It’s October. The leaves are changing colors, the air is getting crisp, pumpkin flavors are taking over your taste buds. “Back to School” season is in full swing! On top of balancing your work, your online seminars and classrooms, your homework, your home life, you are now probably balancing your kids’ school, homework and projects, soccer and football and drama club schedules, sleepovers and play dates, and more.

So, it’s time to talk about some simple ways to manage stress with your own schoolwork, in order to take at least a little of the weight off your shoulders.

Therefore, I now present to you…

Six Steps to Simplifying Schoolwork Stress

  1. Congratulate yourself! First and foremost, take the time to give yourself a pat on the back, because you’re off to a good start. You’ve decided to enroll in school, or to start a course you’ve been dreading (math, anyone?), and while it’s a bit scary, it’s a step in the right direction and taking that step is a big moment.

  2. Make it real. Okay, so maybe you’re congratulating yourself because you have decided to enroll in school – but you haven’t yet registered or applied. This is the time to “make it real.” The unknown is always going to be more stressful, because you can’t know for sure how challenging it will be until you begin. So apply for your program, enroll in that course, do whatever you need to do to make it real.

  3. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. This is a huge thing to keep in mind. Whether you’re just starting your program or you’re starting a new class within your program, each part of the process is another mile marker you’re passing. If you tried to sprint a whole marathon, you’d collapse with exhaustion pretty close to the starting line. But if you pace yourself, and you also prepare in advance (i.e.: do your homework – both on the school/program you’re looking at, and also your actual homework in your classes), you’ll make it to that finish line!

  4. Take it step by step. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous step in the list, but it’s a good point to reiterate. While you’ll want to have an idea of the big picture, you can’t rush right to that point. You need to take everything step by step so that when you make a mistake, it’s something you can fix. Mistakes are perfectly fine – they happen to everyone! – when you’re taking it step by step, because you can catch them and learn from them early on. If you’re flying through everything, it’s all too easy to not notice a mistake until it’s too late to make changes.

  5. Work smarter, not harder. While this is easier said than done, it’s still a mantra to live by. The thing to understand is that you will still have to work hard, but you shouldn’t have to work harder than necessary if you’re working smarter. I’m not going to break this step down too much, because I think it’s something that is different for everyone and that you need to find your own way of working smarter, not harder. But when you take the time to stop and think before taking action – with a project or paper, for example – you should be able to determine the best way to proceed without having to write for hours and hours only to go back and delete most of your work. Working smarter also relates to not procrastinating.

  6. Make mistakes happily. You should be noticing how many of the steps overlap and how there’s really no order to them. But that’s the whole point. If you can figure out how to fit all of these into your coursework and your education, you should find that the little things that often can stress you out aren’t coming into play. You’re taking your course step by step and making mistakes at the beginning, so that you can learn from them and fix them when you still have the ability to do so without (as many) negative repercussions. You’re thinking about the big picture, but planning out the steps necessary to get there, including being smart about your schedule and time so that you don’t have to cram everything in at the end of the week. You’re congratulating yourself along the way and making each part of your process real by enrolling in the tough courses and scheduling interviews and preparing for internships.

If you can start taking these steps to eliminate stress in your educational process, you just might find that you have more time in your week, or that you aren’t dreading writing that paper the night before it’s due, or that your kid’s soccer game isn’t causing you to stay up all night to complete a project. And then you can start enjoying your days a little more and feel proud of the progress you’re making on a regular basis. And that’s always a good thing!