We’ve all been there. You look at your university schedule or your next assignment date and you realise how behind you are. What are your options? How are you supposed to catch up on your studies?
In this blog post you’ll discover:
- What your options are if you fall behind
- 13 simple but powerful techniques to help you catch up on your studies and get back on track
- How to work out why you fell behind so you don't repeat this
- Additional resources to help you stay on top of your studying.
1. How important is the assignment?
Work out if your panic is deserved. How heavily is your assignment weighted? If it’s worth 10% of the marks but your others are worth 30-40% then a lower grade may not be as catastrophic as you think. Also see if your university uses substitution for any of your assignments. This is where your lowest mark is increased to bring it more in line with the average of your other marks. Understanding the importance of each assignment will help you work out which of the below strategies you need to catch up on your studies.
2. If necessary, ask for an extension
If you’ve tried to catch up on your studies but you don’t think you’ll be able to complete an assignment on time, consider asking for an extension. Before you contact your tutor have an idea of how long an extension you will need and what your plan is to meet the new deadline. If you can explain why you’ve fallen behind but also how you’re going to fix it then your tutor will hopefully grant you a small extension. It doesn’t have to be long but even a day or two can really help to reduce the panic and help you submit something you’re proud of.
3. Seek support for tough concepts
Did you fall behind because you struggled to understand the materials? Never be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help can feel like a sign of weakness but if it moves you forward this can only be a good thing. Ask for a quick meeting or phone call with your tutor to go through a difficult concept. They might be able to give you new techniques or point you in the direction of helpful resources.
4. Seek further support if you feel helpless
We all experience times when studying gets on top of us and we consider quitting. But if you’re seriously considering giving up seek further support first. Contact your tutor or your university’s student support team. They should be able to talk you through your options as you might be able to defer your module and continue in a few months, or take a break from studying to refresh yourself before going back.
5. Prioritise your tasks using the 4Ds
To catch up on your studies you might need to rethink completing everything on that long to do list. A simple way to prioritise what’s important is to use the 4Ds system. Take your to do list, or make one with everything you think you need to do. Make sure every area of your life is included not just studying. Then try to put each item into one of the four categories.
If the task is really important or it won’t take long then just DO IT now.
If the task is important but takes a little longer or you don’t have time to tackle it straight away – DELAY IT. But, you MUST schedule a time in your diary or calendar right now for when you’re going to complete the task. Don’t DELAY a task more than once.
There’s a chance you could DELEGATE the task. Could you ask your partner or housemate to make dinner this week so you can write your essay? Or sign up for one of those meal prep delivery services for a week or two to take the pressure off. Could you order your shopping online or ask a friend to run some of your errands for you? If money allows, could you get a cleaner in so you can cross off the cleaning tasks on your list?
The last and potentially most important category is to DUMP IT. If you’re constantly moving a task from one to do list to the next, maybe it’s not that important? See if you could get rid of it instead so you can reduce your list and take away the stress of putting off a task. If you can’t get rid of the task completely, could you simplify it?
6. Prioritise the important material
If you’re behind on your reading and have an assignment coming up, prioritise what’s needed. Your guidance might tell you which readings or which book pages are the most important for the assignment. If not, contact your tutor and ask them which sections you should focus your time on. Get that reading done as quick as you can then start the assignment. If you’ve got time, skim the sections you’ve missed for any other relevant points you could add as you edit your work.
7. Try to free up some time
In order to catch up on your studies, you might need to reconsider your other commitments. Look at your diary or calendar for the next few weeks and see if you can free up any space. Could you take a day off work to catch up or work from home a few days (if you’re allowed) to save your commuting time? Do you have any social plans you could rearrange or change slightly so they’re shorter or closer to home? Could your friends or family help a little with the housework or childcare?
To catch up on your studies you HAVE to create more time. Commit to finding a few ways you can create space in your schedule.
8. Forgive yourself
It’s important to not spend time feeling guilty about falling behind. It’s normal to stray off track every so often in your studies, especially if you have lots of other responsibilities.
Psychology Professor Michael Wohl conducted a study and found students who forgave themselves for any past procrastination were less likely to waste time again in the future.
Accept you’ve fallen behind but then move on. Believe you can and will catch up on your studies.
9. Don’t forget to take breaks
When you’re behind it might feel like you don’t have time to even pee let alone take breaks. But it’s often more productive to work in short bursts with little breaks then chain yourself to your desk all day.
The Pomodoro technique just works. Study with absolute focus for 25 minutes. No distractions, no going on your phone, no justtt having a quick look for a new book on Amazon. Crack on and get the work done for 25 minutes and then you can take a 5-minute break. Repeat this 3 times then take a longer break.
Now, I’d recommend adapting this ratio if you’re feeling so overwhelmed by your workload you don’t know how or where to start. You could work for 30 minutes then take a 15-minute break. As long as you work your butt off for those 30 minutes you’ll achieve lots.
10. Develop your ability to study in short bursts
You may be someone who finds it hard to study little and often. You prefer to study in one or two long sessions a week rather than a bit each day. Everyone has their preferences but learning to get stuff done in short amounts of time is a skill. Even if you only managed to study for 30 minutes a day that adds up to more than six hours over a week.
Look at your schedule and try and find small slots where you can fit studying in:
· As soon as you wake up before leaving for work
· On your commute (if you take public transport)
· On your lunch break
· As soon as you get home from work
· During your kids’ nap time
· Could you get to work earlier or leave a little later to fit some study in either side of your work hours?
11. Talk to your friends and family
It’s important to have at least one person to talk to about your studies. Someone you can not only share your achievements with but who will also listen to you have a little rant every so often. Studying online can sometimes make you feel isolated but you should never feel like you don’t have anyone to support you.
12. Talk to other students
Don’t forget to use your fellow students for help and inspiration. Set up a little study group or hang out in any forums, groups or Facebook groups your module or course might have. These are a great place to find motivation but also some advice. If you have fallen behind other students might be able to share which materials are the most important to focus on.
13. Reward your hard work
Try and plan a small treat for the end of each study session. It doesn’t have to be big but scheduling a little bit of time to do something you WANT to do can make you feel like a human rather than an essay churning, caffeine-fuelled machine.
Plan a slightly bigger reward for when you’ve caught up with on studies. This could be a movie night, dinner out, a night in with your new book or a relaxing massage. Studying is an individual effort so make sure you remember to celebrate your own achievements. It’s important to make time for yourself so falling behind doesn’t turn into becoming burned out.
Why do you think you fell behind?
Do you procrastinate over studying so everything is last minute?
Were you struggling with the material?
Do you find it hard to fit studying in with your other commitments?
Could you be a bit more organised so deadlines and your workload don’t surprise you?
Do you lack confidence in your abilities so find yourself stuck and unable to take the steps to move forward?
It's important to identify the reasons you fell behind so you can take action to make sure you stack on track in the future.
Hopefully this blog post has given you some ideas to take forward, but here’s some more resources to help you.
Conquer procrastination so you can get more studying done in less time.
Change the way you think to improve your grades. Discover that your intelligence can be increased through effort, self-belief and the right study techniques.
- Work out why you fell behind
- Look at your options e.g. try to catch up, ask for an extension
- Use some of the 13 techniques to catch up on your studies
- Check out the further resources
- Download my study planner below to help you achieve more in less time.