Ask a Former Stress Addict: Workload Woes

Dear Fiona,

It’s fifth week and the work is really starting to pile up. Reading assignments are getting longer, and I have papers due every other class; it’s too much! How am I going to survive? I can’t remember how I ever stayed caught-up with this much work in past terms. How do I keep my sanity and still do well in my classes?

–  Swamped Scholar

Dear Swamped Scholar,

This is a hard question to answer. I wish I could tell you that there’s a secret to handling a huge workload, and that once you learn it, all your homework troubles will vanish. Unfortunately, that is totally not the case. There is no definitive way to deal with lots of homework. Everyone has a different way of keeping their head above water. The best thing you can do is try out a couple methods and find which one works best for you.

The first thing I would suggest is to go to the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and request a time management consultation. The CTL doesn’t just have writing tutors, they have lots of resources to help you get all your work done and remain sane.

My sophomore year was awful as far as workload and other things goes, and seeing someone in the CTL every Monday really helped me feel prepared for the week ahead. Most of the time, all I needed was to lay out what I had to get done that week and get some objective assurance that it was doable. Other times, I needed more intensive help, like breaking up large readings into smaller chunks and setting personal due dates for them. Regardless of whether I needed lots of help or not very much, I always felt relieved and ready to conquer the world when I left that meeting.

If you really don’t want to go to the CTL for some reason, or you’ve already tried it, here are some strategies that work for me.

Write it all down. Get a nice big planner and write every assignment you get into it. Look through your syllabi and write down every due date, including readings. Refer back to your planner religiously, checking in every morning and every evening. This really helps make sure you don’t forget any assignments.

Schedule your day. Schedule it by the minute! This is another handy use for that nice big planner you got. At the end of the day, write down your schedule for the next one. Write what time you’re planning on getting up, when your classes are and how much time you’re going to spend working on each different assignment; even assign time slots for meals, breaks and free time.

Back in my sophomore year, when everything was awful for me, I used to do this every day. Now I just do it when I have a lot to get done. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I would suggest doing it every day until you start to feel a little more in control.

Don’t freak out. This strategy is the most important. Think about it. As far as time management goes, freaking out about an assignment for half an hour rather than working on it for the same length of time is kind of dumb. That being said, if you do end up freaking out, please don’t beat yourself up about it.

Life at Lawrence is pretty demanding and we can’t all be perfectly content all the time. If you feel like your work is about to make you have a meltdown, stop for a second. Sit down, take some deep breaths and then make a list of what you have to do. Do each of those things one by one and check them off your list as you go, and I promise that you will start to feel better.

I hope this helps some. Remember, counseling services is there if you need someone to talk to. I believe in you!               –  Fiona