Keeping Your Head (When Life Gets Busy)

The spring semester is winding down, and for a grad student like me, that means that life is about to get busy.  On top of preparing for my finals in less than three weeks, I also need to get ready for a major presentation two weeks from Friday, start writing up my thesis for said presentation, write up a major (encompassing a full semester worth of work) report, and continue doing my research (which, truth be told, is not going that well).  Oh, yes, and as I'm trying to study for my finals, I'll also have nearly fifty major lab reports to grade on a deadline, as well.

In short, it's going to be a pretty busy few weeks.  Luckily, I have a few thoughts on how to make things easier on myself and hopefully allow me to keep up my research, do well on my tests, and oh yeah, keep my blog fresh and updated.  In order to do so, I intend to follow a few simple rules to keep my head together as I work to achieve all my needed goals.  Here are some of the thoughts on how I'll keep my head together over the next few weeks:

Rules for Staying Sane When Life Gets Busy

-Don't Panic: Possibly the greatest motto ever, from one of the best books I have ever read (and if you need to ask, I fear you may have worse problems to deal with than stress and busy-ness with which to deal).  No matter how busy things get, no matter how many different tasks you might need to complete during a given time period, I can tell you one thing for certain: panicking will not make things better.  At best, you'll add unneeded stress and strain to your life to no good effect; at worst, you'll end up spending time panicking when you could be spending it getting things done.

While we're on the subject, you shouldn't worry either

-Starting Early, and Studying Often: I've definitely noted this before, particularly in my advice on taking finals, but it bears repeating: if you hope to do well on a test, trying to cram a semester's worth of material into your head the day before a test (or even in the few days before a test), you're just not going to do well.  Getting an early start on studying will help me to do well in my tests, and will ensure that if something comes up that requires me to take time away from studying when we get nearer to finals, I'll still be prepared for my tests.

-Prioritize My Tasks: It seems to be a nature state of modern life, but there always seem to be more tasks that we need (or at least, strongly want) to do in the day than there are hours in which to accomplish our goals.  Until we find a way to extend the time in the day (and if you have a technique or device which will do so, by all means, get thee to a patent office; there will be millions of customers who'd eagerly buy such a device, myself included), I will have to deal with the fact that there is only so much time available to get my work done.  I try to deal with this unfortunate reality by ranking my tasks according to what is most important for me to get done.  This way, even if I can't take care of everything on my To Do list, I can at least take some comfort in knowing that my most important duties have been handles.

-Focus on One Thing At A Time: On a similar note, there's sure to be times when you have many things going on at one time.  Unfortunately, multi-tasking doesn't work (usually), so your attempt to finish everything on your to-do list at once is almost certain to fail.  Instead, you should focus on getting just one thing done at a time.  Focus on getting one thing done at a time, and then another thing, and then another thing, and then maybe take a break (or, and this is just a crazy thought on my part, get some sleep), and so on.  Trust me, it'll definitely be a more productive route than trying to get everything done at once.

-Take Time to Relax: When you have an overflowing To Do List, a huge number of tasks to get done, and seemingly no time to spare, it might seem like the last thing you should do is take some time off and relax.  But, taking a little time to refresh your mind and body can help to make you more productive AND help to preserve your sanity.  Now, I'm not saying you should take a three week Bermuda vacation when you have a major project coming up.  But, taking occasional breaks throughout the day can help to keep you sharp as you finish your work, and taking a day off once a week can give you the opportunity to come back fresh and do a much better job on your work.

There you have it, several rules to help you stay sane as you try to get everything done in your life.  With luck, you'll be able to meet all your goals AND maintain your sanity.  Although, if you have to choose between the two, I would vote to meet your goals; sanity tends to be overrated.

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