Even in my final year of university, workload management is still something I have trouble with. Balancing the reading, coursework, seminar preparation, revision… and that’s before you even think about fitting in a food shop and general day-to-day living. University life and everything it has to throw at you can feel really overwhelming. But this feeling is completely normal… it’s just a matter of finding management strategies that work for you. These are some of the things that I do to try and stay on top of my workload:
Be as organised as you can
This may sound like an obvious one, but it is a really effective way of feeling like you are in control of the work you have to do. Think of it as if you were someone running a marathon; you wouldn’t dream of going to that starting line without putting in the time and effort beforehand to prepare. If you know you have coursework this semester, work out exactly when it’s due and be aware that those weeks will be a lot busier for you. If you have a lot of reading to do, look to the week ahead and collect the books from the library or find them online so they’re there for you, as and when you need them. I find that getting all my resources together ahead of time allows me to be as organised as I can.
Set yourself realistic deadlines
Everyone works differently. When I do my readings, I like to highlight or take notes as I go along in an attempt to try and understand them better. This is, however, a lot more time-consuming. I know that this isn’t realistically a half an hour job, so I set myself aside a few hours every day to get them done. For any type of work, get to know how you work best and roughly how long you need to complete it. Don’t give yourself an hour to do something that you know will take at least two; you’ll only stress yourself out unnecessarily.
Invest in a weekly calendar or whiteboard
You’ll find this helpful in achieving tip number 1. My whiteboard on my bedroom wall is my holy grail of organisation. I use it to create a weekly and daily to do list, giving me a clear idea of what I need to be doing and when. This visual breakdown is a great way of organising your thoughts, rather than having them all scrambled in your head. I also like to tick things off as I go along. It can be very easy to feel as though you’ve achieved nothing as you’re set piece after piece of work by your lecturers or tutors. By ticking things off, you can see in black and white what you’ve managed to do that day.
Try and achieve a work-life balance
We all know that this is far easier said than done. The weekdays and weekends tend to blur at uni, sometimes making it a little more difficult to put the work away and have a break. I am very guilty of doing this, so I try to cut off my work by 8 or 9 o’clock (when I stop being productive). Avoid burning out and give yourself some time off. Hang out with your friends, go to the pub, watch a film. Regardless of the amount of work you have, you’re not expected to work all hours of the week. Yes, you should be working hard. But working efficiently will allow you to free up your weekends and have a well-deserved rest.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make sure you seek some help. One person you can talk to is your personal tutor. They’re there for you both academically and pastorally, offering advice on what you can be doing to stay on top of your work, and pointing you in the direction of other university services that are there to support you. Many students' unions run wellbeing workshops, counselling services and drop-in centres. These services can offer advice on how best to cope with your workload.
You can also talk to your friends or housemates
Odds are, they’re feeling the exact same way. But don’t be that person that offloads all their stresses onto other people. Equally, don’t let other people complain at you for hours on end. Create a two-way support system and be there for each other. You are not alone in this… don’t bottle up your stresses!
No-one is an expert at this. But it’s a skill that will, over time, become easier for you to learn. Stay organised, stay realistic, and ask for help if you need it.
Ellie is in her third year at Cardiff University, studying English Language. She also writes a blog ‘Forget the World’ about lifestyle and university experiences.
Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.