When the tough gets going and the going gets tough
It seems to me that at this time of year, everyone’s a bit (very?) stressed.
I myself have an onslaught of coursework deadlines and the labs in DCS (Department of Computer Science) are very popular places to be right now.
(We have a gorgeous Christmas tree in the atrium, which is just the thing one wants to see when they walk out of a lab all bleary-eyed at 7pm in the evening. Festive cheer!)
Sometimes it feels like there’s so much to do and such little time to do it. When I think about everything that I need to do, it can feel overwhelming.
And at these times, more than ever, that it is really important to
So here I am, sharing the advice I’ve been given when times get tough…
#1 When it feels like there’s too much to do, tackle things one at a time.
Breaking down a problem into smaller subproblem really helps, because suddenly things seem more manageable.
Divide and Conquer! (Only Computer Science people will truly understand 😉 )
For example, with coursework deadlines, I’m focusing on the coursework that’s due in soonest.
#2 Work for the first 80%, rather than the last 20%.
It’s the law of diminishing marginal returns: there comes a point when the benefits gained by doing something outweigh the energy invested into it.
I’m a perfectionist, which means that I fall into the trap of spending a lot of time on small details and making just one more tiny tweak.
When it comes to coursework, I tend to resubmit each piece multiple times to Tabula (our coursework management system). Each version submitted replaces the last version, and when the deadline arrives, the most recent version is the one that’s marked. While this may or may not sound particularly important, it really does help with stress levels!
I often make my first submission a few days before the deadline. While the quality really isn’t that good and I know that I will submit a much better version (being the perfectionist I am), it is really effective in reducing stress as I know that I will be getting at least something.
Furthermore, it’s always a good idea to submit a version earlier just in case something goes wrong at the last minute! I remember a tense moment last year when I lost my wifi connection at the very last minute…
I ended up submitting my assignment at 11:58. That’s two minutes before the deadline!!!
#3 Don’t think about the results.
Yes, the reason why we do things (whether that’s coursework or applications or anything else) is the get a good result.
And sometimes it helps to think about the results, especially when deciding how much energy should go into something (as with #2).
On the other hand, thinking about the outcome can make things more stressful. And if worrying about the results actually distracts me from doing the task at hand, that’s when I know that I have to stop.
When things get really tough, the first thing I think of is ‘What do I need to do to pass?’. When I feel like I have achieved that, then I can work upwards from there.
I was reading an article about stress, which claimed that the only time we are supposed to be stressed is when we are five minutes away from dying.
Running away from an enraged elephant? Could I die? Time to be stressed.
Doing an exam? Could I die? Not a time to be stressed.
While I’m not too sure about the claim, it did make me think. What really is the purpose of stress? Why do we get stressed? Do we really need stress in our lives?
#5 Health and wellbeing first.
At the end of the day, we’re going to university to get educated, and we get educated to get a good job, and we get a good job to earn money, and we earn money to have a roof over our head and buy food and things we need.
At the end of it all, it’s about wanting to live well.
At the end of it all, how can we live well if we destroy our health and wellbeing at uni?
With that in mind, talk to people. Do some sport. Don’t forget to do the things you love.
Yes, times are tough. We all have the capacity for coping and finding a way, and sometimes I feel that we need to spend more time appreciating ourselves and our strength. We’re doing amazing 🙂