BY Spencer Toohey

While I wish this article wasn’t relatable, uni students are unfortunately prone to stress, procrastination and anxiety. 

Here are some tips that can hopefully help you next time you get overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do in a comparatively tiny amount of time.

Picture this: you’ve been sitting at your computer for hours without touching the assignment that’s due tomorrow, you’re just getting more and more stressed, and you’re starting to think maybe you should just drop out.

Now stop. Follow these steps to actually start working.

Step 1. Throw out any study schedules you’ve made

You’re not following it, it’s just making you feel bad.

Step 2. Get yourself a cup of tea, or coffee, or juice, and a huge bottle of water. 

Maybe a snack if you need it (fruit is a great snack that won’t make you feel worse later). Have a meal if you haven’t eaten in a while. Breathe.

Step 3. Change the music you’re listening to. 

It doesn’t matter what you change it to, but a new mood means new music. Try a study playlist (Spotify’s ‘Study Zone’ playlist is my go to) or one that makes you feel badass.

Step 4. Check your late penalties. 

Chances are they’re tiny! It’s okay to hand things in one or two days late, as long as you make up for the penalty in quality you add in those days.

Step 5. Make a new to do list. 

You might already have one, and that’s great, but it’s probably looking a bit too overwhelming right now. Make a new one. Focus on the things that are stressing you out.

Break your assignment or study down into pieces. You need to research, right? How many articles do you need? Write that down. How many sections does your essay have? Write that down. Forget about the small things you’ve been procrastinating. Calling and booking a doctor’s appointment? It can wait. I hope.

Step 6. Pick a couple of things (literally 2 or maybe 3) from your to do list to do today. 

Start with the easiest one! If you know the topic well, that might be the outline. If you don’t, maybe that’s researching. Make your goals reasonable! Let’s face it, you’re probably not going to finish this assignment to a high standard tonight. Start small.

If you need say 10 articles or sources for your essay, plan to find 4 or 5 (or even 2 or 3 if your subject has dense, long articles). If you need to write 2000 words, plan to write 200.

Step 7. Be smart about it!

For research, don’t read the whole article! Just read the abstract, the intro, and the conclusion. That’ll be enough to give you the gist of it. Remember that ctrl+F is your best friend if you’re looking for specific quotes or perspectives.

If you don’t understand something you’re reading, Google it! Wikipedia it! Look through your lecturer’s notes or Powerpoints! It’s not a waste of time if it leads to you actually understanding your assignment.

For writing, start with a body paragraph. Now that you’ve just done a bunch of reading finding those articles, you’ll probably be able to write more than your goal. If you still struggle just getting to 200, at least you’ve started - and you’re better off getting some sleep than trying to do more right now.

Step 8. Write a to do list for tomorrow

Maybe it’s the next 5 articles you need to find, or maybe you think you can write 400 words tomorrow. But remember – don’t be too ambitious. It’s better to set small goals and exceed them than become overwhelmed by big goals.

Step 9. If you’ve got a study day planned tomorrow, leave the things you’ll need out.

That might mean leaving tabs open for the library website. Leave the word document open to the next part you want to write so you can easily add to it. Leave Spotify open to your study playlist and your headphones plugged in. Leave your essay outline and the essay question on your desk for easy reference. Fill your water bottle up and put it next to your computer. Pack snacks in baggies so you can grab them without wasting time. Don’t give yourself any excuses to not work. Getting started is the hardest part, but it doesn’t have to be!

Step 10. Go to sleep! 

You did it, you worked on your assignment! Read a book or a fanfic, listen to a podcast or stream an episode of Will & Grace before bed. Relax knowing that you’re going to wake up and smash it.

If you consistently feel anxious or depressed about your uni work, it might be worth a call to Lifeline 13 11 14, or a chat to your doctor. There’s no shame in getting help and becoming the best you that you can be!

Spencer is a Linguistics nerd and one of the Presidents of the Language Society here on campus. They love the Spice Girls, watching ducks waddle and spending money they don't have. You can follow them on Instagram.

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