Every student approaching exam season or a period with multiple deadlines set close to one another can easily feel overwhelmed. As a third-year law student, I often feel that the amount of material that needs to be covered is unsurmountable. During my years at university, I have developed a specific way of escaping this feeling by applying the tips I am about to share with you. It is worth mentioning that I have tried numerous methods, but the following tips proved to be useful during my time in two different law schools, one in the United Kingdom and one in the United States of America. They have been stress tested and I will only present what seemed to have worked for me. Before introducing you to any of my tips I must warn you that they are centred around the same thing: PLANNING.
For me, planning has proved to be extremely important, helping me to feel more in control of stressful situations, especially during the process of revising for exams or preparing for upcoming deadlines. When feeling overwhelmed, devising a plan for how to approach my tasks often seemed impossible. All tasks used to seem of equal importance to me and I confess that I often did not know how to prioritise them to maximise my efficiency.
In the absence of a starting point, all the tasks seemed even more unmanageable, and the stress was accumulating with every day I got closer to the deadline. The following steps specifically deal with the initial stage of the planning process, sorting the tasks and how to plan your days until the deadline. Within the following tips, I will share a well-known technique aimed at helping you to find your starting point. Without any further ado let’s start exploring the tips:
- Create a list of all your upcoming tasks and deadlines. This is about putting down everything work-related that makes you feel overwhelmed. Visualising the tasks will help you to sort them out and devise a plan for completing them.
- Sort the tasks using the Eisenhower matrix. This method is known under many different names such as the Eisenhower matrix or the priority matrix. The technique aims at helping you to prioritise your tasks depending on two factors: urgency and importance. After following three simple steps anyone should be able to have a clear idea of how to go about their tasks. These steps are meant to act as a precursor to the actual daily planning. They are meant to help one to overcome the initial feeling of stress that impairs you to be productive as they offer a starting point and make room for consistency. This is not a method that I have devised or perfected on my own, just something that I have come across and that proved effective in helping me to better sort my tasks.
- Organise your tasks according to their newly determined priority (see table below).
- The last tip is: schedule your tasks in your calendar. Consider creating self-imposed deadlines. Imposing deadlines on myself has helped me to increase productivity as I felt motivated to complete my tasks until the deadline:
- Create a 3×3 table using: IMPORTANT and NOT IMPORTANT as headers for the rows and URGENT and NOT URGENT as headers for the columns.
- Allocate the IMPORTANT or NOT IMPORTANT, URGENT or NOT URGENT labels to each task.
- The important part of this exercise is to label the tasks so that you can later prioritise them.
- See an example below:
|IMPORTANT||High priority||Second highest priority|
(plan to do)
|NOT IMPORTANT||Low priority|
(tasks that can probably be postponed)
|Revisit when less stressed|
The last tip may seem a bit vague at first. I am aware that planning your day by the hour may be something that many of you are not currently doing or do not find helpful at all. Furthermore, I must add that there is no proper way to schedule your day as we must accept that we all work in different ways. For example, while some may be more productive in the evening, others will be more productive in the morning. Some of you may find methods such as the Pomodoro technique more helpful when dealing with tasks, whereas others may prefer to devise original techniques meant to help them to plan their day.
Despite the chosen method, which in my opinion is less relevant, one thing will always remain true: before devising an efficient plan, you must understand yourself and your work ethic. Personally, after three years at university, I now know how long completing my notes and finishing my reading list will take or how many pages I can read in one hour. (My degree is focused on reading different materials, so I mostly know how much time reading-related activities take me.) Therefore, I plan and structure my day accordingly.
I am almost certain that all the tips may not work for every reader of this article, but I am confident most of them will. Apart from my tips on how to overcome feeling overwhelmed I leave you with the following advice: make time for yourself and learn about essential things such as: when you are the most productive, how long completing tasks takes and how often you need a break. Always keep in mind that a good plan will also ensure that you are able to face and overcome any contingencies that might come up during stressful periods.
For more planning tips and tricks or advice on how to go about usual tasks for law students please visit my Instagram page: astudentinlaw.
Feature image by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.