The semester’s end approaches—yay and yuck!

Perhaps you’re still behind from attending conferences or you’re at one now.

You intended to do SO MUCH MORE this semester. Now the time remaining makes this feel impossible.

You wonder if there’s enough time left to get that article submitted? What about that big “getting organized” project?

Oh yeah—exams! All that grading awaits you.

End the Semester Strong

Would you like to wrap up this semester with a feeling of accomplishment? What about, as a bonus, you walk away energized to make the break restorative and productive.

If so, here goes. Follow this Three Step process:

Step 1 REFRAME: Stop for a minute and look at this end-of-semester landscape through a different lens. Look at what you HAVE accomplished this semester—week in and week out. Why not jot it down. (You can pull out this quick brainstorm later when working on your annual report. Score! Already getting ahead.) When you’ve exhausted your quick review of all you’ve done, this next step will feel less painful.

Step 2 ACKNOWLEDGE: Now quickly list what’s not yet done. This doesn’t need to be exhaustive, but make sure you get out of your head all those things that keep popping up and haunting you. Write until you start to feel a little calm that at least you can see in front of you what’s been nagging at you.

Step 3 REALITY CHECK: Look at the calendar and see how many work days remain between today and the day you intend to officially call the semester over and begin your break. This is a reality check remember, so be realistic. Your number is likely between 7-20, maybe less, maybe more. With that realistic number circled on the paper, review the list from Step 2 and start categorizing into three sublists. As you sort and ruthlessly hone your original list, use two standards: 1. Stretch myself for this push AND the counterbalance 2. Be realistic!!!

Identify each item on your list as an A, B, or C

A. Absolutely must complete this semester!
B. I’ll make every effort to complete it
C. Definitely NOT happening this semester

After completing the Three Step process above, you will have challenging AND realistic commitments to fulfill. Do everything on you’re A sublist and some of items on your B sublist. Tuck your C sublist away for later.

Insure Success up Front

Accept right now that completing your A sublist and something on your B sublist will equal success and generate a great feeling of accomplishment as you wrap up the semester.

Strategies to Assist You

Now, here are several strategies for approaching your challenging AND realistic semester’s end commitments on the A/B sublists. Most importantly, an approach to completing them with calm so you can feel both accomplished and energized at the end.

Approach your tasks sequentially not simultaneously! When the list is long and perhaps not doable in the time allotted, the temptation is to multitask. But research continually demonstrates that multitasking isn’t effective. Task switching is actually what you’re doing, and this not only creates inefficiencies but creates the added stress and anxiety associated with a busy schedule and busy mind. Just do one thing at a time. Focused, single-tasking is only possible if you confidently trust that your next tasks will wait. Remember it’s on the list.

Be present with each task! Let the other tasks wait their turn. Being present allows you to focus and think more clearly. Being present allows you to notice your thoughts and emotions. Since thoughts and emotions propel or stifle action, remaining conscious of these enhances the probability that you can generate the thoughts and emotions needed to complete the tasks and address any thoughts and emotions that become counterproductive. Remember, the looping, frenzied mind distracts you from the work at hand. Plus YOU are the source of the frenzied looping thoughts. 

Set a time limit for each task! Constraints are your friend. Tasks have a tendency to take the time we give them. With limited time you can focus your full attention better. With limited time you’ll feel the creative tension that comes with a deadline that encourages you to make all the minor decisions along the way. For more on using timers check out this post on timers.

Celebrate your progress! Measure the countdown to completing your A/B sublists by what IS done not by what remains. Feels much better to notice the completed successes.

Adequate self-care! Rest the semester wrap-up schedule on a foundation of self-care that includes adequate sleep, healthy eating, regular movement of the body, inspiration and support. These don’t need to take significant time. Weaving this self-care, especially movement, throughout your wrap-up schedule, will help restore your energy. The best method for avoiding exhausting is taking care of yourself along the way.

NEXT: Execute and Celebrate!

After implementing the initial Three Step process then applying the aid of these strategies, you will no doubt feel more accomplished, calm, and ready for a restorative break.

Now, take a minute and share in the comments which strategy you’ve found most useful in the past and which one you plan to implement to get you through the final weeks of this semester! Sharing how you implement these strategies in your own life can help others find ways to adapt them to theirs.

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Aaron Burden