The Finals Countdown
The holidays are calling your name, the after-finals parties are getting planned, but you still have to get there with some semblance of accomplishment.
By Mari Landgrebe, Texas State University
You got to go home for five days and get comfortable as the holiday spirit took hold of your town, but now you’re back at school for the final, soul-deadening stretch of the semester.
This. Is. Bullshit.
Barring a sudden change in the calendar structure of the American education system, there’s a handful of classes left. The small assignments and quizzes are over (for the most part), but those big projects and major presentations have snuck up, not to mention the looming doom of finals. It’s almost over, but there’s so much more left to do.
Getting through these final hurdles to fall into the sweet embrace of the winter break will take some effort, so leave your pride where you dropped it and let’s get down to business to defeat the Huns end of semester slump.
You’ve likely gotten an earful of well-meaning but annoying tips about eating healthy and getting a full night’s sleep. Of course you’d love to get a solid nine hours of sleep and poop on the regular—who doesn’t? But this is finals season, damn it.
This is not the time to decide to be a human being; you are a student.
Here are some actually helpful tips to finish off the semester, perhaps not with dignity, but at least with your academic career still intact.
1a. Break It Down Now
Close to finals, a regular to-do list gets deceptively shorter. If you’re the kind of person that keeps lists of things to do in your head, writing it out can show you the true gravity of the situation. Yeah, the list may only have a paper, a final exam and a presentation. But that paper may be eight pages long, the exam cumulative and the presentation for a group project that hasn’t been much of a group effort.
If you only think about the titles of the things you need to get done, time management gets harder. Break down each major assignment into manageable work packages. If it’s a research paper, you’ll have to do research, outline (or not, whatever floats your boat), draft and proofread at minimum. Writing out a list of minutia will give you a more realistic sense of the scope of work you’ll be dealing with.
1b. Lose the List and Just Get Shit Done
For the Type-A students, ditch your list, because it’s likely you’re just fiddling with what’s already burned into your brain and written out in your planner. Writing and rewriting a list of all the things that you need to get done, probably already broken down into sub-tasks, will only freak you out. No one has the time for a mental breakdown, and making your list even longer by adding household chores and a grocery list will only make things worse.
You know what you need to do, now do it.
2. Get Out. Seriously.
It may be called homework, but you don’t have to do it at home.
In fact, it’s better you don’t, especially now. Home is where the heart is—and your bed, the ability to watch Netflix on a TV without earbuds and a space where pants are optional. It’s also very insular, making it far easier to ignore the outside world and any responsibilities to it.
Head to the library, your favorite coffeehouse or that perfect corner of the dining hall that has the most comfortable seat and easy access to outlets. Having people in the general vicinity of your study efforts can keep you on track, if only because you know you’ll be silently (and sometimes not so silently) judged for taking up a primo study spot to scroll through Tumblr.
3. Count the Days, Not the Hours
Knowing a final is in ten days sounds much worse than a paper due in 2,400 hours and will help keep from procrastinating.
The size of numbers matter, and when you think of days, you’re more likely to account for sleeping, eating and other responsibilities, as well as study hours.
It’s more tempting to count every single hour between now and a deadline, lulling you into a false sense of security.
When you’re down to less than a day, that’s when counting the hours can get your gears running at maximum efficiency. You want to stay just on the safe edge of panic.
4. Grocery Shop, the Sooner the Better
Don’t bother with the healthy stuff (unless that’s your jam). Stick with your essentials, from toilet paper to beef jerky. Your goal here is stock up with everything you need and crave so you’re not tempted to take a break for a Cheetos and Monster run every few hours.
Get the things you know you will eat and that won’t take a long time to get your hands on or prepare. Your favorite snack foods and drinks are vital to keeping you in the study flow, but don’t skimp on more filling foods, like frozen dinners or pizzas. I’m not saying be healthy, but at some point during your study binge, you’ll want more than snack food. Be prepared with something that’s more filling and satisfying, or you’ll get unnecessarily distracted.
5. Forget Saving Face—Save Your Grade
At this point, it doesn’t matter how you got close to failing, it’s time to pull out the stops and kiss some ass. Both you and your professor know why you’ve suddenly found the time to visit their office, but make the effort anyway.
Better yet, make it a somewhat honest effort. Professors can sense when a student is bullshitting for the sake of kissing ass. Don’t go in with vague questions on how to raise your grade; that puts the onus on the professor to help you, rather than you helping yourself. Professors, as a rule, do not like to hand-hold and will leave you out to dry.
Since you’re already headed there, review the material before going to the professor’s office hours. Ask questions about the shit you still don’t get. This is yet another chance to study, but this time with the person who wrote the test.
Bonus Round: Apps!
SelfControl is an open source Mac OS app that will keep you off the internet. It has a whitelist and a blacklist, so you can customize it to allow you only onto select websites or keep you off the ones that drag you into a time-suck. It’s particularly powerful because you can’t shut it off—even if you restart your computer.
Forest is an iOS, Android, Windows, Chrome and Firefox app that plants a virtual tree for a set amount of time and kills it if you leave the app. Earn enough coins and you can even plant a tree in real life. The Android version also has a whitelist option, but iOS limitations don’t allow for it.
Wunderlist is a free task listing app that works on nearly all devices you can think of and is the simplest, easiest to use I’ve found (and I’ve tried a lot, as a tool of procrastination). The most useful bits are the due dates and the ability to set a separate alert to remind you it’s coming up.
Coffitivity is a web, iOS and Android app that gives you the coffeehouse background noise without the distraction of specific conversations coming through. It’s white noise without the static and can be played with music to give you the perfectly customized coffeehouse ambience, though with fewer distractions able to penetrate your bubble of study.