5 Steps to Make Overwhelming Projects Totally Do-able

It’s that time of year again. Personally, I’ve hit the end-of-the-school-year wall, flooded with important projects and finals, but my motivation is nowhere to be found. After almost 30 weeks of third-year coursework, I am losing major speed. It doesn’t help that my friends on the semester system are three-weeks deep into summer vacation, while I’m scrolling through their sunny Instagrams in the library. There are four assessments and two weeks standing between me and three months of academic freedom—time to buckle down and finish this quarter strong! Whether you too are feeling the end-of-the-year slump, or just looking for some organizational inspiration, take a deep breath and try these productivity tips with me.

Below are the steps I take to tackle daunting deadlines.

1. Break down large deadlines into small steps.

Quarter- or semester-long projects always seem to creep up on me.  It happens to all of us, and finding the will to start is the hardest part.  Breaking down massive projects into smaller, simpler steps is helpful for improving motivation. For example, the task of writing a 35-page business plan in one sitting feels impossible. But breaking it down into outlining, writing certain sections, submitting a rough draft, etc., makes it seem much more feasible, thus I, personally, am more inclined to get started.

2. Set deadlines for those small steps.

Schedule exactly when you plan to complete each step. Having your favorite agenda handy is essential here. Make sure these deadlines are realistic: you want be able to stick them for the sake of the project as a whole. Also, when scheduling small deadlines, don’t forget to consider your day-to-day schedule beyond academics.! Hello, you want to have a life, too!

3. Take a break!

Organizing can take a while, and dwelling on how much you have to do can be overwhelming. To clear your mind, go for a walk, run, go to yoga, stand up and stretch, make a snack, drink tea, or if it’s late at night, go to bed! Try your best not to watch TV or scroll through Instagram—you want to refresh, not distract.

4. Find a quiet space.

Take advantage of quiet time while your roommate is in class; go to your favorite spot in the library or a local coffee shop—anywhere you feel you can focus. Be careful to choose somewhere you won’t run into a lot of people to minimize distraction.
After finding my quiet space, I like to use the app Forest to time how long I will work for.  The app “grows trees” as you get stuff done. Do whatever works for you to stay off your phone.

5. Get to work.

Start on what you have scheduled. It will be so rewarding to check off that box on your to-do list and finish the day feeling accomplished. Feel free to take breaks when you’re feeling burnt out—a.k.a. the moment you keep checking your phone or lose track of how many Tasty videos you’ve just watched. I also recommend sipping tea or exercising to relieve stress.

Finally, reward yourself for staying on track! End-of-quarter/semester deadlines are not easy, especially when juggling other on-campus activities and a social life. Hopefully, this process will help you bring control to the table when faced with overwhelming tasks so you can enjoy the rest of your amazing college experience!

What are your tricks for staying on track in school? Let me know in the comments below.