Since this is already the fifth year I'm in uni, I think I am getting quite experienced in coping with stress and getting organised. Like I said in my last uni-update, when I was younger I really had to learn how to plan my studying. Not anymore though: to-do lists are my life and every couple of weeks or so I go through my planner and see what needs to be done.
It may not be for everyone to plan everything so thoroughly but personally - I wouldn't be able to not do it this way. Especially now I'm doing a Master's degree (and have six courses at the same time), I need to spend my time wisely.
I've learned and taught myself a few tips and tricks along the way, which I thought could be useful to some of you!
1. Invest In A Planner
A diary just doesn't do it for me anymore. Since I have purchased a desk-planner, my life has become so much easier. I think it's because I can easily see whats needs to be done and add anything - including to-do lists, reminders, and shopping lists. I also like to give different chores different colours: uni-work, sidejob-work, seeing friends: they all come with a different marker so I can easily see what the balance is in that week (it's usually all orange - for uni!).
2. Set Up A Framework
The time your syllabi come rolling into your inbox is the time to get out your planner. I usually write down for every course what I need to do every week, and make sure I emphasise on the deadlines. I also write little reminders about three weeks in advance whenever I have a paper, assignment or exam due - just so there's no chance something will be overlooked. It may sound a bit OCD to write everything down so precisely, but this way I can easily see when I'll be available to work (at my sidejob), when I can visit my parents or hang out with my friends.
3. Make A Daily To-Do List
Some people may feel more stressed when they have list with all the things that needs doing that day, but to me it actually helps me find balance and encourages me to spend my time wisely. I write everything down that needs to get done that day, and by that I mean EVERYTHING. So yes, also taking out the trash, calling a certain person or sorting out a certain cupboard. The more you write down, the more you can tick off - or that's the way I see it anyways. And the little things count just as much!
4. Plan The Fun Things
It's always important to have a life apart from uni, I think otherwise you'll go a bit insane after your first semester. Find the balance that fits you: if you like going out on Saturdays for example, you can plan a little less homework for Sunday and perhaps a little more on the Friday before. For me personally, it means that I do most of my work in the mornings and see friends in the afternoon (or work on my blog whilst it's still light outside!). I'm more productive in the mornings anyway, so it's a win-win. In any case, I think you need to make time for nice things that don't involve using your brain (as much). And if you're that busy that you need to plan those things (like me!), I don't see anything wrong with that. I actually use it as something I can look forward to after I've been so busy for a few days or weeks.
5. Be Realistic
Let's face it: uni can be a drag sometimes. Especially an MA degree requires a lot of time and hard work - and no matter how much you like your programme, it ain't always rainbows and butterflies. Just like life, really! So don't expect to be able to finish four assignments in one day, or to have that 5000-word essay written in a week whilst also juggling a side-job and writing another exam. Make your to-do lists realistic. With all the planning ahead you've been doing, that shouldn't be a problem. This way, you keep your stress-level fairly OK and it stays fun. Or at least as fun as it gets! Hang in there!