How To Get Through Projects (and other stuff) Relatively Stress-Free

Right now, most of you are probably going through midterms.  This is the first indication in the semester that things have gotten serious.  Whether it’s an exam, a project, or a giant paper, your midterm will most likely make up a huge chunk of your grade.

Now, you probably have that project or paper on your mind right now.  Believe me, it can seem like there’s some huge monster behind you, looking down and getting ready to eat you.  But it doesn’t have to be like that.  All you gotta do is these few things:

1. Start Early

I know, I kind of sound like a broken record at this point, but it really is a good idea.  I’m not saying you should try to finish your

project the first week it’s given.  That would be impossible (or at least

inadvisable).  Just start a few things, like what you’re project or paper is going to be about, or how it’s all gonna be organized.  By starting early, you sort of motivate yourself to get things done sooner.  I guess you can say you’re putting your foot through the door.

Figuratively, or course! Please don't actually try to kick through a door!

2. Don’t cut corners

If time is of the essence, you might be tempted to make a few mistakes and not fix them.  You might think, “Eh, I can let that slide.  The teacher won’t notice!”  You wanna know what happens when you do cut corners?  THIS!

"Maybe the boss won't notice."

It’s NEVER a good idea to let mistakes just sit there.  This is gonna be a huge part of your grade, so you don’t want to risk failing the whole thing just because of one stupid mistake.  Plus, remember this; when applying for jobs or grad schools, your professors might serve as good reference.  Do you really think he or she will give you a good recommendation if you are seen doing the bare minimum?

3. Don’t stress it

This may sound like a contradiction to the earlier “don’t cut corners” lecture, but this last bit is really important.  Some of you will just put your project off until the last minute and not even think about it until you think you really need to, but there’s also some of you who will stress about it day in and day out.  Let me just tell you, relax.

Being like this is never helpful

There’s an old story about Napoleon.  He was running late for an opera, and he told his wife, “Dress me slowly, for I am in a hurry”.  Do you know why he said that?  Because he knew that when you rush things in a panic, you will eventually make mistakes.  The moral is to take time to do things right, but it can also apply to stress in midterm projects.

You will feel overwhelmed, there’s no way around it.  You’re going to have a lot of work to do in what looks like very little time.  At this point  you’ll want to panic; you’ll scream and cry and want to kill someone.  But before you do any of that, take a step back, breathe in, breathe out, and relax.

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work.  I’m just saying that you need to take time to relax.  Stress is never helpful, and if you’re stressed doing this project, you’re not going to have a good outcome.  What’s worse, stress can have several adverse effects on your health.  You don’t want to suffer a heart attack over one big project, do you?  I thought not.

Approach one problem at a time.  Don’t overwhelm yourself with everything at once.  Make sure you don’t rush into things, otherwise your grade (and your health) will suffer.  But most importantly; relax once in a while.  Lie down for a bit.  Drink a nice cup of coffee.  Listen to some smooth jazz.  If you can think of anything else that helps you relax, do it!

You probably won't win a Nobel Prize, but at least you'll get a good grade!

Let me make this clear; I am NOT a teacher.  I am not a guidance counselor, or an academic adviser, or any school official.  I am a student just like you.  I’ve been through all the stuff you’re going through, and I now know what to do when faced with a project like a midterm.  Will these three steps get you an A?  Maybe, maybe not.  I can’t be 100% certain.  However, I can be sure that if you follow these three steps, you’ll do a lot better than if you never read this post!

And hey, once you finish your project, maybe you can go and enjoy a Goodburger!

Sergio Lopez, Polytechnic Institute of NYU, Graduate Student ’12

View my tumblr here

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