Though I refuse to accept it, it seems as though the days are getting shorter. It’s getting darker earlier. Semesters have begun. I’m hanging on to as much summer as I can, but I also want to acknowledge that many of you college girls are back at school, and that many of you post-college girls are getting back into a more structured work routine.
One of my readers (hey lady!) wrote to me and asked for some help with handling the large amount of work and responsibility she’ll have this semester. I know that many of you are facing the same challenge, so I want to speak into that and give you some juicy tips on getting a lot of work/stuff done in a peaceful way.
It’s so easy to associate work and responsibility with stress and overwhelm. We assume that when we have a lot to do, we’ll be running around like crazy, won’t have any time for ourselves, and that life will just suck. And know what’s sick about this? Our culture supports that! Our culture created this idea that we HAVE to be stressed out when we have a lot of work on our plate. We give stress and overwhelm a purpose, as if to say that if we’re not stressed out and overwhelmed, then we’re not working hard enough.
What are the consequences of that way of thinking? We run ourselves into the ground. We get sick and really anxious. Our grades or work may actually suffer. We don’t enjoy life. We cry a lot. We turn to binge-eating or to alcohol just to get some relief.
But there really is a different way to get all of our work done, even during those really crazy semesters/periods of life. We can do our work in a peaceful, gentle way so that our physical, emotional, and mental health are protected.
Here’s how to do it!
1. Adopt this perspective: The reality of getting all your work done is always better than how you envision it in your mind. I remember sitting in class on the first day of every semester and having a silent meltdown. I looked at all of my syllabi and would get so scared of all of the work ahead of me. My thoughts did some major future-tripping, making me think that I would never see my family or friends or have any time to myself. But as I got into the semester and banged out each assignment, I realized that I was just doing my work. I could work for part of the day, then see a friend. Then come back and do some more work. No drama. The reality of doing all of our work really is much less dramatic and intense than how our brains tell us it’s going to be.
2. Break down big tasks into super small tasks. When you’re faced with a bunch of assignments and projects that make you nervous, go through each one and break them down into small tasks that are really easy to do. Ex. If you have to write a paper, break that down into tiny steps. One step may be to brainstorm for 20 mins about a topic and by the end of the session, have three ideas. The next step may be to email or talk to your professor and get feedback on your ideas. The next step may be to find one scholarly source. And keep going. One step at a time. And then be really proud of yourself for doing each step, no matter how small. View each task as a win for you.
3. Use a planner. You know how much I love the Plan Better Live Better Planner. But using any planner will help you put all of those smaller tasks, deadlines, etc. on paper instead of just letting them float around in your head and stress you out. When your thoughts are spinning and you’re getting overwhelmed, write out EVERYTHING you have to do (personal, academic, etc.), then schedule them in your planner. Again, break them down into small tasks. Then, pick a time/day to do each of those tasks and put them in your schedule. Now they’re out of your mind and on paper, so you don’t need to stress out.
4. Your work gets done when you actually do it, not when you’re stressing about it. An influx of assignments or commitments is triggering. But when you hook into those feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, the work becomes really intimidating, which can lead to procrastination and/or the perpetuation of more fear around your work. Accept whatever feelings come up. It’s totally natural and normal to feel those emotions when you have a lot on your plate. And the best way to feel calm about your work is to actually get it done. Take the emotion out of your workload. Break it down into those small tasks. Set a timer for yourself and just do it. The more you get into action with your work, the more peaceful you’ll feel.
5. Create a peaceful environment for yourself. When you’re doing your work, make your surroundings very comforting. Drink tea in your favorite mug. Wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket. Listen to music that puts you at ease. Have a glass of water with you. Pull up an inspiring quote/pic on social media to put you at ease and to remind you to keep going. Speak really sweetly to yourself while working: “You’re doing great. I love you. I’m so proud of you.”
6. Soothe your morning anxiety. If you experience anxiety about school and/or your workload when you wake up in the mornings (like me!), I have you covered. Read my blog post here.
The start of a new semester or new season in life can be scary. We have more work to do and we’re on a pretty tight schedule. Use these tips to help you. You got this!