sdrawkcab nalP-Plan backwards

deadlineIt can be difficult to actually meet your deadline if you don’t have one. Div III is likely larger than any project you have ever done before. It requires many smaller deadlines that build to a final product.

By now, you might know fairly well what you want to produce by May (or by December). You can do a backwards plan for the whole of your Div III or just for this semester. Since a Div III is big and it really gets done in pieces, I am going to suggest starting with a backwards plan for the fall.

First, talk to your Div III chair/committee about your goals for the semester – what do you want to complete? (You might have already done this – so you are ready for step two).

Second, create a calendar working backwards from, say, December 11th (the last day of classes for the fall semester and the due date for faculty progress reports). Write the dates for submission to your committee of completed works, drafts or pilot pieces. Having deadlines for each piece holds you accountable to yourself and to your committee.

Third, check with your committee about whether your calendar is reasonable, doable, and see whether they suggest any alterations. Your calendar might have dates not only for your work, but for when your committee will give feedback on your pieces.

You will come to a revolving door kind of period, where they are reading and giving feedback while you are drafting, composing, creating the next part.

Like Tomatoes? Yes or no, try the Pomodoro Technique

Get more work done in 25 minute increments – take 5 minute breaks in between.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that can help you get more work done in a realistic way – without burning out. But what do tomatoes have to do with it*?

The Pomodoro Technique uses a 25-minute tomato timer to help you stay on track. Watch a video about the technique, read some tips, and use an online timer or download a Pomodoro Timer app.

You can use the technique to get started (“O.K., I’m having trouble getting started, but I can just see how I am doing after 1 Pomodoro”). Or you can use it to extend your work time (“Yesterday I wrote for 3 Pomodoro’s in the morning; today I am going to do 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon”). Or, you can use it to work in spurts and get short breaks (“I keep sitting and working too long; I’ll take a stretch break after 1 Pomodoro”).

Soon you’ll be asking friends: “how many pomodoros did you work today?”

*After a while you might realize that this could work with any fruit or vegetable timer 🙂

Stress or Interesting Challenge? Be in control of your mindset

Div III students sometimes seem to revel in being stressed. It almost seems contagious. Yes, Div III poses some new challenges. But maybe you could learn to enjoy those challenges. Be excited by all you will learn – not only about what you are studying, but about yourself and each other. Being able to manage a big project is something not everyone gets to learn in college! Figuring out how to work backwards from a deadline will serve you in life. Knowing how to get work done in the spaces between things is an important skill. You are in control of whether this feels like bad stress or interesting challenge with the potential for growth.

If all this sounds like an interesting proposition, consider listening to this TED talk by Kelly McGonigal on “How to make stress your friend.”