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Six ways to avoid burnout during finals

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We’re all there right now: struggling to balance school with work and our personal lives, juggling so many tests and assignments that even our most basic routines have been disrupted. It’s finals season and even though we always know it’s coming, it still hits us like a ton of bricks every time. Why? 

Likely because it’s the last stretch of a semester and you’re getting tired and impatient, itching for summer’s sun and more time to do the things you really love. Well, remember that this is the home stretch and we’re almost there. To make the journey easier, I’d like to share some easy actions that may help keep you from burning out during finals. 

  1. Prioritize 
  • Take a look at your schedule and make a list of what assignments you have coming up in the next one to two weeks and include their graded weights. Number them from most to least important so that regardless of your academic goal you can easily prioritize by deadline or grade impact. 
  1. Plan
  • Once you know what is most important to work on, make a reasonable plan to get it done. I only plan about one or two days ahead to keep from getting overwhelmed and leave space for changes in case I’m not up to something one day and put it off. Be sure to include time limits in your schedule! For example, set a limit of two to four hours for something in-depth and 30 minutes for things like project planning, final edits and touch-ups, or emails.  
  1. Break things up 
  • Now that you have a plan, make sure you break your tasks and time limits into manageable bites. As tempting as it is to go hard on that one essay for one day to get it out of the way, it’s too easy to burn out! Writing in one sitting works for some people, but it’s easy to overdo it if it’s not for you. So instead, set a timer for 15 minutes and make sure you have some water or take a quick stretch every time it goes off. If you can, try to switch up what you’re working on throughout the day so you don’t get bored. 
  1. Treat your body right 
  • It’s hard to find the energy to cook, clean, and do all the other adult things during finals, but try to prioritize what will impact you most, like eating enough food every day. We may be mostly stationary while we study, but our brains and bodies expend energy regardless and stress doesn’t help, so make sure you’re fed to help stay energized. 
  1. Treat your mind right 
  • Be patient with yourself! Finals is a tough time of year, and you are not the only one feeling it. If burnout does hit, don’t punish yourself. Be patient and ask yourself, “What do I really need today to come back to myself?” It could be video games, a walk, some cleaning, reading, socialization, or absolutely nothing. The point is that if burnout does hit, fighting it can make it worse. Take a day off, or if you can’t, maybe spend two to three hours on something completely unrelated to what you need to get done. Then come back to your assignments refreshed. 
  1. Consider your space 
  • If you usually work at home, try a public library, café, or school campus to mix it up and see if the change of scenery helps. If you work best at home but are struggling, consider giving your workspace a quick rearrangement or a little tidying up. 

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