A healthy dose of stress can be a great motivator, but if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed you can feel like giving up. Before you get to that point, take action.
Your first step is to pinpoint the cause of your stress. Is it university related? If so, we can help. Here are ten easy tips to help you work smarter, reduce anxiety and smash those deadlines.
1. Create a realistic study schedule – and stick to it
Are you overwhelmed by multiple deadlines and mounting work? Your best plan of attack is to create a study schedule that blocks out your commitments – class, work, sport, unmissable social events etc – and marks your deadlines.
For each deadline, consider what’s involved. Break big projects into smaller ones. For example, an essay with an introduction, four paragraphs and a conclusion could be broken down into six parts. Assess how long it will realistically take you to do each part, block out the appropriate time to do each on your calendar, with a safety net of time in case it takes longer than expected, and et voila: you have your study schedule. Planning and being organised (and sticking to the plan) are some of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce stress and tackle tasks.
2. Take regular breaks
You may be thinking: how will taking regular breaks help me get work done? This article is about working smarter, not for longer.
Regular breaks refresh your brain and rest your body, which in turn boost productivity. The average brain is only able to focus for about 90 minutes before needing a rest. So, be mindful of when you mind starts to wander and your concentrate wanes, and Take. Time. Out.
Equally as important is taking breaks for adequate sleep, regular meals and relaxation – but we’ll get on to that later on.
3. Get your priorities straight
Before you stress-out to the point of giving up, take a deep breath, step back and analyse your priorities. Which is your most important deadline? Which is imminent? Which is worth the most towards your final mark? What needs to be completed before you move on to the next thing?
This is your time to be strategic; if you can’t do everything (and we very often can’t keep all commitments while meeting multiple deadlines) weigh up what’s most important. If something can’t be completed on time, you should fess up to the person expecting delivery early. They might be able to help.
4. Limit distractions
The average person spends almost two hours a day on social media, according to the Telegraph. If you want to maximise your waking hours and be more efficient, logging out of social media and only checking your emails once a day could be a great way to start.
Similarly, you’ll need a neat and quiet place to study that’s away from distractions. Our on-campus library and study spaces are a good option. If you’re still feeling like you’re not being as productive as you need to be, keep a log of everything you do for a day (you might be surprised by the results). This way, you have a record of when you’re not best using your time, which will help you, ultimately, use your day wisely.
5. Prioritise health
There’s no denying it: a healthy body is a healthy brain. Your brain can’t perform at its peak if it’s sleep deprived and running on low nutrition food and caffeine. Just as a poorly maintained car won’t go the distance, you too need to maintain your health and fuel your body with the right stuff.
Get plenty of sleep (this includes going to bed before midnight), eat regular, nutritious meals, move your body regularly (endorphins released by exercise are one of the best ways to release stress) and don’t overdo the chocolate, coffee and alcohol. Prioritising your health will make all the difference.
6. Make study buddies
If you’re stressed and confused about your coursework, don’t suffer in silence. Why not reach out to someone in your course to share study notes, brainstorm ideas and let of steam with someone else in your position. You may find comfort that you’re in the same boat. Or, more likely, you’ll realise you know more than you thought.
Discussing ideas and sharing knowledge is one of the best ways for you both to gain a better understanding of the course content – it’s a great way to learn!
Even if you both know your stuff, working in silence side-by-side can still be really comforting (as you know you have someone you can ask questions of if you need to) and motivating (you won’t want to check Facebook, if your study buddy is next to you to make sure you’re not slacking off).
7. Meet with your academics
If you are confused about coursework or just wanting to bounce ideas off someone, the best person to turn to is your tutor or lecturer. Our academics have designated office hours where their doors are open for you to pop in.
By taking the time to chat about your coursework with your tutor or lecturer, you’ll not only gain a greater insight into what’s expected but you’ll also demonstrate your commitment and dedication to your work.
8. Reach out to student services
Whether you’re feeling stressed from university or your personal life, we offer free and confidential counselling for all enrolled La Trobe students. You can choose to participate in counselling face-to-face, via telephone or Skype.
Some of the common issues students come to counsellors to talk about include study-related issues; coping with placements; stress, anxiety and depression; adjusting to university life and homesickness; sexuality and gender identity; coping with physical or mental illness; and substance abuse and additions.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out. Our student wellbeing services are there to help you and make life easier.
9. Reward yourself
After a long day of studying, find a way to reward yourself that’s also a form of self-care. Take a hot bath, watch your favourite show, read a great non-study-related book, go for a walk in nature, have dinner with a friend…
You’re not a machine, and you can’t work non-stop, so find a nice, rewarding way to unwind everyday that’s positive for you.
10. Accept the things you cannot change
If we all had no other commitments and no responsibilities, had someone to cook and clean for us, and had endless time to finish assignments, we’d probably ace them all! But, sometimes, life gets in the way.
Many students juggle part-time work and other commitments. Accept that you can only do the best you can do, and if you’re doing your best, that’s all that really matters.
Our Concierge at City are the first touchpoint for postgraduate students at our city campus, and can help you maintain your focus. Find out more about how they can help you on your study journey.