With finals week creeping near, you may be feeling the weight of impending stress. Maybe you can already foresee the endless cups of bitter coffee, the glowing computer screens and the monochromatic landscape of essays and exams. While finals week is often associated with tears, sleep deprivation and caffeine overdoses, it doesn’t have to be like that.
What if finals week were instead perceived as a test of endurance — the perfect storm of opportunity for you to reveal character, skill and strength? Surviving finals week is possible, and not only that, you can decrease stress-inducing factors by being intentional with your actions and implementing constructive strategies.
Here are four tips that will help eliminate panic.
1. Organize your time. You control how you allow the week to pass — it can slip away, or, you can maximize every moment. Some students prefer Google calendar, others may like a paper planner, but either way it is crucial that you build in the space for studying and meeting your goals. On extremely busy days, it might even be helpful to list out an hourly agenda. An agenda is not only a basic organizational tool; it serves as a reminder of what you value — how would you act, how would you move about your days, if you truly desired to succeed this week? Learn to recognize non-priorities and weed them out from priorities.
2. Prepare the environment. When the “to-dos” start mounting higher and higher, having practical strategies for focusing on individual tasks will help preserve your sanity. First, eliminate distractions and create an environment that is conducive to concentration. You know yourself best — maybe you can’t study with a movie playing in the background, with the U.S. Top 100 songs blasting in your headphones, or with friends who don’t share your “get it done” attitude. Find a study room or a partner who will motivate diligence, and set up the environment to meet your personal needs.
3. Sharpen your focus. To effectively execute tasks, implement a practice that is known as “chunking” in the field of education. Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, like listening to eight lectures straight through or reading an entire book in one sitting, split your tasks into bite-sized portions. Establish stopping points and reward yourself with short breaks that will allow your mind to rest. Perhaps take a 10-minute walk, eat a snack or play calming music. Additionally, it’s important to know your limitations. If you focus better earlier in the day, block out a few hours each morning for a week, instead of pulling an all-nighter that wreaks chaos on your body.
As a side note, scrolling through social media may not be the best way to spend a brain break. Instead, use technology to your advantage while studying. Apps like Flora, Focus Keeper or Brain.fm can eliminate distraction and improve concentration.
4. Maintain your mental and physical health. During finals week, it’s tempting to drop healthy habits like eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. You may tell yourself, “I just don’t have time right now,” and feel like you have to sacrifice basic needs in order to study. While studying is undoubtedly critical, pitting academics against everything else in life can lead to tension, burnout and even sickness. Instead, have healthy routines so ingrained in your schedule that when finals week does hit, you can effectively balance automatic habits with academic rigors. All areas of your life are interconnected — you never know when calling a friend will encourage you in your studies, or when sleeping that extra hour will give your brain enough energy to write that essay.
Finals weeks may seem like an overwhelming obstacle; however, with the right outlook and resources, it strengthens your capacity to overcome challenges. As you organize your time, prepare your environment, sharpen your focus and build everyday habits, keep the end in mind. Imagine yourself graduating, pursuing your calling and sharing your talents with the world. And, remember that the testing of your faith, in your abilities and ultimately in your Creator, produces perseverance.