When it comes to studying a degree course at university, one of the key skills emphasised by both lecturers and prospective employers is time management. In a multitude of degrees, especially dual honours or more demanding subjects, you will often be faced with periods of intense work requiring 2 to 3 projects to be submitted on deadlines in the same week or even on the same day! This can be stressful and often lead to late submissions or lower quality work, which can be detrimental to overall grades and can feel overwhelming and demoralising. To help you prevent this and achieve the best grades possible, we have compiled a list of the top tips to help you manage conflicting or clashing deadlines.
The first step to balancing simultaneous projects is prioritisation. Whilst it may seem like common sense to simply prioritise the piece of work that is due first, when you only have a matter of days between deadlines this may not be the most effective strategy. Instead prioritise work by workload, or how long it will take you to complete the piece.
Essays with longer word counts or focusing on subjects that you find challenging or uninteresting should be prioritised as these will take you longer to complete. Interest in a topic has been shown to be a key motivator and studies have shown that lower interest in a topic leads to more unrelated thoughts or “wandering mind” and lower reading comprehension. This is due to lack of motivation to learn about topics you are not naturally drawn to.
Therefore, prioritise the pieces that interest you the least and leave your favourite topics until last because you will have more motivation and drive to complete work on them.
Set Your Own Deadlines
Please understand, setting your own deadlines does not mean ignoring university deadlines, as those are definitely final, but there is nothing preventing you from submitting pieces – or at least completing them – early. If two pieces of work are due the same day or in quick succession, it may be better to assign your own separate deadlines for each piece.
By creating your own deadline of one or two days before the official date, this can help pace your workload and give you the space and time to focus on each piece separately.
As a bonus, setting your own early submission deadlines helps prevent common submission errors, like submitting too late on the allotted day, having a submission platform crash around the deadline time, or printers breaking.
Have Progressive Goals
When two or more pieces are due to be worked on simultaneously you may find yourself losing track or lagging behind, which is why progressive goals can be useful to help keep your work on track. Having a successive list of smaller deadlines before your final deadline with small, feasible, reachable goals such as
“I will have 1000 words of both pieces completed by x”
“On this date, Y should be this many words away from completion”.
Smaller targets like these help you monitor your progress and allow you to switch between pieces that may need more work or time. Having smaller goals also helps foster a sense that you are making headway and can increase motivation by providing a tangible measure of achievement.
Make Sure To Factor In Breaks
Having a large workload can be overwhelming and stressful so ensure you factor in leisure time between working on pieces. Taking regular breaks has been shown to revitalise your mind and reinvigorate you for work, with even brief breaks being shown to increase focus and concentration.
When time is limited, maximise the restorative effect of infrequent breaks by making them more social – such as chatting with friends or going for a walk – rather than technological, such as scrolling on Instagram or Twitter as making your break more social has been shown to increase its effectiveness.
Alongside helping you relax and focus, breaks will also create a distinction in the mind of the work as two separate pieces. This will prevent confusion and overlap, producing more coherent and individual work.
In conclusion, clashing deadlines can create a stressful and hectic student work environment which necessitates organisation and good time management. However, if you ensure you effectively prioritise more difficult pieces, take frequent and productive breaks and set your own goals and deadlines, there is no reason why you cannot achieve excellent grades, even at the busiest times of year.
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