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How To Keep Up With College Assignments (Ultimate Guide)

Keeping up with college assignments can feel like trying to swim upstream with your hands tied behind your back. Even though this can feel impossible sometimes, there are many things you can do to make your semester go as smoothly and successfully as possible.

Here’s how to keep up with college assignments:

  1. Keep a weekly planner.
  2. Take notes by hand.
  3. Form an accountability group.
  4. Avoid burnout at all costs.

This article is meant to guide you through your college courses and to help you keep up with your college assignments. You will learn how to keep up with your studies, and how to avoid burnout at the same time. So let’s keep going.

How to stay on top of college assignment deadlines.

1. Keep a Weekly Planner

If you’re always unsure of what you need to complete in a given week or what’s coming up in your classes, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Get yourself a weekly planner and organize your thoughts and schedule for the week. 

People who use planners are usually much more organized and are able to tackle the events of a week efficiently and effectively. Take an hour at the start of the week, such as Sunday or Monday, and write out everything that you are responsible for that week.

Plan out the best days to complete each so that you’re not crunched for time.

Most weekly planners also have monthly pages, so you can also plan ahead for assignments that may require more than a week’s work. A larger project or final paper might need two or more weeks, so keeping up with the monthly portion will set you up to plan these types of assignments accordingly.

My favorite undated planner is the Clever Fox Undated Weekly and Monthly Planner (link to Amazon). This planner is great because you can pick it up and start whenever since there are no set dates on the pages. 

It helps break down large tasks into smaller, more doable ones and helps keep your priorities for the week in order. 

I usually recommend this planner for people who are new to using a planner because if you miss a week or struggle to get into the habit of filling it out, you aren’t left with a bunch of blank pages killing your motivation. 

Just pick up where you left off.

If you prefer a dated planner, then the Moleskine 12 Month Weekly Planner (link to Amazon) is my go-to, which is what I use for everything. The pages are clean, simple, and easy to keep up with. 

There are a few different sizes and colors, but I find that the pocket size in plain black is classic and fits everywhere I need it to. 

Things To Avoid in a Weekly Planner

It’s both a blessing and a curse that planners have absolutely skyrocketed in popularity. There are so many to choose from, with a million different sorts of goals in mind. Planners for fitness, water consumption, beer-drinking, inspirational quotes, or knitting progress all exist now. 

Being able to pick a planner that fits you best is great. However, these planners are bloated with useless pages and sections. Okay, maybe not useless but not incredibly useful either.

If your planner is meant to help you keep your assignments straight and limit your time procrastinating, then a planner with pages to list all of your favorite moments from the previous day, month, and year won’t help you. 

If you want a planner to help practice positivity and gratitude, that’s great. Just keep them separate, and put on one on your nightstand for pleasure and one in your backpack for work.

Schedule a Weekly Catch-Up Day

It can be very helpful to have a day or half-day schedule that’s always reserved for just catching up on work that you have fallen a bit behind on. This isn’t to be scheduled for anything else so that you can always count on some time to just sit and catch up before things get out of hand.

If you’ve been able to keep up that week, having that day completely free is something to look forward to. You can use that time to do whatever you love most.

2. Take Notes by Hand

Your classes are probably full of students typing out their notes on their laptops. This trend has been such a detriment to students being able to retain what they heard in their classes.

One widely cited study concluded that those who take notes on their laptops were much less likely to comprehend the content they were typing. Instead, they were unable to form the concepts that would help them understand the material (source).

In addition to laptops inviting a whole host of distractions into the classroom, typed notes are usually more like shallow transcriptions of the lecture. The hand-written notes would help them process the information that was communicated instead. 

Students who wrote out their notes with pen and paper were more likely to write out the lectures in their own words. When you take the lecture and translate it into a language that makes the most sense to you, then you’ll have a deeper understanding of the material and the ability to recall the concepts you learned. 

If you’re working through your assignments and are able to easily recall the lectures, you’ll be much faster than if you’re staring blankly at the script you wrote out on a laptop. 

Leave the technology at home. You’ll have less distraction and will find that you actually need less time to complete your assignments since you’ll have actually learned the material you’re working on.

A study group, or accountability group, can help to keep you on track for upcoming assignment deadlines.

3. Form an Accountability Group

Something that students report as being a huge help with keeping up on college assignments is having a group of other students keeping them accountable. Some of the different ways that students have formed accountability groups are with group messaging, tackling assignments together, and weekly work meetings.

The best way to form an accountability group will depend on who you have that would be interested in joining. If there’s enough interest in a particular class, then you might find that getting together and working on the weekly assignments together is very helpful. 

However, it can be just as helpful to form a weekly group even if the members are in different classes. 

In my own undergraduate years, I would form a group of a handful of other students, and we would meet up twice a week to work. Everyone was in different classes and had different work to do, but working together made it much more enjoyable.

4. Avoid Burnout at All Costs

The most important thing you can do to keep up with your college assignments, by far, is to avoid burnout. It doesn’t matter how on top of things you are the first few months if everything falls apart in the last weeks when assignments tend to be worth much more. 

Many other articles and academic advisors will stress that you must always put your college classes and their assignments first before anything. However, that’s bad advice. 

That’s the advice that led to a generation of burnt-out students and young adults. 

Burnout results from long exposure to stress, when you’re under the impression that you’re failing to keep up with your responsibilities or are just barely making it. It’s made up of physical, psychological, and relationship effects on the person (source).

Thankfully, the prevalence of burnout is becoming recognized as a serious problem, and universities are beginning to take notice of the effects it has on their student population.

Ultimately, before anything, the thing that should always come first is your own health and well-being. If you’re taking good care of yourself, then getting your work done throughout the whole semester will be much less stressful than if you’re overworking, undersleeping, and at your wits’ end on most days. 

The best way to get through the college semester and keep up with your assignments is to prevent burnout from happening in the first place. However, if you do feel as though you’re beginning to have some symptoms, then tackling that and getting your health in order should become the top priority. 

Once you’ve recognized that you’re experiencing burnout, if you ignore it and try to keep on trudging through the semester, then you can end up much worse off, both in your health and in your college classes.

Recognizing Warning Signs of Burnout

If you’re worried about whether or not you’re experiencing burnout, look back on the last few weeks of your life and make an honest assessment of how you felt on those days (source).

Additionally, begin to keep a journal where you can just quickly write down how you’re feeling physically and mentally. This can be a great tool for reference when looking for symptoms of burnout since memory isn’t always the most reliable guide. 

If you’re feeling some of these early signs, then you should seek some help before things begin to snowball:

  • You’re feeling drained and exhausted most days.
  • Having consistent body and headaches.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Problems with feeling motivated.
  • Easily feeling overwhelmed.
  • Becoming apathetic towards school, work, and other pastimes.

If you’re experiencing some or all of these signs, then it’s time to seek some outside help. Most colleges provide free counseling services and support groups specifically for burnout since it has become such a burden on students. 

Additionally, it might not hurt to reach out to the professors of your classes. 

More often than not, they’ll be very empathetic and be willing to create a timetable for you to get back on track in a way that also allows you to recover from the effects of burnout at the same time. 

Excercise is an excellent way to combat burnout.

Ways To Combat Burnout

The best offense against burnout is a super strong defense. Taking care of yourself throughout the semester before things get out of hand will be incredibly helpful in keeping your stress levels at a manageable level. 

Taking a holistic approach to your life has been shown to do a lot of good when it comes to combating burnout in chronically stressful settings, such as college. 

Some of the best things you can do to stave off burnout are:

  • Adopting a consistent exercise routine.
  • Taking the time to eat well every day.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
  • Maintain your friendships and other relationships.
  • Give yourself time to relax.

These are just some of the things you can do to try and keep up with your health and well-being. This is super important and will directly translate into further success in college as well (source).

Habits To Help Keep Up With College Assignments

Once the semester really begins to pick up, it can feel like you’re drowning in assignments, papers, and studying for exams. Once you start to fall behind, catching backup can be very difficult and exhausting. 

Keeping up with college assignments is a lot of hard work. 

Everyone struggles to keep up sometimes, so it’s not just you. Many college students feel alone in the struggle, so a good place to start is with the knowledge that this is something that all people at college struggle with from time to time, even the professors.

With this in mind, the difference between students who manage to keep up and those who don’t are usually the implementation of good habits. They have learned how or were taught how to study and work efficiently and have used that knowledge to make good habits to help succeed in college and later in their career too.

By learning what these habits are and practicing them in your own life, you’ll also start to see results in your success at college. 

Even when you stumble one week and find yourself procrastinating on an assignment, it’ll be much easier to get back on track if you’ve been practicing the following nine habits for keeping up with college assignments.

Final Thoughts

College is often talked about as some of the best and most exciting times of a person’s life. However, there’s a lot of stress and responsibility in college that isn’t talked about near enough.

Hopefully, with the habits I have discussed in the article, you’ll be able to have all of the fun the college experience has to offer while still keeping up with your college assignments and being successful in your classes!

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