I sit here writing this very last minute in my schedule and time. One would assume just by looking at me "oh Jesse's done it again. Forgot about something and is now rushing to do it." Which is only really half true (I didn't forget!).
If there's one thing I learned from these first two semesters of college is that the number one reason why college students are stressed is due to time. The feeling that you're running out of time plagues most. Deadlines make us worry and constantly anxious whether we've missed something or not. it eventually gets to a point where you finally have free time, you're still anxious thinking there is something coming up, but there really isn't. This stress becomes semi-permanent in so many college students' minds that it develops into an overwhelming burden. Then this ends up being the downfall of some students.
As I mentioned, I wrote this very late scheduled, but it did not stress me in the sea of a thousand other tasks I have to do. Because I planned to write this late.
I say this not with arrogance, but humility and envy of others, I am a very busy person because I choose to be busy. I thrive on that stress, but in my first semester it almost got to me. I got to the point where I took on too much at once and it became a huge problem. Now in my second semester, I still have a plethora of responsibilities and tasks. My time is usually split up between my fraternity, student government, a residence hall organization, volunteering, and a couple other extracurricular obligations already on top of classes and work.
In fact not much looks different from last semester, but I changed one thing. That one thing was how I really managed my time.
When my stress started building to the point of me becoming irritable, anxious and constantly on edge that's when I finally realized I needed to take a moment and assess what I was doing right, wrong, what made me happy, what I had time for and where that stress was really coming from.
What I found was that my stress was surrounded around being backed up. After missing one or two assignments it sent me back in a way that sucked my motivation out of me. After missing one or two meetings I lacked the enthusiasm I initially had. In truth never knowing what I had to do next was what worried me. Worrying if I missed something again is what stressed me. So how do you combat that?
You pray to Google and make a calendar.
As cliche as that sounds, and I'm sure many of you have been told "just make a schedule" or "use G-calendar!", it is absolutely true. At the beginning of my semester I took an entire day to go through all my syllabuses and know when everything would be do. I marked my classes, homework dates, exam dates and more. I marked all my events with my fraternity (which takes up most of my time), meetings for every organization I was in, special university events, days for volunteering and so much more. One look at my calendar you'll see a conglomerated mess of colors, but in that mess is actual organization.
You see when you take the time to review what you have to do before doing it, it makes the task much easier. There's a reason why professors ask you to read material beforehand. It's not for them, it's for you! Preparation is the key to having a smooth ride. Now I'm not stressing about the next thing to do, as I already know what it is and get it done.
Another key aspect is that I have specific times per week that I set aside for STUDYING. I realized that I could not just review the material three days beforehand and expect an A. Okay maybe I did pass a few exams like that but it wasn't productive. I shifted my schedule completely so that I actually go to bed at a decent time, wake up early to actually eat breakfast (something I'll touch on later) and study before classes. But not alot! I don't study for hours on end. I literally take small 30 minute study sessions per class every couple of days. I go slowly too. I don't just assume I know the content and move on. And this has helped me immensely. So often would I be stressed about not knowing the material before an exam and that emotion would hurt my performance even if I was actually prepared. Having those weeks of studying beforehand builds a level of confidence on your work that is a powerful tool when taking your exams and I highly recommend it.
Now I mentioned breakfast and my sleep cycle. So often is the college schedule to stay up late studying and wake up late right before your classes. In fact many wake up just to go to class. This is not the right schedule for productivity or your health. Our bodies are not supposed to wake up at 12pm and then rush to a class. You cannot expect your brain to be jolted awake after an odd sleep and keep its attention during a 90 minute lecture. You will not retain that knowledge. That was a huge issue of mine and a central culprit to my stress too.
So I started getting up early. Super early. At 8 - 9am I would awake. Get my things I needed for the day for studying, classes, meetings, etc... and leave at that time. This allows my body to awake naturally at the time it is supposed to. You see the human body is not supposed to sleep in, regardless if it had a healthy amount of sleep. The first most important factor of sleep is getting enough, and the second is the timing. Your body's physiological processes will stutter if you wake up mid day and go to bed late. You just won't feel good. So making it a routine to get up early, ACTUALLY EAT BREAKFAST, and start your day before your day actually starts is a great way to give yourself more time to do what you need to do.
At the end of this, I had an awakening when I almost burned out. I'm still very busy and chugging along, but it is paced and that is the most important thing. Making sure your schedule is smooth and that you know what your days are going to look like before you get to them. Making sure you get enough sleep, and making sure you get a right sleep. Setting aside time to slowly study and do work. All of this allows you to take your busy college life, and put it in a slower perspective that you can manage.