I usually plan for the next week on the Tuesday of the week prior. This morning I opened up my day planner, and gasp! An incredibly hectic week is coming my way. Next week I have three class presentations, three substantial papers due, and a very important seminar for my Fellowship. Perhaps I should feel stressed, but I’m feeling just fine.
I learned a long time ago that important things – projects, tests, and events – seem to stack up close to each other in clusters. I’ll have weeks with no real deadlines, then bam – three deadlines in one day. In the past this would mean stress and cramming, all-nighters and sleep deprivation. Now, an incredibly busy week means smooth sailing for the most part. How, you ask?
The first thing to note is that deadlines do not pop up out of nowhere. They approach at a normal and trackable speed. Staying aware of these deadlines is half the trick to avoiding a meltdown week. For example, I have known for awhile now that I had three presentations, three papers, and a seminar coming up next week. I have been working diligently on all of these projects for some time, chipping away at them slowly so that I will be prepared for Monday the 17th when it rolls around. And that, my friends, is the second thing to keep in mind when you are facing numerous deadlines simultaneously. You cannot and will not be able to get to everything all at once last-minute. The trick is to diffuse such a compact schedule. Put off until next week anything you can afford to, and plan ahead to tackle the remaining projects the weeks before they are all due. Again for instance, I started working on one of my papers that is due next week in the second week of September. By Friday all of the prep work for these projects will (if everything goes as planned) be complete, and I will be ready for a stress-less weekend.
Diffusion as a scheduling technique has two major challenges. First, you must be aware of your upcoming deadlines. Put these on your calendars, bulletin boards, dry-erase boards, etc. If you don’t see them, you won’t realize they are coming until it is too late. Secondly, you must become a backwards scheduling pro. It seems like I blog about backwards scheduling all the time, but I assure you it is only because it works so well. (Click here for a refresher.) Mastering this technique is truly invaluable.
This week keep in mind that midterms are not far away and with them always comes a bunch of other deadlines all at once. Get a head start on that studying and those projects now, so that you won’t have to cram later. Diffuse the busy situation. Click here for your two minutes of procrastination, and click here to engage in some micro-volunteering!