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How do you handle an overwhelming amount of work?
April 24, 2014 3:42 PM   Subscribe

I've been having a tough week—overwhelmed with work leading up to finals. What do you folks do in response to these kinds of situations? Make sure to have reset time? Spending time with friends?
posted by markbao to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
One important strategy is to take breaks that are different in tone from the work. So if you're studying, don't read as your break but take a walk instead.

Another strategy that I found very helpful all the way through school, including law school and studying for the bar, was that whenever I stopped working I really stopped. I didn't pretend to study and just futz around feeling bad and getting nothing done. If I wasn't getting anything done, I walked away from it for a few minutes and did NOT allow myself to engage in counter-productive should-ing. Everyone needs breaks. Understand that and when you take them, don't say "Oh I should be studying now." Study when you study and take a break when you take a break.
posted by janey47 at 3:48 PM on April 24 [7 favorites]


Two things (neither terribly intuitive for most people unaccustomed to being over-burdended):

1. Shave off gratuitous stress. You can't afford it. If you can't find your car keys or you stub your toe or receive bad news or your favorite team loses, or hear someone say something obnoxious on cable news....be calm. Jet fighter calm. Don't expend precious energy, don't further load your limited burden. You can't afford it. Same for mental clicks, since your work here is mental. Keep your curiosity low. Don't surf the web or read during down-clicks. If you're not studying, let your mind stay mostly blank. Look at art, listen to music. Non-verbal, non-cognitive. (edit: walks, per the previous poster, are great...go outside, the graphics are amazing).

2. Don't just "make sure to have rest". SCHEDULE it. Even if you feel doofy doing so. And prioritize it as high as any other task. Same for exercise. Those things become much more non-optional as your stress/work load increases. Any busy CEO will tell you the same.
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:48 PM on April 24 [4 favorites]


Break your work into digestible chunks. Don't try to power through hours and hours of work...give yourself goals (number of pages read/written, etc.) and reward yourself with a walk, a nap, or a nice meal in-between.

Be sure to make sure you're getting things done and not spinning your wheels with the sheer volume of it all. Focus at one part at a time.
posted by xingcat at 4:13 PM on April 24


I agree with scheduling and not guilting yourself over needing rest and sleep. Unless it's almost literally do-or-die, exhausting yourself with all-nighters is counter-productive.

And yes, make a list. Break it into chunks. Like me, your instinct might be to get the hardest parts over with first, but sometimes the best thing to do is gain confidence and momentum by starting with the easiest, most babyish task on the list.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:21 PM on April 24


When you're going through hell, keep going?
posted by 517 at 7:55 PM on April 24


Eat too much, drink too much, neglect the important people in your life.

There is no good way to handle this, the only sane way to deal is to make sure it does not go on for ever, and keep on keeping on in the meantime.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:04 PM on April 24


I will tell you that a good nights sleep will help you process and remember things for tests better than an all-nighter.

Your brain needs the downtime to sort and organize the information, so that you can not only remember dates and facts, but assemilate the information and have it in context.

I've never pulled an all-nighter, and I test great!

Hopefully your finals are based on a cumulation of the semester's work, just go through your notes, check out your previous tests, and bone up a bit on the stuff you were fuzzy on.

Honestly, if you went to each class, participated and did all of your assignments, you don't really need to cram for the test.

If you have papers to write, outline them all first. Then write them. Do the hard ones first, and you can coast on the easy ones when you start getting fried.

Eat well, stay hydrated, get out for fresh air and exercise.

For the future. At the beginning of the semester, I'd go over the syllabus and see what the papers were going to be. I'd go to the library and check out the books I thought I'd need and I'd start the papers, as much as I could. Outlines, topic sentences, etc. As we covered things in class, I'd revise them. Then I'd turn them in as early as possible.

You never know what's going to happen at the last minute. Printer will run out of ink, or just plain die. You might have to deal with a bunch of shit you weren't planning on, all sorts of things come up.

Remember this feeling and next time, stay ahead of the game.

You can do this!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:13 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


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