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From to-do lists to nights out: Here’s how to survive the final push of deadline season

Whether it’s dissertation, exams, or coursework related, everyone in Exeter needs to hear this right now – including me


In case you hadn’t noticed, the library is busier than TP Wednesday and campus has more traffic than the lights outside Henry’s Bar; if you needed any more clues, study season is upon us. Whether it’s a dissertation, an essay, coursework or exams, almost everyone in Exeter right now has at least something they should be working on. Final year students who actually got their diss in on time, you can consider yourselves excused, great job (*cries into mitigation approval form*). But if that’s not you, buckle up for a mandatory list of 10 ways to keep both you sanity and your grades this month, from someone who, right now, feels like they have neither.

1. Write ‘The List’

If you aren’t already a self-professed member of the ‘to-do list’ fan club, it’s time to get your membership. Write down a list of everything you have to do and break them into chunks. For example, if you’re writing an essay, having a checkbox for research, plan, chapters, intro and conclusion, proof read, and submit is a helpful way of dividing up your tasks. If you’ve got an exam, divide up the different topics you need to study. It’s a good reminder of how much you need to get done and a great way to check on your progress.

NB: While washing your bedsheets is definitely still something you need to do, keep the academic to-do list away from the chores – it’s just too depressing.

2. Re-deadline your deadlines

This is in the same vein as setting the clocks in your house five minutes early. Add deadlines to your to-do list to give yourself time-restricted goals to help tackle procrastination. For things like essays and coursework, try and give yourself at least a day extra of slippage room before your real deadline by moving forward your goal finish date to proof read/have a mental breakdown. You probably have more time than you realise, but use it wisely.

3. Schedule more than just studying

It’s easy when you’re doing number one and two to forget about number three: the fun stuff. If you just lock yourself away for the next three weeks, the likelihood is you’ll spend them alternating between procrastinating, crying and ineffectively studying. However, if you give yourself things to look forward to and treat them like a reward for your hard work, you’re more likely to be motivated. There’s nothing like a £7 cocktail to remind you why you need this degree in the first place.

It’s easy when you’re doing number one and two to forget about number three: the fun stuff. If you just lock yourself away for the next three weeks, the likelihood is you’ll spend them alternating between procrastinating, crying and ineffectively studying. However, if you give yourself things to look forward to and treat them like a reward for your hard work, you’re more likely to be motivated. There’s nothing like a £7 cocktail to remind you why you need this degree in the first place.

Trial by fire: work out where and how you do your best work. Is it in the silent section of the library? Is it talking out loud in your bedroom? Is it in your ex-situationship’s bed? (The answer to this is definitely no, get out of there.) Find your most productive space and abuse the hell out of it this deadline season.

5. Hold yourself accountable

This does not mean you have a go at yourself whenever you don’t hit your 500 words-a-day target, it means you need to work out a way to keep yourself going when things get tough. If you work well in the library but struggle to motivate yourself to go, get a study buddy! If you find yourself procrastinating, set a timer! Make the effort to notice the problems you’re having and try to solve them, rather than ignoring them. Unfortunately, deadlines aren’t like an ex, you can’t just block them.

6. Don’t be afraid to talk about it

Stress is just like your washing basket, the more you let it build up, the heavier it is to carry. Don’t be afraid of talking to your friends, your parents, your siblings, your therapist, your dog, or the wellbeing team. You’re not as alone as you think – just look at how many people are in the library with a Redbull right now.

7. Remember the best things in life don’t come easy

I know exams are far from the best things in life, but I think the mantra still applies. Exams, writing essays and doing coursework are difficult in nature, they’re designed to test you, but sometimes we don’t expect the preparation to be so hard. Try not to feel disheartened if you have an unproductive day or find yourself struggling to focus. Don’t let one bad day throw off the whole week. Don’t let one glass of cheap wine put you off alcohol forever.

8. Nike’s slogan: JUST DO IT should be your personal motto for the next three weeks

Sometimes (most of the time), the hardest part is starting. Whether that’s starting your research, your essay, your coursework or your revision, starting to put together the content of your work will help relieve your anxiety. Don’t let procrastination lie to you; watching an episode of Criminal Minds to procrastinate work will NEVER feel as good as rewarding yourself with an episode after solving one of your questions.

9. Don’t compare yourself to others

People work at different paces, in different ways, for different reasons. Try not to compare yourself to others in your seminars, or in your group project with you. Don’t worry if people have done more than you, or less than you. Don’t panic about having a different studying style to your housemates, or different places you like to work than your friends. Worry about how you’re getting on in relation to where you usually are with previous deadlines. Compare yourself to yourself – and for God’s sake be honest.

10. Remember summer is just around the corner

Deadline season exists just before summer for a reason – and it’s not to torture you with good weather while you’re in the library. Think about your summer plans and use them as motivation to put the hours in now so you can enjoy them properly after your deadlines are in. Three weeks from now, the only thing you need to worry about is wearing your suncream. Remember kids, protection is key.

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