One thing that most students seem to find difficult at times is managing our time effectively, as a result, this can lead to much stress when deadlines are approaching. When I was at college studying an Access Course, I was a last-minute 'panicker', convinced that “I performed better under pressure” and left everything until two days before the deadline. However, upon starting university, I realised this way of working was not going to be effective for me anymore!
As a mature student living alone and 20 miles away from campus, this leads to further pressure. Travelling to and from uni during rush hour can take up to an hour and a half each way. Alongside this, work commitments and the demands of occasional care responsibilities means that 2 weekends a month I have to be in Nottingham caring for an elderly relative. As a result, time often feels scarce! Therefore, for me, organisation and early preparation is essential for meeting deadlines and managing the stress often associated with them. To help combat this, I find that being organised is the only way I can manage.
At the start of each term, I familiarise myself with the assessments for each module and their deadlines which are often close together. Once I am familiar with these, I make a list of the assessment methods and deadlines and stick it on the wall above my computer. After that, each time I go on the computer to check 'Facebook' or otherwise waste time, I am reminded that I do not have time to procrastinate! After making this list, I establish the time demands of each assessment; for example, a 3,500 word essay is going to involve significantly more preparation than a 2,000 word essay! This means that rather than waiting until a month before the deadlines and panicking, I effectively have a whole term to complete each assignment. Another benefit of early preparation is that it is much easier to find the books you require from the library before everyone else on your course wants the same books later in the term only to find they are all out on loan already!
Once I have the books, I begin reading around the subject. Some modules reveal the essay questions at the beginning of the term which proves advantageous as you can promptly decide which one you are going to attempt. This means, effectively, that as soon as the questions are released, the rest of the term can be used to prepare and complete assignments. I also find it helps to break down essays- for example, a 3,000 word essay due in 10 weeks equates to only 300 words a week - which feels much less demanding! By tackling a proportion of the work each week, it seems more manageable and prevents panicking in in the weeks immediately approaching the deadline. Working in this way also allows plenty of time to discuss things with lecturers if you are having problems or struggling to understand anything.
I also find that by spending time to work on things each day or week, the assignments are normally completed ahead of the deadlines. Even if you don’t want to submit the work early, it allows time to proof-read your work and look over the assessment criteria (normally outlined in the module handbook) to ensure that you have covered the learning outcomes. It also allows time to make alterations if necessary. Also, once the work is done, you are then free to focus on exam preparation without the distraction or added stress of the other work.
On a practical level, each week or fortnight I go through my diary and identify what time I have free each day to study and devise a suitable study timetable. I usually stick to this rigidly which can be difficult, and at times I fail- as we all do! It involves a lot of discipline, motivation, and sometimes - sacrifices too. Let’s face it, an evening in the pub with friends usually seems more appealing than a mountain of textbooks! It is easy to procrastinate and for things to sometimes seem tedious but for me, when these thoughts or procrastinating takes over, I begin to feel overwhelmed and my stress levels rise, particularly when I think of the demands of my other commitments. This is why this way of working works for me. Yes, I make sacrifices and at time wish I was out doing other things, but ultimately I get the work finished promptly and keep the stress levels to the minimum level possible!
- How do you cope with the stress of deadlines?
- Are you a ‘last-minute panicker’ or do you prefer time to plan and prepare?
By Rebecca Baird Parker
photo courtesy of free digital photos.net - Michal Marcol