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How to Get Back On Track

By Emily McLaughlin, 5th-year Devs/Psych student

You know the feeling, when you’ve spent too much time procrastinating, put friends over school work one too many times and felt like life skipped from October 1st right to October 4th. You feel like you’re drowning in all the things that you need to catch up on and you’re not sure if you’re going to be okay. We’ve all been there; in fact, I’m fairly certain Week 3 never even happened and now everything is due. Let me tell you how to get both of us back on track.

First off, stop panicking. You’re going to spend more time worrying about how behind you are rather then actually accomplishing the work you need to. Instead, make a list of everything you need to complete. Make sure to add the number of pages of reading rather then simply writing Psych 100 readings. This will help to conceptualize the amount of you work need to finish. Next estimate the time it will take you to finish the task. Try overestimating the amount of time you will need to accomplish the task. Now you’re ready to make a to-do list. Remember, even though you are behind you still want to study effectively, so try to only schedule from 9-5, adjusting for the time of the day you are most effective.

Now that we have our to-do list, let’s get ready to study! Find a study space that works for you, whether it’s an empty classroom or Stauffer library and make sure, above all, to avoid all distraction. The hardest thing you will do is start the task. If you are having trouble with this, try using the five-minute trick! Tell yourself you will only work for five minutes. You will find that these five minutes will go by quickly and you’ll have begun your work! Remember the 50-10 rule as well! Study for 50 minutes a session while taking 10-minute breaks. Most importantly, reward yourself for all your hard work! Keep the rewards realistic and within ten minutes. My personal favorite is Starbuck reward breaks for a classic Chai Latte but you can find your own!

The next step is to remain positive! Make a list of the thing you have achieved that day. Seeing how long that list will become will make you feel accomplished. Also remember that you will not catch up in one day. It is impossible to do two weeks worth of work in one day. Give yourself a week or longer to get back on track. This will stop you from feeling rushed and like you are not achieving enough. Work hard but also remember to take breaks.

Part of catching up is also ensuring you are not going to fall behind again. Think about where you went off-track. This is not to make you feel bad about yourself but to recognize your mistakes and ensure they won’t happen again. Maybe you need to commit to one 3-hour study session a week in Stauffer on Wednesday nights. Or maybe 6 clubs was too many and you should prioritize the ones you want to get involved in the most. Learning effective time management skills may also be something you may want to look into! Remembering to allot yourself more than enough time to complete tasks, remaining in a 9-5 time frame and remembering to avoid overscheduling are all effective strategies! Perhaps look into getting an agenda or using an online task list.

Finally, if you have tried to catch up and keep falling behind or just feel like you are in too deep and struggling too hard, there is absolutely no shame in reaching out for extra help. Schedule an appointment with a professional learning advisor! They can help you get back on track and make you ready to take on your exams and essays. Or if you are struggling with any mental health related issues due to excess stress, you can always visit the Peer Support Centre or any of the other amazing resources on campus. Talk to your don if you are in residence or even reaching out to your parents or another form of support can help. Your family and friends will always be your biggest cheerleaders.

Remember that there is always a peak to any mountain. Your workload is not endless and you are able to face any challenge that university puts in your way.


Photo courtesy of Gael Varoquax under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.