Student Post: Time Management and Stress of Deadlines.

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!

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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!

Questions:

  1. How do you cope with the stress of deadlines? 
  2. 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

24 thoughts on “Student Post: Time Management and Stress of Deadlines.”

  1. Some really good ideas and suggestions here in terms of avoiding stress around deadlines- I have a similar approach and tend to set myself a certain amount of work to do per week, as I prefer to have a few weeks near deadline time to read through my work and improve in any way possible, this helps me feel more confident about what I’m submitting.

  2. Some great tips on here! I wish I was as organised as this. I’ve definitely been victim to the lack of books in the library in the month coming up to deadline days and it’s an absolute nightmare. I think that upon starting second year this last minute working habit has gone (thank goodness!). I tend to set myself deadlines a week or so earlier than the actual university deadlines incase anything happens (like a disappearing laptop charger, this has happened before!!!). I’ll definitely take your advice about setting out at the start of term what work you have and how much time it will take – this will make things a lot less stressful. All deadline dates are in the diary now, eeeek!

  3. This is similar to my approach however my issue is I start to panic around two weeks into the semester thinking that I do not have enough time. I also like yourslef make a list and highlight what I am currently working on, what I have completed and what I am planning to start next.
    I like to finish all of my essays at least a month early so that I can focus on any exam revision and have the stress of deadlines out of the way. However my main issue is actually sitting down and getting the work done as there are so many distractions. I think that your idea of placing my work list above my PC is a perfect reminder of what I should actually be doing.

  4. I love organising my life and my work. Getting everything in order and planning everything to me is an enjoyable activity. However after all the planning is complete and it’s time to actually start the work I hit a wall and find it extremely hard to do the task after all the procrastination.
    I need to start making use of my good planning skills and put them into action.

  5. In my first semester at university I left all my work till the last moment as I cannot work unless I am under pressure, I will lock myself away on the last couple of days and finish the work regardless if I have other jobs to do. on the other hand in lesson I understand all the work I have to do and if I do not I ask fellow students for help as well as seminar tutors.

  6. I use a very similar method to this one, I tend to organise my time very early so then I know exactly what I need to do each day. As soon as the module handbook are handed out I will choose my essay question and start to do some background reading from my chosen topic. I feel that if I don’t work this way, I would over stress about my work and fail to meet my deadlines. I think the key thing for me organisation and time keeping, I work part time as well so I tend to make weekly timetables and plan ahead for any ‘fun’ things that I want to do.

  7. I tend to get, like once a month, a “spark”, where I’m willing to do all the work that I’ve been set but the rest of the month I cannot be bothered doing anything at all – this is why I always get my work done just before the deadline. This is why I set myself a ‘fake’ deadline to have my essay or any assessment done at least a week before it’s due in.

  8. I find that I can relate to this. I have tried this approach and even though I have found it hard to get used to, I have found it much easier to have a social life whilst balancing university and work life.

  9. This blog has been very useful as it has made me realise not to leave my work till last minute, which is something I tend to do. I have to learn to be more organised in preparing my work and meeting deadlines. I hope to prioritise my time management skills, relieving the pressure of leaving my work to last minute.

  10. I need to plan my work beforehand by showing assignment drafts to my seminar tutors. As well as this I need to be able to hand my work on time and meet the deadlines required. My organisation skills need to improve and to be able to do this I need to make a list of what I have to do in order to meet them targets.

  11. I always sit down and try to organise myself at the beginning of the semester and promise myself I’m going to have everything done early. When it actually comes down to doing it though I always seem to tell myself there’s plenty of time in the future to do it or I’ll write something and feel like it’s not good enough and that I’ll just change it at some point. I then end up re-writing what I’ve already written along with the rest of the assignment in the last couple of weeks. The pressure of getting it done in the last couple of weeks seems to help me produce a better piece of work. I need to start setting myself fake deadlines so that I finish it before it’s due and have more time to go over it.

  12. I can definitely relate to this. I usually read around the subject and put in extra effort to be structured and organised to keep my stress levels as low as possible. However, I still seem to find myself being a ‘last-minute panicker’ when it comes to deadlines by leaving things too late. I like to set myself time slots of an hour or so to sit down and continue with work, if I find myself struggling with a certain topic I will move onto a different topic or start a new task.

  13. This post is very blog useful, has lots of great tips. Whilst at sixth form I was a very organised person, always meeting deadlines and not letting myself get into too much of a stress by getting done what needed doing. However having a gap year then coming to Uni and having to be independant completely threw me. It always seems there is so much time to do everything when in fact there isn’t. This post definitely highlights it’s best to do it as soon as you can to keep on top of everything whilst also having a social life. I have finally realised this and have started being a lot more pro active.

  14. I can relate to this article so much as I’m exactly the same. My time keeping is awful, I don’t tend to really organise things which I know I need to start doing as I always leave everything until the last minute because I think I’ll perform better when I know I have a lot of work to get done, but then I end up panicking massively because I haven’t planned and spaced my time out; which means as a result my work suffers. I now realise that my work is the main priority, so I just need plan accordingly and organise what I’m going to be doing in good time, as well as find a healthy balance between studies and my social life so I can achieve the best marks I can, and to prevent me from becoming a stressed out mess.

  15. Some good tips, that I can use in the future about coping with deadlines. I usually leave all my work to the last minute because I believe that I perform better under pressure and it has become a force of habit. As the work gets harder each semester, I will need to change to cope better with deadlines better.

  16. I’m quite an organised person in general but with regards to work I’m definitely a procrastinator! I have no problems with doing my readings for seminars and lectures, it’s just the bigger deadlines that I find more difficult to actually sit down and focus on. I find that setting my own deadline before the ‘actual deadline’ works best for me as it means I’m not getting so stressed and can actually manage the workload. After reading this I’ll definitely be using a couple of your tips though!

  17. I have always left my work last minute, but I have found that I work a lot more efficiently in the last few weeks before the work it due in. It has also been hard moving away from home into a different environment and keeping up with uni and still have a typical student life.

  18. At the start of the term I always start with good intentions and try to be organised. I tend to focus on one subject at a time which is good and bad because sometimes I get behind with the other subjects whilst focusing on the one at hand. I sometimes find it hard to balance my work and social life.

  19. Last term I didn’t do my work until the last minute and I feel that I didn’t do as well as I possibly could, so I was slightly disappointed with my results. This term I have decided to start my work earlier but I know that saying I’m going to start my work and starting it is a different thing. As I have a lot of free time I spend a lot of time procrastinating about doing work.

  20. I agree with all of this. I found I did some of this in that I was not panicking too much but there was a slight worry in that I was not completing in time for the deadline. By looking at this it has really helped put into perspective that by sorting everything out early I will not have to worry at all.

  21. I think this blog post is very useful, I often found it hard to sit down and start an essay or piece of work so therefore think of reasons to put it off meaning that I could have actually finished the work in the time I have been making up excuses not to. However last semester I tried to make sure I completed the work by setting time aside and completing it in small parts like it says in the blog! This worked for me and I have now carried it on into this semester.

  22. With my uni work I like to be quite organised and look at the different module essay titles at the start of the semester so I can start to focus on the topics. I also feel I am good with hitting deadlines as I try to start my work the earliest I can.

  23. i have always left my work until the last minute, even though i usually intend on starting it much sooner. until the deadlines start to approach i will be distracted, from doing my work, by almost anything. i am improving with organisation however still have some room for improvement.

  24. I tend to plan out my term and give myself set goals to achieve throught the semester so that I have time for any unforseen problems.

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