By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
This blog post contains practical advice on what to do when you have too much to do. Tips are useful for those occasional times – up to a few days in a row – when you’re overwhelmed and have too much to do.
If you are chronically overwhelmed, so I suggest starting with these 5 tips that will help you feel less overwhelmed by school in general.
This article has no magic strategies or fake hacks: just a dose of realistic advice for students with too much to do.
If you found this post, I assume you have already determined that you are overwhelmed and don’t have enough time to deal with what is expected of you.
But before you read on, please go through the exercise I teach here to learn how to determine exactly how much time you have to do your things. Do not skip this step. If you do this job first, you might find you have more time than you think, and you won’t even need the advice in this article. It’s the best case scenario.
A word of warning: taking that first step is difficult because it forces you to face the reality of how you spend your time. Again, it’s difficult. But this step is necessary before moving on to anything else.
Once you have gone through this process (again, here is the exact process), and once you’ve determined that you’re really using your time as well as you can, that you’re not procrastinating, and that you have, in fact, just too much to do, then the following two strategies are for you.
What to do when you have too much to do
When you have too much to do and not enough time to do it, you only have two choices:
- Don’t do some of the things on your list
- Temporarily stop doing anything else so you can complete things on your list
I warned you: there are no hacks in this post. If you have more obligations and assignments that can fit your schedule over the next few days, you must choose between not doing some of the things on your list, or temporarily not doing other things, so that you can access the items on your list.
Mathematically, you can’t do everything.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example where you have too much to do in TWO very busy days:
1. Make a list of things you need to accomplish and estimate how long each one will take. Make your time estimates realistic, not optimistic.
|Assignment||Estimated time to complete|
|literary essay||3.5 hours|
|Summary of the research paper in history||1 hour|
|2 math sheets||30 minutes each; 1 hour in total|
|spanish project||45 minutes|
|Study for a bio test||45 minutes both days|
2. Determine the deadline to complete everything: two days.
3. Plan your schedule to make time visible (don’t skip this step).
If you plot your daily schedule for our hypothetical two days (above), you see that you only have 2.5 hours a day to work on school things without sacrificing your sleep. And that’s without taking a single break.
4. Face reality: If you think of the problem above as a math equation, it doesn’t calculate. You cannot do 7 hours of work in 5 hours. I’ll say it again to make it clear what is NOT an option: you can’t do 7 hours of work in 5 hours.
5. Consider your two options: 1) don’t do some of the things on your list, or 2) temporarily stop doing other things so you can complete the things on your list.
6. Possible solutions:
- Skip one of your homework assignments (like your literary essay) and ask for an extension
- Do not go to practice on Wednesday or Thursday (the best option)
You should not as one of the solutions above, but those are the only two options you have unless you sacrifice your sleep, that I never, ever advise.
What NOT to do when you have too much to do
Where many students go wrong is that they don’t take the time to do the math to determine if their schedule is realistic. And because they skip this step, they charge forward, trying to complete an unrealistic amount of stuff in an unrealistic amount of time. And then they end up in a bad place. Here is a list of what not to do when you have too much to do:
- Deny the math, move on and pretend you can invent more time
- Sacrifice your sleep and sleep all night to do your job
- Freeze and complete nothing
- Mess up on your homework and do bad work
If you sometimes find yourself in a position where you have too much to do and not enough time to do everything, you are normal. That’s exactly what happens every once in a while when you get several big assignments at once, extracurricular events pile up ill-timed, and more wrenches are thrown into the mix. When you’re in one of those busy times, just remember what your two options are: 1) do nothing on your list or 2) temporarily stop doing other things so you can finish things on your list. . And then learn for next time. Everything will be alright.
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