By: Emily Gagnon (@_emgagnon)
Alright, this blog is for all you overachievers out there who are going beyond what is expected of you and eagerly attacking new opportunities. At this point in the semester, many of those exciting opportunities may have turned into overwhelming tasks, especially amidst the impact of COVID-19. This pandemic has tested everyone’s adaptability, changing nearly all of our routines yet our workload remains the same. Your assignments and tasks may begin to feel daunting, but don’t worry. With a proper plan and an even-keel mindset, you can stay focused on success and crossing off those to-dos.
During my junior year at GVSU, I juggled working 15 hours at one internship, 15 hours at another internship, 15 credits (5 classes), and countless hours with my two favorite student organizations, GrandPR and GVPRSSA. I pushed my limits and I repeatedly told myself, “you can do it all, but not all at once.” I said this so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed when thinking about everything I’ve signed myself up to do. Senior year I have been mindful to balance my workload in a healthy manner. Society glorifies self-care as candle-lit bubble baths and face masks, however, these have rarely helped my stress levels. While those are luxurious and relaxing, to me it feels like procrastinating and they don’t help when projects are stalking in the shadows. Rather, I have recognized that I am energized by small victories and noticing tangible progress.
Finding your fuel is different for everyone, so discover what works for you and stick to it! Here are three pieces of advice to tackle your to-dos:
First, organize your inbox.
Categorizing my email has saved my life on multiple accounts. It is crucial to know who is reaching out to you, any need-to-know project updates, what applicable conversations are going on and more. Constant communication is key. Even if you are unable to complete what is asked of you right away, it is important to still respond to their email to let them know that you’ve received their message and when you expect you can get back to them. On my Gmail accounts, I have categorized my inbox so that all unread messages appear at the top, all messages I have read and starred because they are important and I need to come back to them later appear in a second section, then lastly all messages I have opened but haven’t yet put into a folder reside in a third category. After I have addressed an email I clear it from my inbox by moving it to a relevant folder. I organize my folders by semesters and classes, student organizations and functions, and other folders for newsletters and general GVSU announcements. Find what organization works best for you and customize your settings by clicking on the gear icon in the top right of your inbox, select “Settings,” then choose “Inbox” to view your options. If you’d like to set up your inbox similar to mine, I’ve included a screenshot of my settings below.
Second, Prioritize your projects. Then prioritize again.
Projects are ever-changing. Be flexible to change and restructure your priorities accordingly. Create lists, make a plan and get to work. Whether you use simple sticky notes or tools like Basecamp or Microsoft Planner is up to you. Personalize your project management routine so that you can keep track of your work reliably.
Third, snack and sleep!
I’m guilty of choosing an extra 15 minutes of sleep over packing a lunch. Don’t do it. Meal prepping doesn’t work for everyone, and you don’t have to do it, but be smart about how you fuel your body. Stuff healthy snacks in your backpack, purse, car and at your place of work if possible. Always keep a reusable water bottle on you, and don’t forget to drink it. Take a sip of water every time you get stuck in a project and every time you complete a small task. Take mini walks around your workspace at those times, too. Try not to panic or get frustrated when you’re stuck in a rut, do something small to activate your brain and approach the problem from a new perspective. Prioritize sleep, as well. While everyone faces late nights or full-on all-nighters occasionally, do your best to get a respectable amount of sleep and take extra precautions to recover when you’re not able to.
At the end of it all, the best advice I’ve received about coping with copious amounts of work is two little words from my advisor, Adrienne Wallace: “baby steps.” Take baby steps out of bed in the morning, baby steps walking into work or class, baby steps into your projects. Expand your large to-dos into tiny tasks and take them on one at a time. Focus on that one thing ahead of you, rather than being overtaken by everything on your plate.
Your eyes might be bigger than your stomach but that’s okay. Stay hungry for success. You got this! Finish your projects strong and create work that you’re proud to share.
Emily serves as the Chief Executive Officer of GrandPR and is a senior studying advertising and public relations at GVSU. Her digital studies minor allows her to explore her passion for digital communications in website/social media analytics, technical programs, online identities and cultures. As the CEO of GrandPR, Emily is passionate about leading projects and client teams to create campaigns students are proud to share. She is energized by spending time outdoors. Biking local trails, camping in northern Michigan and snowboarding new slopes are a few things Emily looks forward to.