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Student Reflections

How To Stay Sane With Deadlines

Ellie Witham
November 24, 2021
Marketing circling the 30th day of the month on a calendar

Whether it be midterms, finals, or just plain old assignments, no one particularly enjoys a deadline. As I am approaching the end of my semester, I’ve had quite a few deadlines lately. Here are some things you can do while abroad (or even back in Boston!) to relieve stress and stay on top of your schoolwork.

Take breaks. 

I know it is counterintuitive to start this list by encouraging you to not study. But I felt it was important advice. Take a break from your book or computer screen. Go on a walk, get fresh air, or even take a quick nap. As intense and pressing deadlines can be, you need to remember to take care of yourself. Even if it’s just a quick 20 minute break here and there, do it! It’ll clear your head and keep your mind sharp. I find it especially helpful whenever I hit writer’s block. Taking any form of a break can be rejuvenating, motivating, and inspiring. 

Find a comfortable place to study. 

Personally, the place I do my work is a make or break situation. If I am not comfortable, I am not at my best. For me, my room has actually been one of my favorite study spots. I have my own single room here at the University of Edinburgh, unlike back at Northeastern where I have shared a room with roommates. It’s kind of a luxury, you know. This semester, I don’t have to fear being distracted by a roommate. I also enjoy studying in my common area, if I am in need of a change of scenery. My flatmates and I will have “study sessions” every so often. 

Other great study spots are the library (of course) and coffee shops. I’m not a frequent patron of the library here in Edinburgh, but if you want to get out of your flat and still be in a quiet environment, that’s your place. I personally prefer a coffee shop, partially because of the caffeine, but also because the ambiance is always nice. However, this past week, I’ve limited my time in coffee shops. I typically go to them with friends or classmates, which is great, but can be distracting when I am trying to get big assignments done. Chats over coffee are always the best, but with important deadlines, spots like the library are probably the best bet. 

Get some good tunes playing. 

When I really need to grind out schoolwork, my over-the-ear headphones are a necessity. If your work doesn’t involve any listening elements, I recommend putting on music to tune the rest of the world out. The music I pick corresponds to my mood. If I feel like I need to relax and be calm, I’ll turn on perhaps something acoustic, something you could find playing in any coffee shop. But sometimes I need a burst of energy and go for more intense rock. There’s just something about a very upbeat and fast paced song that can get me to speed through assignments. I know lyrics can be distracting when you need to focus on readings, so I highly recommend listening to classical music or your favorite movie score. 

Limit your distractions.

This is probably the most important yet most difficult thing to do. It can be so tempting to procrastinate, whether that be by watching television or simply scrolling through your phone. But when you have a paper due at midnight or the next day, putting your phone away is necessary. While I was writing my final paper for my class, I kept my phone in a completely different room so I was not tempted by it. It’s difficult, but trust me, you’ll be more productive. 

Set yourself up for future success. 

When studying abroad, it’s hard to always focus on school. I know, you are probably thinking I’m crazy. Yes, I came to Edinburgh for the once in a lifetime chance to study at the University of Edinburgh, but also to experience the city. It’s not easy to balance school and being a tourist. Be mindful of this. Be diligent with the time you are spending on schoolwork. Use the days of the week to do your readings and go to class wisely, so you can enjoy weekends for traveling or sightseeing. Put in the work throughout the entire semester, so when it comes time for exams and final papers, you don’t have to cram and spend one or many all-nighters. 

Use a planner, calendar, or journal to stay on top of due dates. 

I like to call myself organized chaos. I’m not the person to write down everything in a planner, but I do use one. At the bare minimum, I suggest you use a planner or anything similar to write down key dates and deadlines. This past week, I had two papers due back to back. Using my planner helped me delegate my time between the two, as well as my standard workload. It’s a good habit to keep track of and spread out your work so it isn’t always a last-minute ordeal (trust me, I’ve had my fair share of those). 

Make friends with fellow students in your classes. 

Even if you are only a visiting student, don’t hesitate to make friends with your classmates! Your peers are built in study-buddies. In my seminars and tutorials, I have met people to bounce my essay and assignment ideas off of. It’s not quite exam time for me yet, but when the last week of the semester rolls around, I know I’ll be reaching out to classmates for study sessions. Studying with others is a nice break, rather than monotonously reading through material yourself. 

Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity. But now more than ever, I have had to focus on perfecting the work-life balance. I don’t want to miss out on what the city has to offer, but also need to focus on my studies. These are just some of the methods that have helped me be successful here at the University of Edinburgh!