Starting Monday, it’s “Dead Week” for me. There’s been much debate as to why it was called that, either be it because there’s no tests supposed to happen during the week so people can study for finals, or because that rule doesn’t apply to projects, quizzes, or other forms of torture that professors can inflict on hapless students.
I’ve always hated the end of the semester, which was always the time I felt most like a stereotypical student. A victim of the stress and binge.
At first, I wondered if this was because I was unorganized, had gotten too comfortable in the semester. So I started doing things earlier, kept a better eye on long term projects. No avail. I still found myself sleepless and running around like crazy during the last three weeks. So I figured it was the professors, trying to see if they could crack me before I was free of their grip.
Then I learned it was a bit of both.
It takes a person a while to get into a rhythm, as far as scheduling goes. Organization is not an immediate thing, and never will be unless we all suddenly become robots. A person has a certain amount of adjustment into some things.
And the problem with Dead Week and finals and the week before is that the rhythm is lost. Partly because professors look at their gradebooks and want to give students some last chances to bring up grades (or, depending on the class, bring them down), so they tend to throw in something extra to help wind things down and give them a chance to write a final.
My problem was that I was still trying to operate under the normal cycle of events… which is impossible. Because it’s not the normal cycle. While some things will carry through (writing down things as soon as I hear them, evaluating my day first thing in the morning), others will invariably change.
So here’s a short list of some things I have to change so that I don’t flop at the end of the semester:
Simply going to bed early and attempting to get up in the morning goes against what my body reverts to when I’m stressed, which is to stay up at night. So I let myself stay up, and just make sure to sleep in the afternoon, when I have no class, to make up for the lost hours. Sure, people live by waking up early, but my best focus time has always been between midnight and three am. Might as well take care of the extra projects and studying when I can focus instead of fighting it.
- Daily Schedule
I work more off of a daily/weekly sort of way of writing down my to dos. Now that things are crazy, I’m doing it for smaller segments of time, and grouping things together, paying attention to contexts more. While some people can sit and study the same thing for hours on end, I always end up wasting more of my brain than actually getting anything out of it. So I’ll bring extra things with me, say, when I’m eating in the dining hall.
I try to avoid my “usual haunts” to emphasize that it’s different, and my focus has to change. It can be too comforting being in the same room or office you were in all semester while studying. The temptation to just sit and go catch some Battlestar Galactica episodes or something similar is too great. You feel burnt out, ready to leave. A change of scenery can help make it fresh again.
I’m one of those people that forgets to eat under stress. Instead of trying to force myself to go and sit down for some meal, I’ve started eating more frequently. Not huge meals, but little meal-lets. I just make sure it’s a good meal-let, instead of reaching for some chips, I’ll have sunflower seeds. Junk food is a great way to make yourself tired and unfocused. Apple slices are also a favorite, as they provide good sugars for a little pick-me-up.
The main point about the end of the semester crunch is that adjust as soon as you can. Don’t stubbornly hold onto behaviors that worked all semester but are hindering you now. And most important of all? If you really can’t focus on something, put it aside. Just make sure you come back to it. Just because you can’t focus on studying dead poets or phugoid modes for hours at a time doesn’t make you a good student. It just makes you human. Rely a little more on your intuition and you’ll turn out alright.
Better than fighting it and spending more time trying to conform to a system than actually getting things done, at least.