Overwhelmed during finals week?

In organization on June 4, 2009 at 9:00 am

life computer printout

It’s easy to get overwhelmed toward the end of the semester, as you’re studying for three tests, preparing your final English paper, or completing that last final project. Sometimes, even starting to tackle a project like this seems too overwhelming. One solution is to start by breaking the project into smaller chunks. Here’s an idea of how you might break down a research paper:

  1. Read the teacher’s handout of the assignment
  2. Make a list of resources (people, libraries, etc.) available for help
  3. Brainstorm a list of possible topics
  4. Choose your favorite topic
  5. Create a research question (a thesis statement in the form of a question)
  6. Learn how to use the library database
  7. Locate 3 articles from the database
  8. Look critically at the first article to decide if it’s a good source . . .

Notice that these are small steps. You don’t want to tell yourself to “Research” or to “Write the paper.” Instead, look for tasks that are small enough to make you think “I can do that!” Choosing a topic might be overwhelming, but brainstorming a list of ideas might not sound so bad. Researching sounds like no fun, but just finding three articles? Not so hard.

The more overwhelmed you feel, the smaller the pieces you’ll want to tackle at once. If beginning to use the library database sounds bad, try adding a really tiny task like “Go online to find out what hours the library is open.” Writing down a task that’s so small might sound silly, but it’s not. It helps you see the very next step you’ll need to take to make progress — and it can help you see your progress and successes along the way toward getting the project done.

*     *     *

Next week, I’ll introduce a new free tool called “Acing Your English Class: Five Pieces of Advice for International Students.” It’ll be a pdf download with five quick tips to help you make your next English class as painless as possible. I hope it helps those of you signed up for summer English classes!


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