How to Beat the Week Six Blues
Any past or present student is likely to agree that a university semester marks a period of intense transitions. One minute, you’re the definition of punctual. Your lecture attendance is perfect. Your tutorial notes are a neat dossier of glossy highlighting. You walk breezily around campus, radiating an aura of “yes, this is me. Uni student. Winning at life. Oh, you want to day-drink? Not me, mate. I’ll be at the library, writing in my day planner.”
Yet suddenly, in a transition almost too quick to grasp, that saunter begins to hasten into a full-on, feverish power walk. Showing up to tutorial becomes a momentous moment of achievement. Days grow harder; you resent your mother for not applauding your two-hour lecture attendance. Notes become scarcer; you cannot remember the last time you dutifully jotted your lecturers’ commentary. Recordings replace Netflix. You’ve reached the hungover epitome of university stress.
A primary cause of this transition? The dreaded week six. Any first-years, with their book-loaded backpacks and earnest enthusiasm, are probably blissfully unaware of this phenomenon. If you thought your sister was exaggerating when she literally drowned in essays; just wait. Week six marks the ‘workload crunch’, a culmination of assignment deadlines, readings, attendance; all while juggling whatever job funds your vodka and packet noodles. If that wasn’t enough, any uni stress becomes magnified by the looming menace of impending exams.
With all that being said - there are ways of making it out alive. Here are some top organisational tips for managing university stress in 2019. It sounds clichéd, but being organised is your best bet for surviving this workload crunch. You need to strike a balance between getting assignments submitted on time and starting to prepare for exams. The cushion of study break often softens the panic, but from personal experience, you’ll want to get started long before the end of semester.
Keep track of deadlines
There is nothing worse than having an unexpected deadline catch you by surprise. Take 30 minutes at the beginning of term to go through your course outlines and jot down each deadline in a diary or planning app. Embody your inner Hermione Granger and colour code each subject. Extra brownie points for those who schedule reminders weeks in advance. You’ll never be caught out.
Summarise your notes
Whether electronic or handwritten, it can save you a lot of time in the future by keeping all notes organised, and it can take as little as ten minutes a day. Go over your notes from the day’s classes, refine them where necessary, and distinguish them - e.g. ‘definition’ or ‘discussion’. Sharp and condensed notes make for easier studying. Highlight the key points, and jot down a brief summary of the main ideas. Lecturers will often make it clear which ideas are the ones to prepare for. These summaries can be the ultimate lifesaver as exams draw closer.
Allocate your time
The workload crunch of week six is characterised by the majority of major assignments being due within days of one another. This is why planning your time in advance is crucial. Time-blocking each day in a planner or calendar app is a great method for time management. It allows you to schedule in specific time slots for each assignment, breaking down each task into manageable chunks. It can be a great visual tool as well. This does not mean starting everything in week five; prepare the bones of each assignment a few weeks in advance, and then allocate your time among tasks from there. As a general rule, the most time-consuming assignments (or those worth the most marks) should be first priority.
Hydrate and take regular breaks
The week six period can feel like a never-ending torrent of word counts, references, and hours in the library. It may be tempting to hit the caffeine hard, but water really is your best friend (read: not vodka). For one, water isn’t synonymous with anxiety-inducing palpitations, and two, a well-hydrated body keeps a well-functioning mind. Intersperse assignments and study prep with short, regular breaks. Breaks might seem counterproductive, but they can make all the difference. Sipping coffee or Red Bull during a day of feverish non-stop cramming is a migraine just waiting to happen, and it will show in the quality of your work. When time-blocking your day, schedule in regular ten-minute intervals. Get up, stretch, have a snack, and take in a few minutes of fresh air. From personal experience, clearing your head for ten minutes is far more productive than ten minutes of writer's block. Sometimes, taking a step back takes you one step closer to an essay epiphany.
Procrastination will be your undoing
We know it’s hard, nigh impossible, to start studying when all that stands between you and the books is a YouTube video, a phone call, a Netflix binge, and a half-hearted clean of your room because you simply cannot work in a cluttered space. Everyone knows that studying isn’t enjoyable, but procrastination is just prolonging the inevitable. Putting off university work is a surefire way to generate university stress. Put on your big boy/girl pants and just do it. Get the most difficult deeds out of the way first, and reward yourself with Netflix later.
Put down the phone
Switch it off. Set it to ‘Do not disturb’. Put it in flight mode. Leave it in another room. Throw it out the window. Just leave your phone alone. There is nothing more distracting, nor a more perfect excuse for procrastination, than social media. You can post that ‘take me back to summer’ selfie after working on a course you paid a couple of thousand to take.
By Lana Andelane, Auckland