How to Stay Focused During Finals Week

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret — I am a productivity / organization junkie. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not. Any article or post about productivity, managing to-do lists, planning, or time management, and I’m on it like butter on a hot roll. It’s just my jam, pun totally intended.

As I walk into the next few weeks of finals and finishing what feels like a gazillion projects (realistically it’s only really eight, thank goodness), I want to be intentional about how I’m spending my time. There’s simply too much to do and too many people I want to see to be wasting any precious moments, let alone actually slowing down and enjoying this beautiful season.

I am by no means perfect at managing my time. If I were, I wouldn’t be writing this post in the dark of night while “watching” a movie with my family… clearly, it’s something I’m working on. But since I’m so passionate and have tried just about every trick, I want to share some of the tips and techniques I’ll be implementing in the next few weeks. Even if you’re not a student, I’m sure this time of year doesn’t leave you with a lot of down time. Let me know which habits are most practical and helpful for you!

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#1 Avoid Social Media In Bed

This sounds silly and totally obvious, but it’s a big one. I find myself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling before bed, or if I’m really procrastinating, after my alarm goes off in the morning. The first thing I fill my mind with definitely does not need to be Instagram. Instead, I save those first few thoughts on things above, saving my energy and creative productivity. I’m always surprised how much time I save when I’m not mindlessly sitting on my phone. There are only so many hours in a day, and if we’re laying in our beds, we might as well be sleeping, am I right?!

#2 Set 30 Minute Timers for Your Tasks

The to-do list seems to never end… Even hearing the words “to” and “do” in the same sentence can put me on edge. Instead of sitting in a pool of anxiety with the overwhelming number of things I have to do, I’ve found that setting my timer for 30 minutes and chipping away at one task is a great start.

It’s amazing what you can do in that time! Working for a set amount of time alleviates the worrying and gets me working. There’s no pressure to finish the entire project in that time. After the time is up, I’ll assess where I’m at, go grab some more water or stretch my legs, and then start up another timer.

Most of the time, what ends up happening is that I’ll get in a flow and keep working longer than planned, or I’ll shift my focus to a different assignment and keep the momentum going. If not, I know that I put in some time towards an assignment and can pick up where I left off later.

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#3 Keep a Notebook Handy at All Times

Like I said, I’m a total sucker for organizational hacks or a good looking planner. When I’m in a groove of getting my stuff done, my brain likes to try to derail my progress at every turn. Finish your history assignment! Respond to that one email! Buy more laundry detergent! Run a marathon!

Want to know what’s not helpful when trying to get a boatload of stuff done? Letting these thoughts flood in and pile up and pile up and pile up until I’m crying about the fact I’ve never signed up for a marathon, even though I hate running. Those little thoughts add up quickly, and it’s not long before I get on a totally different train of Squirrel!!

I like to keep a notebook handy, or at least a blank piece of paper, so that I can write down those random and sometimes quite important thoughts. Once I write them down, I know I can come back to the list later, but it doesn’t have to keep my attention for the time being. Because like I said, I get easily distracted. *insert squirrel emoji here*

#4 When You’re Done, You’re Done

Us college students are in the same boat right now — the next couple weeks are full of final papers, projects, and exams. When I sign out for the afternoon or the night, and I’m taking a break to eat a meal, walk to a different study spot, or even just leave my room, I try my best leave my work in that space. Decide to leave the work in the moments you’re sitting and actually working on it, not carrying that weight with you everywhere you go.

Talking to my friends at meals in my sorority house and hearing about others’ days and reflections of the semester is a much needed break and is honestly the point of life. We’re called to love one another and listen without an agenda, and that’s pretty hard if we’re stressed beyond belief, carrying our to-do lists with us like limp little puppies that simply don’t want to go on another walk.

This idea sounds great in theory, but it’s where I struggle the most. I’m the kind of person whose projects are always lingering in my mind, never totally shutting down. Call it a creative itch or an anxiety issue (I’ll chalk it up to a little bit of both), but there’s a point when enough is enough. Sometimes I reach a point when I just can’t think about the work anymore. We’re all human, and we’re all going to get through these weeks. How do we want to remember them?

I hope some of these thoughts have been helpful! This definitely isn’t an exhaustive list or the end-all be-all of productivity hacks, but it’s most helpful for me to pick a few habits to focus on and forget about the rest. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for! ;) Kidding — I don’t totally believe in New Year’s resolutions. More on that another day, ha!

xx Anna Rose

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