Tips on catching up: How to avoid overwhelm if you’ve fallen behind in study

Published On August 17, 2020 | By Alana | General News, News, Resources

We know that sometimes life can take over and then you realise it is Week 8 and you have fallen behind in your studies! With the mid-trimester break starting this week, we thought it might be a good time to give you some strategies and tips to catch up on your studies and minimize the sense of overwhelm.

  1. Brain Dump and Schedule
    The first thing to do is brain dump, write down absolutely everything you need to do – by doing this you will take the clutter out of your head and be able to think more clearly. This can include life admin tasks like doing the dishes and taking the kids to school alongside unit tasks like completing your LAW100 quiz and and watching your week 4 lectures. 
    It might be helpful to put together a schedule of the time you are working, sleeping etc so you can see which time you have available to slot in study.
    Our Academic Skills Office have a great range of planning worksheets here if you are wanting to plan!
  2. Prioritize
    Once you have put together your to-do list, start looking at the deadlines of tasks and the weight they carry. The goal of this is to prioritize and put the most important tasks first on your list.
    You can use different methods to prioritize, find which one works best for you: 
    Using the four D’s – DO IT, DELEGATE IT, DELAY IT, DUMP IT.
    If the task is highly important or will not take an extended amount of time to complete it, DO IT!
    If the task takes a long time and doesn’t carry much importance, DELAY IT!  The trick here is that you NEED to schedule a time to complete the task, try not to delay a task more than once!
    If the task can easily be done by someone else (even if they can just take over while you are catching up!) try to DELEGATE IT! Some ideas of delegation could be getting someone else to cook dinner for the night, utilizing meal services, hiring a cleaner, giving the kids some pocket money to do the vacuuming etc. 
    Finally, if the task keeps moving further and further back on your to-do list and doesn’t hold much importance DUMP IT! If you can’t dump it, try to reduce it into tasks which you can and want to complete. 
    Looking at the weight of each of the tasks
    Put the tasks carry the most weight first, the smaller tasks that weigh less are likely to be okay with less time and effort put into them. Once you have finished the bigger tasks, you will start feeling more confident and the smaller tasks are likely to seem easier.
  3. Get to the root of the issue, why have you fallen behind? How can you address it?
    It is important to recognise why you fell behind in the first place. Was it something that was within your control such as procrastination or ineffective time management? Or was it something that couldn’t be helped like your children getting sick or increased workload at work? Once you figure out the reason behind you falling behind you are more likely able to address it. If it was something you can control, take accountability and put a plan in place to prevent it from happening again.
  4. Learn how to study in short bursts 
    Finding time between life tasks to complete study is a talent and needs to be worked on. Start trying to fit study in between tasks like taking the kids to school, going to work etc. By doing 20 minutes of this even just once a day for 7 days, you will have accumulated over 2 hours of study that you wouldn’t have had done previously! This is not something you will be able to do right away, it might take you 10 mins out of the 20min time you have available to concentrate and get started – this is totally okay! Keep trying at it!
  5. Ask for help
    Reach out to your lecturer to clarify topics which you are struggling with, read through moodle forums, get in touch with other students! 
    We also have support services available at UNE: 
    – For enrolment advice, please contact Student Success through AskUNE, Live Chat or social media. 
    – For mental health support, get in contact with our Counselling team and book an appointment by calling 02 6773 2897
  6. Practice Self Care 
    It is easy to get so caught up in the tasks that need to be done and completely ignore taking care of yourself. Here are some things you might like to try to take care of yourself:
    – Take breaks
    Studying for large chunks of the day will not be beneficial for you, by the end of the study session you are likely to be exhausted and not have retained as much information as you would have liked. Take your study in small chunks and separate them with breaks that allow you to refresh your mind.
    One common break technique is the Pomodoro technique.  It involves setting a timer for 25 mins and working continuously for that time. After this time take a small break to refresh, have a cup of coffee or a snack and then set the timer again. After four rounds, take a 20 or 30 min break and start again!
    – Eat regular meals or snacks
    When you get stressed it is easy to forget to eat meals, or think that they aren’t as important as completing the tasks that are piling up.
    – Let go of guilt
    There have been studies which suggest that forgiving yourself for getting behind is actually beneficial for your future studies – you are less likely to procrastinate and waste time! Let go of that guilt you have about falling behind and put that energy into catching up! Keep in mind certain things work differently for certain people, keep trying to find something that suits you!
  7. Reduce your study load
    The last date to withdraw without academic penalty for Trimester 2, 2020 is 11:59pm 31st of August – you have until this date to withdraw from a unit without receiving a fail grade on your academic transcript (unfortunately as we are past the census date, you will still receive the financial penalty for the unit.) If you are unable to catch up, you might think it is best to withdraw from a unit and reduce the amount of study you will need to do. 

We would love to hear your ideas about catching up on work once you are behind. Please comment them down below or send them through to our social media channels! 

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