It’s that time again. Your current classes are ending, you have a whole new timetable to look forward to, and everything should be great and fun, right? There’s just that one problem that, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t avoid.
Possibly it was because of work you’d forgotten about until the last minute, or maybe you’d been ill for a couple of weeks. Perhaps if you’re really unlucky you were without a tutor for some of the time. Or maybe you’ve just been distracted by all sorts of other, more interesting things, went on holiday with a pile of work left to do, then couldn’t get started again in the new year.
This is the point that makes or breaks you as a student (or would if there were any real physical harm involved!). Welcome, to the End of Semester Scramble!
What it is, and Why it’s Important.
Semester Scramble is caused by these two things:
- You have less than two weeks left of your semester
- You have more than one or two pieces of work left to finish
It can have a negative effect on your self-esteem, prevent you from doing the things you enjoy, and hang round your neck like a chain. At the moment, I think it’s fair to say that there’s quite a large number of us (myself included, I feel your pain!) in this boat.
Here’s why it’s important to get as much of it done by the end of the Semester as possible:
- In the Second Semester, classes always start much sooner than they do in the first Semester (there’s no need for further introductions).
- There’s a higher workload in the Second Semester in general.
- Sometimes you’ll be asked to build on work you did in the first Semester.
- If you’re granted an extension on your work, you’d have a much higher workload than everyone else (and a higher likelihood of producing sub-standard work).
- Stress. Psychologically, knowing that you have more work that you have to finish by the end of the year and that you’re late on can feel like an anvil being held over your head at all times. Your pulse will quicken, you’ll start to sweat whenever you think about the work, and all the fun will get sapped out of your course (and by extension, you) leaving a dry husk of unhappiness. Let’s avoid that shall we?
You Won’t Blame Yourself. Or Else.
Despite my best efforts, I’ve been here a few times over the last three years. First off, being here doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lazy; you could have underestimated the time it’d take you to finish certain tasks, you may have spent too much time perfecting one element of the course and the rest has suffered, there’s a huge list of reasons. They don’t matter; we’re not here to blame. If I catch anyone with their head in their hands blaming themselves for falling so far behind (unless you really did sit and do nothing all semester), well, there will be bad things. Yeah.
Joking aside, I have a plan to get us all out of this. There are four steps to it, each simple, but each requiring a bit of work. Following through all of them will help though, I promise.
Planning, love it or hate it, it will get you out of this tight spot. Rather than banging on and giving you a huge pile of text to read, here are my bullet points. Follow as many of them as you can:
- Gather everything you have from the first semester that tells you what you need to submit
- Make a list of everything you haven’t already completed and handed in
- On that list, write down how complete each item is
- For the things that are half finished or more, put the materials for them to one side neatly and ignore them for now.
- Write down the requirements for everything else on your list
- From those requirements, break your list into smaller chunks (See the links at the bottom of this post for help doing this)
- Write down how long you need to spend on everything on your list (including the half finished stuff)
- Write the date of the end of your semester at the top of your page
Now that we know exactly what we have left to do, we need to schedule it in before the end of the semester. Don’t Panic. If you’re used to using Calendars and so on, feel free to use your own method. For everyone else, here’s what we need to do:
- Write a promise to yourself that you will stick to whatever schedule you make for the rest of the semester
- Get a Calendar. If you don’t have one, consider using an online Calendar System (see links below, I use Google Calendars) or you can write your tasks on a piece of paper.
- For every day of the week, write down class times and work commitments.
- With the time that’s left, write down two half hour slots per day for relaxing and having fun.
- From 12 midnight until 7am block out time to sleep (I don’t care when you normally sleep, we’re doing this until your work is finished. Just remember, I have to follow this as well).
- Block out half hour time slots for meals, including breakfast. (Breakfast will be soon after waking up, say about 7.30am at the latest)
- Leave half an hour in the mornings to get up, dressed, etc.
You should now have a mostly filled timetable for the next few weeks, this is a good thing. Just go with it for now, you’ll see why in a minute.
- Look at your list of tasks now; How many of your half done tasks can be completed in class time? Block them in to their respective lessons.
- If you have any half-finished tasks left over, then block them into the morning from 8am (for half an hour or an hour) or just after your dinner slot, depending on what you can manage. Make sure these are as close to your schedule start time as possible.
- Leave Your Saturdays Clear! We’ll be using these a little later, for now don’t even think about touching them (unless you already work, of course).
- For your other tasks, allocate time for them either in class (if you have a lot of available class time) or in the hour after classes each day.
- If you still have tasks left over, then leave a break between a work/catchup slot of about half an hour, then schedule in another hour for them.
Your schedule should be busy, but not crammed completely full. If it is, go back through it, and take out some of the tasks. We’re not trying to melt our brains!
So we have a schedule, and we have our promise to stick to the schedule. Here’s a few more tips that you can incorporate if you’re looking for ways to finish more efficiently.
- Batch your Research. Hopefully you won’t still have this to do, but if you do, try to do all of it in the same one or two slots. From every class/assignment, I mean. Once you get into the swing of researching, it’s better to do as much of it as you can while you’re in the mindset.
- If you have reports to write, consider going through them and writing headings for each section first, and possibly a summary of what each section should contain. This will make writing them up easier after you have your research.
- If you have models/artwork/comparable projects to complete, take your time with them. You’re already late, so you might as well make them good quality (while, of course, trying your hardest to finish them on time).
- Make sure that you let your tutors know that you’re struggling to complete work. Depending on your relationship with them, you may get a talking to, but it’s a better solution than showing up on the last day and saying you haven’t done it. Show them your schedule too, they may have a few pointers or suggestions.
- If you accidentally underestimate how long a task will take to finish, and you really need it done by the next week – use a little bit of time on your Saturdays. Give yourself an extra hour to finish it, and see how far you get.
You didn’t get into this mess overnight, so you’re not going to get out of it overnight. With these steps, you’ll have a plan for getting out of it within the next week or two (or more, depending on the amount of work). Do not try to cram everything in at the last minute, and don’t over-work yourself too badly or you’ll have no energy for the next semester anyway.
All I can say is I wish you the best of luck. Go forth, finish your work, I’ve faith in you!
I’ll see you again on Wednesday with the next part of the Feathers tutorial, though if you’re really busy you should consider skipping it this week. I won’t hold it against you. 😉