How to handle to-do lists, deadlines, applying to colleges and everything else

As the beginning of the school year nears, it can be tough to tackle projects, tasks, homework and everything else on your plate. I can only imagine a student, especially a rising senior, seeing the calendar and realizing that sweet summer is setting quicker than expected and a looming task list is rising with full force. It can feel quite unsettling.

Where do you begin? Where do you apply? How about that Netflix binge? Wait no, don’t you have applications coming up? But what about your friends? Summer? Instagram? The beach? Wait no, aren’t college applications coming? When is that first deadline?

Honestly your brain has the capability to ramble into an abyss of endless thoughts. What you “should” be doing. What you “could” be doing. It can feel unsurmountable.

I get it. Heading back to school, especially if you’re applying to colleges can seem utterly overwhelming. How do you manage it all? Well here’s a few things that I have found to be REALLY helpful. Take a breath, scroll through and you might surprise yourself.

Tips for Managing the Unmanageable

  • Break everything into smaller pieces. Like really small. Take one day to sign up for the SAT. Research one college in one afternoon. And then walk away. Giving yourself mini goals can help break larger tasks into mini wins. Your to-do list is endless, so give yourself smaller tasks you know you can cross off.

  • Write a priority list. Let’s get rid of the word “to-do” entirely. Just seeing the words “to-do” makes me want to shut my laptop off and check out. When you call it a priority you’re able to see what’s more important to check off and then relax if you don’t get to it all.

  • Schedule a time to work and then take breaks. If you’re out with friends freaking out over the pile of work you have then you’re not really enjoying your time with your friends…right? I schedule a couple hours for work and then when that time is up, I WALK AWAY. Allot an appropriate amount of time and when you’re done, really be done.

  • Minimize distractions. If I’m working on a project and have a million tabs open on my browser, plus my phone next to me and the TV on that project will take me twice as long to complete…guaranteed. Turn off electronics, put your phone on airplane mode, take off pop up reminders on your computer and get your work done sans distractions.

  • Tackle the hardest tasks first. You only have so much energy and brain power in a day. And every time you have to make a decision, tackle a project, read, etc., you’re depleting power. So that thing you have to do that is harder for you…that thing you saved until the end, well it becomes even harder. This is a tough one, but tackle it, get it done.

  • Sleep, eat well and don’t skip out on the basics. This may seem incredibly obvious, but it’s one of the BEST things you can do. If you’re going on a few hours of sleep just to cram in a little more work it’s never worth it. Take the time to sleep, eat well and give yourself breaks when you’re just not feeling it. Take care of your well-being and you will absolutely be more productive in the end.

  • Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone is on their own timeline, has their own goals and that is OKAY. It’s really tough to think about your future and what you “should” be doing. One path does not fit all. At the end of the day, you’re the one sitting in the dorm room, heading to classes and making decisions. Do yourself a favor and own your own path. And be proud of it!

You got this. Really.

For more resources to help you through the college application process, check out the topic links to the right-hand side.

Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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