Hamilton fans will be all too familiar with Eliza Schuylers’s husband who simply had to get his plan through congress. Though few of us will be whittling away our hours writing fifty-one Federalist Papers, student life can do a decent job of putting that “non-stop” mentality in our heads.
Everyone has that week, or two, or three where it seems every aspect of your life has conspired to throw all it has at you at the same time: your tutors pile on assignment after assignment, your workplace has given you enough shifts to cover your every colleague for the next year, and to round it all off, you lose your bus pass and find yourself walking everywhere. It is times like these that I like to remove myself from civilisation for a short while, lie in a forest, and will myself into becoming a tree.
Much to my disappointment, each attempt has proven futile, and I have been forced to confront the chaos of my life in one way or another. Somehow, I manage to get grounded, and somehow, I made a list of how I do it:
Make a to-do list. I am not a list maker. The thought of a bullet journal makes me queasy and images of neat whiteboards and colour coded timetables sends dizzying pinpricks through my head. I’m a high-flier whose life is scattered over several notebooks, that somehow manages to get by in the organised chaos of her bedroom. But this did not stop me putting the diary my grandmother gave me on the offhand to good use. When time seems to speed up, tasks pile up like rocks sealing your tomb, and time seems to slip too easily through your fingers, a day by day to do list allows you to prioritise, score things off, and keep productive. Each day write down every little thing that needs to be done – be that a reminder to speak to someone, or beginning an essay. Challenge yourself to score as much off as possible and nothing will go unfinished.
Find opportunities and take them. My sudden revelation that I had to read two entire novels in less than a week struck just as I had decided I wanted to help the planet by walking to university rather than taking my trusty wee Corsa, Archimedes. While I am one to put on some music and pretend I am the star of my own opening credits, I took the spare forty minutes to get some valuable reading done. While the risk of walking into lampposts was significantly increased, the risk of having nothing to discuss in my essay was lessened. Tiny windows of time crop up everywhere, and if used properly, they can reap great results. Every little helps – even that short fifteen minutes between classes can be enough time to produce the killer introduction your essay needs. Tumblr can wait; your deadline can’t.
Catch yourself before you fall. It’s all too easy to give into the pressures that life throws at us and sink into a cynical frame of mind, pressing “next episode” on Netflix time and again, but while resting and giving your brain a break is vital, don’t over saturate yourself in that relaxation. When you set up your pop-up office in the library, don’t fall into the temptation of, “oh, just one YouTube video won’t hurt.”. It will. Before you know it, five hours will have passed and you’ll have somehow tore through every Minecraft video on the internet. You don’t even like Minecraft. Set aside time for work and stick to that schedule. You’ll feel so much better knowing its done and actually be able to relax in the time you allotted to relax.
Take a break. Every now and again, just stop. Breath. Clear those chakras. Burn an effigy of your tutor. Whatever you need to do. Ironically enough, when you are stressed, overwork will only make you more stressed. When you’ve met your targets for the day, light some candles and wind down. Allow yourself to forget about those pressing assignments and irritating customers just for now, just while you recharge your batteries. If you’ve stuck to your guns and worked when you were supposed to, chances are you deserve this!
Life is unpredictable, especially for a student. There will be lapses in studies, and there will be times when everything is somehow due on the same day, but as long as you remain dedicated and reward yourself for that dedication, you won’t become one of the 2am library zombies.