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The Final Stretch

Natalie Torta, C'24

Hey Mounties, happy two weeks until summer (more like a week and a half, so actually even less than that)! Welcome back to My View of MSMU. As the semester is finally coming to a close, I’m really scrambling to keep pace with the surge of final projects, cumulative essays, and group presentations. So far so good, but it’s definitely taking some tolls on my health. It’s not like this is a new experience, though. End of the year schedules are always busy and stressful, especially at the college level. On the bright side, I’m nowhere near having to withdraw from any of my classes, so I’m already doing better than last semester!

Throughout high school and the more difficult areas of college (namely Spanish), I’ve learned some things abut myself in terms of how I study, when I’m motivated, and what I can do to create an optimal environment for productivity. Especially now when I’m running on fumes to finish out the semester strong, I need all the help I can get to push through these concluding assignments. I’ve compiled a list of things that help me to finish as much work as possible in the little time I may have, particularly when I would rather be doing literally anything else.  Hopefully, they’ll help you too!

  1. Work in a clean environment

If you’re anything like me, I have the hardest time trying to focus when the room around me is chaotic. This could mean that there are too many people in the room, it’s too loud, or it needs to be cleaned. I mainly write at the desk in the bedroom that I share with my sister, so I frequently run into all those problems. The biggest thing that helps me here is planning ahead. If I know I have an essay due on Friday, I’ll let her know that I need the room for a few hours after school on Wednesday and Thursday. Right now she’s a multiple-sport varsity athlete, so her practice schedule keeps her out of the house for a good bit of the evening. Next, if the room is dirty and the laundry needs washing, I make plans to do that ahead of time. I don’t know if this is a universal issue or just a me-thing, but I cannot focus in a room where I’m surrounded by tasks that need to be done. Instead of focusing on my essay, I’m thinking about dirty laundry, an unmade bed, dirty floors… the list is endless. I usually do my writing in the evening after work, so in the morning, between classes and work, I’ll make the bed, clear the floor, wipe surfaces, and throw in a load of laundry before I head out. Not only does this save me time later, it’s also something nice that I look forward to coming home to (again, maybe just a me-thing).

  1. Get comfy

Like I said, I usually do my writing after I come home from work, which is at a candle shop. I come home smelling like whatever candles I was packaging that day, so the first thing I do when I get home is grab a change of clothes and hop in the shower. Once I’ve neutralized the stench of spiced pumpkin radiating from my body, I refill my water bottle and grab a snack or dinner from the kitchen. This comes in handy later to prevent me from getting up to get a glass of water and not returning for another hour. Next I might light a candle, if for no other reason that to trick myself into thinking that homework is a relaxing activity. I’ll usually also play some music quietly in the background or through headphones if there’s other people in the room. Recently I’ve really liked jazz and bluegrass (a strange combination, but it works!)

  1. Set goals

For Christmas last year, my friend Claire got me a to-do list notebook. Since then, it has become one of my most valuable assets in completing assignments on time. If you don’t use some kind of planner or listing method to map out what needs to get done when, I would recommend starting immediately. I find it most effective for me to make one big to-do list for the week on Monday morning, school responsibilities starting from the top and domestic responsibilities starting at the bottom. I’ll then go through and mark some tasks as priority according to due date so I don’t miss anything, as well as divide the tasks into roughly five to six days. Throughout the week, I’ll chip away at the list, which prevents the 3 AM submissions on Monday to meet four different 8 AM deadlines. I personally love the feeling of crossing something off of a to-do list, like tangible productivity. If you’re like me and get distracted easily, I also recommend using a study timer. I downloaded mine for free from the app store and it helps me stay focused by muting notifications and allotting/timing my breaks so I’m staying accountable to a schedule.

  1. Do one thing

Of all the things I’ve learned, I think this is the most important. On those days when you were up late the night before and know you another late night ahead of you, it’s tempting to just phone it in and push the work until tomorrow. I’ve definitely justified some late submissions because I didn’t have the energy or willpower to push through on another four hours of sleep. I don’t remember when it began, but my mom would always tell me in my sleep-deprived, overwhelmed state, “just do one thing”. I have a tendency to look at a long to-do list and feel hopeless, an emotion that is only magnified by drowsiness and anxiety. “Do one thing” serves as a small reminder that no one can conquer the world in a day, especially not at 3 AM. I definitely can’t finish my entire list the night before it’s due, but I can finish one, maybe two assignments. That’s one less -25%, one less “I apologize for the late submission” email, one less red, missing assignment on Canvas. I certainly can’t do everything, but I can do one thing.

I hope these tips help some of you as we approach finals week. If nothing else, find comfort in the fact that we all suffer together. Hopefully there will be less suffering and more sleeping happening in these coming weeks. Remember, only two weeks left! Until next time, Go Mount!

Natalie Torta, C'24