How to Survive a Busy Semester or Year

My second year of university is a blur. I took five courses per semester, worked an average of 15 hours a week at a coffee shop, started up a new club on campus, and spent two months preparing for Model EU. I rarely hung out with friends (thank goodness for my roommates who kept me from becoming completely anti-social) and I was constantly trying to use my time productively. While it was hard, I learned a few things about how to get things done while still taking care of myself.

If you find yourself in a busy season of life, I hope the tips below will help you get everything done while still taking care of your health.

1) Sleep

I know, I know. People are always telling us to get more sleep. But there’s a reason for that: sleep helps improve our memory, judgment, motivation, perceptions of events, and mood (Harvard Medical School). At the beginning of second year, I didn’t see sleep as a priority. Now, I easily give up an extra hour of studying for an extra hour of sleep.

2) Have dedicated rest time

Starting in second year, I have not done homework on (almost) every Sunday of the school year. Yes, this means I often study until late every other night of the week, but it also means that I can truly rest, without feeling guilty about not doing schoolwork. It also motivates me to get more done during the week and allows me to re-energize before the next week starts. While it was hard to implement at first, it has become one of the most rewarding habits I’ve ever developed.

3) Exercise when you can

It might be impossible for you to keep a regular exercise routine going right now. That’s okay. Just try to do something active whenever you can. I ended up biking to school as much as possible, which allowed me to be productive (I needed to get to school anyway) and active at the same time.

4) Talk to people

Whether it’s your roommate or your bus driver, having a conversation with someone about something other than school will help prevent you from becoming a library hermit.

5) Know your limit – and seek help when you reach it

You may get by fine for a while, but we all reach a point where we just can’t do it anymore.

When you reach that point, don’t be afraid to get help. Whether it’s calling your mom or visiting a counsellor (UVic has free, professional, confidential counselling for all students), letting someone else know that you’re struggling is so important. It may feel like you’re the only one on campus who’s just trying to get by. But you’re not alone. I’ve been there, and I know how hard it can be. I also know how helpful it can be to have someone to talk to.

I hope to never have a repeat of second year. But looking back, it’s hard to say that I would do things differently. I learned so much at my job about conflict resolution and working under pressure. Starting up a club taught me patience and the importance of delegating. Model EU taught me valuable negotiation skills. Maybe I could have taken fewer courses, but then I wouldn’t be able to take fewer courses in my final year of university and still graduate in four years.

I can’t give a definitive answer on whether being so busy was good or bad, but I hope that the tips I shared will help those of you who find yourselves in a busy season of life.

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