Managing the Monster: How to Fight Stress and Finish Projects

boxing girlIn my experience in the workforce and in the classroom I’ve learned one thing. Stress is everywhere. Some of the time it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything you need done finished.

I will admit that sometimes I get really stressed out. Like REALLY stressed out. If you have never been upset or overwhelmed about all the assignments or projects you have to do, this blog post might not be for you. If you’ve stayed up until 4am working on something and cried at least once then this article is definitely for you.

During my five years at McMaster University, I definitely let stress rule my life. I’d lose track of assignments or procrastinate, then spend the night before panicking and trying to get coherent thoughts on paper. Now, I definitely manage my college assignments better, but that’s because I’ve picked up some tricks along the way. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that I’m totally immune to stress. No way. It just means that I’m a little tiny bit better at handling it.

Tip One: Breathe.
You’ve just realized you’ve got about a thousand things to do for next week and you’re going into full meltdown mode. You have no idea how you’re going to get everything finished. The more you think about the amount you have to do, the more you want to take a nap. If you take a nap though, you probably won’t get anything done, and you NEED to get something done. One thing I’m really guilty of in this stage is in order to shut off my mind I turn on a movie or TV show. Three hours later, I look up and I haven’t done anything other than yell at the Kardashians.

The best thing to do is breathe. Take a deep breath. Calm down.
Then get started.

Tip Two: Make a List
This is one way to figure out what you need to get done and when. Sit down. Write yourself a list of all the things you need to finish. Break down the pieces of each task if you need to. Just make it clear and concise and tangible. I find that if I don’t have a list of things to do, I’ll get overwhelmed. Having a big swirling cloud of “You should do this! Why aren’t you doing this?” in your head is a lot less manageable than a pen and paper list.

DANGER! Writing this list will make you feel like you’ve done something. You haven’t. Do not give yourself an immediate break after writing the list thinking that you’ve accomplished something. The list is a stepping stone.

Tip Three: Do the easy stuff first
One thing that I do is I try to do the easy stuff that I know how to do first. If a small chore or project to get done like dusting, or vacuuming – I do them first. This gives me the confidence and the momentum to complete the larger tasks. I can cross a whole bunch of things off of my to-do list. Also with them out of the way first I can spend more time on the larger tasks.

DANGER! Doing these small things might feel you’re doing a lot. Do not forget the big tasks. They will take much longer and twice as much attention.

Tip Four: One step at a time
For the bigger projects, make them into small digestible chunks. Believe me. It will be a lot easier to work through smaller portions of a large task than trying to do everything at once. It also helps to break things down because you know what you have to keep in mind, but also where it relates to the whole.

Tip Five: Reward Yourself- BUT KEEP IT SIMPLE
Earlier this year I became obsessed with the show “Scream Queens”, and in order to get myself through assignments I would reward myself with watching it. However, instead of like in the past where I’d sit in front of my word processor with one sentence written and decide I needed a break- this year was different. I timed my breaks. I would finish one of the small chunks of my assignment, set the timer on my ipad and turn on the show. When the timer went off it would interrupt the show and I would be able to turn off the alarm, turn off the show and get back to work.

Obviously in the workplace you can’t watch TV, but what you can do is get up, go for a short walk to get a drink of water or use the washroom, go grab some lunch or a snack, whatever your work environment allows for.

DANGER! If you give yourself big rewards for doing only a small amount of work, your project will never get finished. Why? Because instead of a reward system- now you’re just procrastinating.

Tip Six: Don’t procrastinate
This is better said than done. It’s all too easy to say – I’ll finish this later – or I have plenty of time to do this! Before you know it, you’re stressed out, and racing against the clock. If you have a lot of things to do that you know are coming up all at once, close Facebook and start hustling. Even if you just do one small section of a larger task , you’ve done something. I know It’s a hard thing to do. Believe me. Your future self will thank you.

So if you’re back in school, or in the workplace or even at home- don’t let your stress rule you. Make sure you’re keeping track, making lists and not procrastinating!

laurakoops-sm– Laura Koops
Public Relations student
Follow Laura @Sothisismyname

Welcome to Laura as a guest blogger on the ABC:Alumni Blog Connection. Laura is working for the Alumni Office this semester, assisting with social media management and writing for various mediums.

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