How to Survive a Busy Semester

I had a crazy semester last semester. It was my senior capstone semester, meaning I had to assemble my portfolio and put together everything in preparation for my graduation this spring. Additionally, I was taking 3 5000-level, project-intensive classes. I was already working two jobs and then was begged by one of my professors to fill an empty TA position. And I had just started dating my amazing boyfriend and wanted to spend as much time as possible with him.

I was busy. I never had any free time. And yet, I managed to get everything done and finish with a 4.0.

So how’d I do it? How can you manage a busy workload?

how to survive a busy semester: 7 tips to manage a crazy college semester

1) Prioritize.

This part sucks. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I should be doing everything. I have to do schoolwork and join a million clubs and work and see my friends and and and. I don’t know what you’ve got going on, but I’m sure that some of it is more important than other parts. Sit down and make a list of what you’re committed to this semester. If it’s too much, maybe you don’t need to join that club, or maybe you need to cut down on hanging out time. It’ll be different for everyone and it’s kind of painful, but you just can’t do everything. I personally stopped posting on this blog for a semester. It’s something I love, but I knew it would be here when I finished my crazy semester, and I just couldn’t fit it in my schedule and keep up on everything else.

2) Make a to do list.

If you have a lot to do, make sure that you write it all down. You don’t want to forget anything, and I find that when I’m busy if it doesn’t make it on my list it doesn’t get done. Once you have everything written down, you can prioritize and work on the most important things first and still not forget about the little things.

3) Schedule everything.

This is the only way I’ve found to get everything done. Start with your scheduled activities: classes, work, meetings, etc. Then schedule in homework time and anything thing else you need to get done. Any free time you have leftover is your down time for hanging out, relaxing, etc. Be sure to schedule this too. You can’t work all of the time. If you have Friday evening free, call your friends and schedule a night out, and let them know you’re busy the rest of the week. They will appreciate you making time for them, and you’ll be able to get everything you need done without pressure to hang out instead of studying.

4) Know when to multitask.

I don’t usually advise multitasking. I find that I work best on one task at a time, and that “multitasking” for me usually ends up with me watching Netflix with my textbooks open on my lap. However, there are smart ways to multitask. If you have downtime at work (on campus jobs are great for this), spend it doing homework instead of checking social media. If you have a long commute, work on homework if you ride the bus or listen to your textbooks on tape or recorded class lectures if you drive. My boyfriend and I started making and eating dinner together every day. Something that we would have had to do anyway turned into time we could spend together. Is there any time in your schedule you could use more productively?

5) Don’t be afraid to say no.

I like to say yes. I like to help out and make people happy and impress my professors and say yes to everything. It’s probably how I got so busy in the first place. Unfortunately, now I just don’t have time to say yes to everything. I’ve had to learn to say no to things, like hanging out late when I should study or taking on an extra project. It’s important to know when to still say yes, though. If a friend really needs me, I will drop my homework for the night because I feel grades aren’t as important as people. It’s all about finding the balance that works for you.

6) In the same vein, don’t be afraid to quit something.

Once you’re deep into the semester, you might realize that everything is simply too much. You’re not just busy; you’re drowning. In that case, you need to let something go. There is no shame in dropping a class if you simply can’t handle it. You don’t have to do everything. Even if people expect you to. Even if your peers are all doing it. You live your life at your own pace, and that’s okay.

7) Finally, breathe.

You’ve got this. Soon, this crazy period of your life will be over. For now, you’re a champion and you can get through this.


  1. Kay

    January 7, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    I agree about knowing when to quit.

    This is the way I think about it: A big part of being productive is pushing yourself near your own limits. If you never need to give up on certain goals then you’re probably not pushing yourself very hard. I have high expectations for the amount of work I do and the standards I keep them at. Giving up on one or two low priority things (even if it’s temporary) allows me to push myself hard all year without failing miserably during the busier moments.

    Thanks for the post Kym!

    1. kymberlyann

      January 9, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      I love your perspective on pushing yourself! Thanks for sharing!

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