use calendars and to-do lists religiously. Keep a pad of paper with you, make a list on your phone, keep a doc on your computer up, whatever. Each time you remember something you need to do, big or small, instantly put it on your list. Set aside five to ten minutes later in the day to schedule all your tasks somewhere in your calendar.
For more thoughts on time management, here is a synopsis I wrote last year of some helpful time management strategies from Peter Drucker’s book The Effective Executive.
One Step at a Time:
Now that you’ve got a plan, get yourself into an appropriate mindset. Nothing makes a big task seem more daunting than seeing the task as one big, impossible challenge. Consider climbing a mountain; if you start out by thinking, “I have a whole mountain ahead of me,” you’ll feel defeated before you even begin. But when you break it down and focus on the present, you find that no individual step is actually that difficult. By focusing on each individual step–by methodically putting one foot after the other over and over again–you will reach your goal. In the coming days, instead of thinking, “I have SO MUCH to do between now and the end of school!” and stressing yourself over the whole, break it down piece by piece and take it one step at a time. Remember that there is no particular piece of the whole that you can’t handle.
It’s tempting, I know, but try not to let go of healthy habits. When things get hectic, you fall into the trap of skipping out on exercise, you order perpetual Mix-Bowl and pizza, you opt to have a working dinner in Poppa consisting of only a 5-Hour Energy. You are so focused on what you need to do and where you are going that you neglect the vehicle that’s supposed to get you there. Remember, healthy habits are not only good for your body, but they also fuel your brain. There are specific foods you can eat that will set you up for success this week. Simple diet choices can give you energy, increase focus, and improve memory. Good brain foods include foods high in Omega-3’s (salmon, avocado, fish oil), whole grains (oatmeal, granola), and proteins (mixed nuts). Along with staying on top of your diet, remember to exercise. It has long been accepted knowledge that exercise improves both mood and academic performance. Even a quick walk outside could tremendously help you with your ability to study or write. You’ll feel happier, healthier, and have more brain power by treating your body well.
Remember to Celebrate!
This one is big. Take a second to enjoy the view and note your progress. Each time you finish a substantial step on your way to the end, take a moment to reflect and be really proud of yourself; You just accomplished something big, you learned a lot, you did good. You know so much more right now about [insert class subject here] than you did four months ago. You are allowed to be proud of yourself and give yourself a little time to celebrate your successes–maybe treat yourself to some 21 Choices–before getting back to the grind.
Hope this helps, CMC! Happy finals week! You are almost there, you can do it!