The Push to the Finish Line

The Push to the Finish Line

I write to you from the last stress-filled weeks of the semester. I know end-of-semester chaos isn’t a new thing, but I always find myself experiencing a new version of panic each time the 15-week period is coming to a close. I have to read how many books still? I haven’t finished how many manuscripts yet? You want me to revise all of that? What is time?! 

You’d think I’d be good at organizing and planning my time accordingly after being in school for nearly 20 years, but nope. What I have gotten good at is finding ways to de-stress myself while also keeping up with the mountain of deadlines. Self-care is just as important as submitting that final project. So, here are the things I do, and recommend you try if you experience that last-minute-panic.


My co-habitated desk where I do a lot of writing at a friend’s.

First, try to get together with friends/classmates to do some of the work. A change of scenery is always a gift to your brain, and for me it helps me feel productive. You and your friends are bound to have a lot of the same work, since you’re taking at least some of the same courses. Solidarity, while not helping to decrease the amount of work, at least helps to decrease the burden of the amount of work. You’re not alone, they also have the 15 page novel analysis due next week, too! And it’s always great to be able to speak up randomly and ask if this sentence makes sense, since after 4 cups of coffee before noon you’re not quite sure. (And, while not always a requirement depending on the friend, this usually forces you to put on some real clothes.)

Second, take small breaks. I know some people get into a groove – me too! But after a few hours of typing away and having your eyes locked into that Word document, make yourself stand up and go outside. Fresh air is reviving. Or turn on a really up-tempo beat and do some jumping jacks. Take a shower, even, because relaxing your muscles in that warm water is a great way to recharge and you’ll just feel better afterwards.


And if you’re sitting there saying, “Sara! I don’t have time for breaks! Give me some advice I can actually use while I flip through this novel and try to make sense of my scribbled margin-notes, or scroll through my short story and doubt every use of dialogue…” then ok! I’ve got some more tricks: eat some snacks. Almonds are a great energy booster and they’re healthy for you, too. Fruit is always good for me; it’s got sugar and nutrients to keep you going. And water! I’m not going to try to tell you to put the coffee down, because that would be hypocritical of me. But make sure you’re keeping hydrated in between. You’ll thank me.

Lastly, call a family member. Or someone not involved in your immediate work circle. Talking out loud about an assignment or a problem you’re facing is helpful for a number of reasons. It forces you to say, succinctly, what you’re trying to do. And it also allows for an outside, fresh view to what you’re tackling. I can’t tell you how many times my mom has listened to me vent for a solid 15 minutes, only to give me a simple one-sentence solution. Boom, second-wind initiated.


Sometimes I also go through pictures on my phone and stare at really soothing sunsets from throwback vacations. Like this one. (Madison, Wisconsin)

I’m looking at a pile of books, 2 journals, 4 different Word documents minimized on my laptop, and 3 empty coffee cups in front of me as I finish up this blog – and now I want to get back to work! So, maybe this is a bonus suggestion: write it out! Sure, writing is my thing, so maybe it’s more helpful to me. But, if you’re reading this, I bet writing is your thing too. Give it a try. “Dear Internet, let me count the ways I have avoided a grad-life crisis…” Chances are, you’ll feel a little better.