We’ve all heard it before — the dreaded word — finals. Whether we like it or not, finals are right around the corner — and it's not the Corner that we all know and love. We’re all familiar with the adrenaline that comes with turning in a paper at 11:59 p.m., but to avoid that unbearable feeling of panic and potentially a mental breakdown, here are ten ways you can avoid procrastinating for finals.
1. Spread out your studying
Picture this — you’re in Clemons Library the night before a big exam, and you are trying to cram a semester’s worth of knowledge in your brain while you listen to the hustle and bustle of your peers trying to do the same exact thing. In order to avoid this dire situation, split up your workload early on so that you have everything spread out over a period of several weeks. I would personally suggest breaking down what you need to do for each class, making a subsequent checklist and spending a little time every day doing one or two things on that checklist. That way, you have more time later on to study!
2. Make a to-do list
Finals might be the most overwhelming time of the year, so instead of stressing yourself out with everything that needs to be completed, make an attainable and achievable list of what needs to get done before that looming exam or seemingly insurmountable paper. To avoid procrastinating your to-do list, you can give yourself specific deadlines. That way, you won’t lose track of what you need to get done and when you need it done. For example, you can tell yourself that you have to finish writing a third of your final paper a set number of days before it is due. Once you prioritize certain tasks by setting specific dates in your calendar, you’ll find yourself being able to relax or even set yourself up for a more productive week by getting ahead. Even crossing one thing off your to-do list helps ease some anxiety that is stemming from the impending dread of finals.
3. Set up office hours
Student resources like office hours are not just there to help you understand a homework problem or a test question. If there’s an upcoming final for a class, why not meet with your professor to discuss what you can do to prepare for the exam or how you can go about studying for it. I’ve always been a little nervous to meet with a professor one-on-one, but I’ve found that talking to them about your study habits or how you can improve them can give you some insight on the best possible way to prepare for a final. If you’re nervous to have a one-on-one meeting with your professor or teaching assistant, I would suggest going with a friend or coming with a pre-written set of questions.
4. Set up a plan with your friends
The best thing about finals week? You’re not going through it alone! Your friends and your peers are most likely also stressed about their upcoming tests, so why not get together and plan out your week — whether that be group studying, doing something fun together to relieve the tension or even planning a post-final de-stress session. I personally find that getting a post-final dinner with some of my friends is a great way to celebrate the end of an exam and destress before you have to focus on your other upcoming finals that same week.
5. Go for a walk
This might not seem like the most productive activity to do before finals week, but I find that going on a walk alone and just thinking about what you need to get done is a good way to get some peace of mind before a scary week. Having the time to be alone is a good means of reflection and a good way to figure out what you need in preparation for the end of the school year. It’s a busy time of the year and I find that during the next couple weeks, it will be difficult to find any alone time! It’s important to have alone time that’s not simply studying, and taking a walk is a sure way to get your body moving and the chance for your mind to reset.
6. Set your alarm for a reasonable hour on the weekends
Waking up early on the weekend is probably the last thing you want to do. Your body needs rest, especially if you had a long night. But sleeping until 2 p.m. on a Saturday might lead to doing nothing all day, and you will most likely end up facing the terrifying monster that preys on all University students — Sunday Scaries. Setting your alarm at a reasonable time allows you to get some good rest and simultaneously start your work at an earlier time. It is a relief to wake up and still have enough time to take things slow. Aiming to be awake by 10 a.m. might not sound like your perfect weekend morning, but even those few extra hours of getting yourself together will help you out in the long run!
7. Delete social media
I don’t know about you but checking Instagram and Snapchat makes up about half of the time I spend doing work or studying. Whatever it is that distracts you the most — delete it. The time that you spend looking through Ye’s Twitter fight with Pete Davidson could be the hour you spend figuring out how molecules containing carbon interact. Getting rid of social media platforms, even if just for a specific amount of time during the day, will give you more time to focus and less time distracted. Once you finish a final, reward yourself by downloading the social media apps again. If you don’t have social media, consider putting your phone on do not disturb, or even work mode, to avoid the stream of text messages coming your way.
8. Use the Pomodoro Technique
One great way to avoid procrastination and get to work is to set a specific time for yourself to work. This is achieved by something called the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that aims to provide its user with maximum focus and efficiency. For every given assignment throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically. For example, you would work for 25 minutes and then take a five minute break — each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro,” and the more pomodoros you complete, the longer the breaks you can take! I personally have tried this method and found that it not only gives you the motivation to study, but is an efficient way to help you get things done in a timely manner.
9. Reduce the number of decisions you make throughout the day
Every decision you make has a consequence — from the moment you wake up and ask yourself, “What should I wear today?" to the time you decide to sleep. All of those miniscule decisions take up more time than you might think. If you approach each new day without having given any thought to what you want it to look like ahead of time, you might end up wasting a large portion of your energy deciding what to do — and what not to do. For example, if you spend 20 minutes deciding where you want to study for finals, you are wasting time actually studying for finals. I would suggest making a mental plan the day before a study day of where you want to study, where you will eat or even how long you need to study for. Reducing the number of decisions you need to make during finals week will boost your effectiveness and prevent you from procrastinating.
1. Just do it
At the end of the day, it all comes down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing is going to happen. You can’t procrastinate your way to success, and the only way to get through finals is to take a breath and dive in head first. Coming from someone who tends to fall on the procrastination spectrum, I found that the times I put my mind to getting things done are the times I was the least stressed and performed my best. Think about it this way — a few more weeks and you could be on a beach somewhere getting your tan on!