Let me tell you how so many of my Finals weeks went during undergrad: I would set out all of my schoolwork and then procrastinate well into the night. Maybe I was sitting at my desk, but I was scrolling through Facebook or articles or I would suddenly decide that I needed to rearrange my office supply drawer. THEN around 11 PM, I would realize that I actually had no choice but to do my work. By then, my energy and focus were long gone and I was feeling resentful towards my work.
I would stay up way too late until I finally fell asleep surrounded by my books/notes/etc. I would wake up around 2AM with all of my lights on, read another paragraph or go over vocal words again and then fall back to sleep. THEN I would wake up around 6 and complete the entire paper/study for the test on the morning that it was due. What?! Who does that?! Oh, and then there was the crying. You can’t forget the crying during finals week. It’s an important part.
Finals in both semesters are challenging, but there is just something about the end of the fall semester that adds this extra layer of anxiety. Christmas, maybe? Or the cold weather? Or the shorter days? Or even, all of the football games. So, I thought this would be the perfect time to set out some helpful productivity tips! And most of all, just remember that you’re almost there!
1: Plan Each Day on the Night Before
I can tell you right now that I can tell a HUGE difference between days where I wake up with a plan and days when I try to make my plan in the morning. Like, it’s the difference between me getting 1 thing done and getting 39 things done. Really.
I love this whole article from Underground Success but my favorite tip is “set out your super 6 the night before”. So, tonight, look at your crazy finals week schedule and choose your 6 biggest things that need to be accomplished tomorrow! Write tomorrow’s to-do list tonight!
2: Set Aside Sleeping Hours (and Stick to Them!)
So, as time has gone on (and I’ve gotten older… shhh.) I have learned that there really is something to be said for good sleeping patterns. This is going to make me sound like the oldest person in America but I literally go to sleep every single night at 10pm. I know, right?
We also wake up at our house at 5:30 every morning (and by “wake up”, I mean lay in bed and listen to the alarm). One can’t happen without the other. So, I told you that to tell you this: Set aside a specific time to go to sleep and follow that every night but especially during finals week! You need sleep! Your brain will be more focused, your memory will be better, and you will feel less stressed if you get enough sleep! As tempting as it is to skip sleeping during this time of year, don’t do it !
3: Hit the Ground Running
When you wake up, start working right away! Make the bed and have breakfast! Take a (quick) shower and get dressed! Then start on that to-do list that you made last night! Start working before you even have time to get distracted by anything or before you can even think about how much you don’t want to do!
Set a deadline for yourself and work like crazy to meet it! I always, always choose to work high-priority (things that are either due the soonest or worth the most points) to low priority. Life will happen, so keep in mind that you may not make it to that 6th thing!
4: Always Know What Your Next Step Is
I recently read this article on productivity and it said to make sure you finish every conversation (e-mail, text) by knowing what the next step is. For example, if you’re trying to make plans with someone, rather than just saying “let’s get together” say “let’s get together on Saturday”. Things are more likely to actually HAPPEN that way!
Well, I loved that advice so much, that I’ve started thinking of everything like that! So, when you shut down your computer after spending time working on a huge paper, stick a Post-It on it with where you need to begin next time!
For example, “3 more citations, 2 more examples, 2 more concluding paragraphs”.
That sounds more manageable and less vague than “finish paper,” right?
5: Block Out Social Media
I know I literally talk about this all fit time, but I just always, always read all these articles about how social media has a negative impact on productivity! I mean, really… you don’t even need me to say that because we all experience it every day! For finals week, try these tips:
—> Hide your social media apps on the second screen on your phone
—> Set aside a 20-mintute time limit for social media
—> Turn off your alerts/push notifications
Just use these tips until you’ve turned that final assignment… But who knows, you may feel so much less-stressed that you keep them that way!
6: Remember your “Big Picture”
So, it may be totally true that making a
passing good grade on your Landforms final seems completely pointless when you’re studying English. Believe me, as a Legal Studies major I was always like, when am I ever going to need to know about the layers of dirt? And I was right. No one in my adult life has ever asked me about where the Humus layer is.
BUT think of it as a tiny little stair step that is leading you to your dream career! We must be required to take some of these silly classes for some reason. Just think of all of the people who have done this before you! And listen, if I can
do well in pass classes like Finite Mathematics and Political Statistics, then you can, too!
7: Keep a “Distraction Notebook”
Oh, hi. I just gave you a justification for heading down the notebook aisle at Target (at least, that’s how I would read that). But it’s really completely true! Nearly every time that I have some huge project due for someone else, I all of a sudden have a brilliant idea for something that I want to do! Um… that’s how this blog was even created in the first place (I was avoiding do an Educational Research project).
And guess what? You don’t want to forget those ideas because they may turn out to be amazing! Grab a cute little notebook and every time that you feel distracted by some big, great idea, write it down! When Finals are over, you can open it up and use your break to work on those amazing and creative projects you came up with!
If all else fails, just spend your 20 minutes of social media time scrolling through #finalsweek on Twitter.
I promise, it will make you laugh 🙂