Midterm season is here.
You know what that means? A lot of overwhelmed students stressing out about all the sh*t to do. When I was in school, my experience was often as follows.
Long to-do list → overwhelming stress + anxiety → freeze + procrastinate
Long to-do list → overwhelming stress + anxiety → sacrifice well-being → on verge of burnout (if not burn out)
So here’s a step-by-step process on organizing your weeks. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
1. List ALL of your responsibilities.
This includes the different courses, extracurricular activities, health + well-being, work, and social activities. Think about the different roles in your life: student, roommate, daughter, partner, friend, dog owner, employee, human. Remember that you have basic responsibilities as a living, functioning human, like sleeping + showering.
2. List this week’s tasks associated with each responsibility.
List the homework assignments + exams coming up. Break them into smaller tasks. How long is each task going to take? Assign a number of hours associated with each task.
Writing a paper may include: decide on a topic, do research, draft an outline, write the first draft, edit.
An upcoming exam may include: finish lecture notes, skim over textbook notes every day, go over previous assignments, do practice questions, do practice exams.
Your human responsibility may break down into: sleep for 6-7hrs a night, exercise 2x a week. What do you need for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health?
3. Set your top 3 priorities for the week.
At this point, we’ve still got a massive to-do list. More organized, but still massive. I hate to break it to you - but chances are, you’re not going to able to do everything. You’ve only got 24 hours a day, you need to be alive + functioning at the end of all of this, and let’s be honest, some classes give you so much work, not only do you not have time for yourself, you don’t even have enough time in a week to do the work.
So instead of focusing on productivity, let’s focus on effectiveness. Decide on your top 3 priorities for the week. What’s important? By the end of the semester, or one year from now, what’s actually going to matter?
Here’s a hint. #1 is ALWAYS going to be your own well-being. I don’t care what mom + dad say. I don’t care what the #HUSTLEHARD people on YouTube say. If you’re not alive + well at the end of this, there’s no point. There’s no point in “succeeding” if you burn out and fall into a deep depression or get really physically ill from overextending yourself. (I would know.) During stressful times, self-care is self-preservation. Don’t tell me that you can’t make time for self-preservation.
You are a human. You’re not a superhuman. Be a super human who can focus on priorities + set boundaries. Don’t do 10 things sh*tty. Do 3 things f*cking well.
4. Set boundaries.
Okay, this is the hardest part. Look at your massive list. Then look at your top 3 priorities. Now, we’re going to look at the rest of the tasks and mark your bottom 3 priorities. If you think you can get everything done while staying sane, just put a red dot next to these bottom 3 priorities. This means that if you happen to not get them done, no stress. If you think there’s no way to do everything and stay sane, cross out tasks associated with the bottom 3 priorities. Yes, I said it. Cross them out.
Your exam is worth 25%. This homework assignment is worth 2%. What’s more important? If you can do both really well, great. If you need to focus all your energy on the exam, you’re not doing that assignment right now. By the way, in both cases, you’re getting enough sleep.
Saying no is really hard. Saying no to maintain your health + wellbeing - so hard. I know. I cancelled a self-care event for my own self-care. But that’s what it takes to truly succeed ie. feel fulfilled because fulfillment > achievement. There are no winners out there who say yes to everything. They learned to say no and set boundaries.
5. Schedule in your responsibilities + tasks into your calendar.
You’ve got a shorter list now. A more FOCUSED list of your PRIORITIES. Start scheduling them into your calendar from top to bottom in order of priority. When I do this exercise every week, I schedule my responsibilities/tasks in this order.
Morning + evening rituals inc. walking dog (more on that in a future blog post)
#SelfcareSaturdays (I take Saturdays off every week)
Social events + gatherings (1-2 per week, because I tend to fall into workaholism)
Meetings (< 4 per week)
In-the-business work (work that makes me $)
On-the-business work (work that is building the business)
Extra events or workshops
Hope that helps you get an idea.
6. Stick to your calendar.
I’m not the best at this; it’s something that I’ve been working on. I would say stick to 80% of your schedule, non-negotiable. It’s important to be respectful of your time and energy. The more you practice this, the more you build discipline, also in other areas of your life. Consistent structure is KEY to maintaining your sanity.
Extra tips + tools:
Remember to set aside time to do this weekly planning every week. I always do mine on Friday or Saturday evenings because my week starts on Sundays.
I use Google Calendar and color-code the different responsibilities/projects like TTP work, study, social, events, etc.
Toggl is a great app to keep track of time and motivate you to focus on one task at a time.
Looking for some extra guidance or advice on organizing yourself? Book a complimentary call with me by shooting me an email!
Founder of The Tipping Point