5 Steps To a Focused Finish

28 Mar

semesteronapage

Okay, so we all know we need some time to “recover” from our week of relaxing on spring break (#studentproblems, am I right?). I don’t know about you, but I have a few piles of neglected laundry to do and I probably should have gotten a head start on some assignments. Procrastination happens, but now that we’ve had a week to get back into the groove of things, let’s talk staying focused these last 7 weeks and finishing STRONG.

Because I will be graduating in May, this is my final semester here at the UA (hey, that rhymed!). That being said, my mind is constantly wandering elsewhere which means my immediate academic concerns keep taking a backseat. So if you’re feeling a little distracted, I feel ya, but have no fear! I have devised a strategic plan for us to get through this semester together and it even comes in list form (for those who respond best to information presented in the “BuzzFeed” format.)

Five Steps to a Focused Finish

 

1. Look it up. Write it down.

Remember that planner you got at the beginning of the year? Or…you know, maybe forgot to get? Now is the time to blow off the dust and put it to use. Also, while you’re digging around in your long-forgotten papers, find those syllabi!

It’s good practice to write down each and every deadline you receive at the beginning of the year, but now that we only have seven weeks left, getting those last assignment deadlines down is not only a good way to remind yourself about what you have coming up, but it also gives you a nice foreseeable timeline (with light at the end of the tunnel!).

Other ways to organize your dates and deadlines:

  •          Schedule it on your phone (with reminder notifications)
  •          Use Google Calendar
  •          Use sticky notes
  •          Make weekly to-do lists (and make sure to cross them off as you go! It’s sooo satisfying.)
  •          Use a whiteboard.
  •          Use your MIRROR (it’s hard to ignore things when they are literally staring you in the face…)

2. Prioritize

Okay, so now that you have all your to-do’s, dates, deadlines, and impending freak-outs (just kidding—you’ll do great), now it’s time to prioritize your tasks based on how much time they will require to do properly and how much time you actually have to finish them. Sounds like quite the process, but really it’s just about being realistic and disciplined with yourself.

  • First, identify which tasks are more “sit-down-til-you’re-done” types of assignments (i.e. math homework, quizzes, discussion prompts, etc.) and which are more like projects (group assignments, papers, presentations, etc.).
  • Second, consider all the outside factors that go into completing them:
    • are group members involved?
    • do you need to visit an instructors’s office hours?
    • will you need someone to look over your work?
  • Finally, consider all your personal factors:
    • do you know you work best in the morning? or in the evening?
    • how many editing days will you feel comfortable with?
  • And, moving on to Step #3….

3. Break down your time.

 Now, let’s get down to business. The key to an effective “master plan” is details, details, details. Now that you generally know when you need to be working on certain tasks, let’s break down each week, each day, and each hour. 

What’s that? You think that’s a little overboard? You bet your butt it is. And that is how we stay focused, team. Over-preparation. 

Thanks to Step #1 and #2, you now have your wonderful list of dates and deadlines, so let’s commit to a schedule!

  • First, map out a relative timeline for yourself. As you outline your “master plan,”  consider those external and personal factors that might affect your timing, determine which week and specific day(s) you plan to work on each individual assignment and how much time you foresee needing to complete them.
  • Second, write it down.
    • commit to periods of time that:
      • specify which tasks you are completing
      • when you will start and stop
      • how much you plan to have completed by the stop-time
    • Make it visual! There are many ways to organize your timeline, but here are just a few:

4.  Set Goals

Setting goals every step of the way not only automatically structures your time, it also keeps you from getting too overwhelmed!

For example, let’s say you have a paper, a bunch of little assignments, and an exam in the same week (ugh…you poor thing). Instead of cramming for the test, slapping together the essay, and frantically trying to complete the assignments all at the same time, setting specific time periods for each assignment has a built-in stress reliever (you get to stop once the time period is done, feel like you have accomplished what you set out to do, and move on to something else).

Tips:

  • make them specific
  • make them task and time based
  • completion shouldn’t be your only goal. Make sure your “progress checks” (i.e. finishing an outline, completing three math assignments, synthesizing data into a chart, etc.) are taken into account and celebrated, too!

5. Reward Thyself.

Don’t wait until you have finished an assignment completely to reward yourself! The beauty of your “master plan” is that you have little accomplishments sprinkled throughout each week. Obviously you shouldn’t go out for ice cream after you have picked out the theme for your PowerPoint slides. Let’s be judicious with our celebrations here. But keep in mind those mini “lights at the end of the tunnel” and use them to motivate you through these last couple of months.

 

So, yes. In the end it turns out organization and forethought are the keys to a focused semester. Not mind blowing, I know, but effective nonetheless. Take the time in between midterms and finals to get organized for this last push to the end. You will thank yourself later and yes….you get a reward at the end!

 

–Franny

 

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