When the hell did November get here? That is what I want to know. Seriously, just yesterday I was telling y’all how to prepare your brains for August and get back into the school mode. And now it’s November. How did that happen and how can I make it stop?

Well, okay, so I can’t stop the furious, oncoming train that is November. I also can’t stop December, with all of its final papers and exams and projects, from hurtling right after it. You might be thinking, “Don’t be silly. December is an entire month away! I have a whole other month before I have to start worrying about things like that. I’m not gonna worry about that ’til after Thanksgiving.”

That is where you are wrong. Let me break this down for you. Including this week, there are three more weeks until Thanksgiving. Exams start a week and a half after Thanksgiving break. Can you study for all of your exams, write multiple 15 page papers, and put together various end-of-the-semester projects in a week in a half? Answer: no.

The solution to this post-Thanksgiving crunch is to use these three weeks that we are given to start planning ahead for finals season. I know, it may seem excessive. But if you put off preparation for your end of the year work until right before or even after Thanksgiving break, you will have wished you used that three week grace period to do some of that work. Trying to organize the next month of your academic life is daunting to say the least. But with a few tips, you should at least create yourself a nice cushion of accomplished work to allow you to not completely lose your mind in the post-Thanksgiving crunch.

Make Lists of Exams/Projects/Papers

I like lists. Okay, okay, I love lists. They are the best organization tool in the entire world. If you don’t already carry around a notepad or a digital version to keep track of to-do lists and the like, you really should start. It makes it less likely that you will forget to do a small (or big) assignment or task if you keep track of everything you must do throughout the day.

For November though, you should start by making a list of all of your major assignments that will be due in the time between now and the end of the semester. Make note of which tasks are going to take more time and which are simply minor assignments. Making a list like this will not only help you prioritize all of the things that you need to do but it will also help you get a realistic idea of how much you really have to do by the end of the semester.

Look through all of your classes’ syllabuses to make sure you have listed every assignment and to ensure that some unexpected assignment doesn’t sneak up on you. There is nothing worse than feeling you have a good handle on all of your work and then realizing that you forgot about a graded portion of the course that was only mentioned on the first day of class. Don’t panic if your list is massively bigger than you expected it to be. If you use efficient time management skills and schedule your next few weeks to accommodate your list (see the next item), you should be able to finish everything on your list.

Schedule Your Calendar

It’s reasonable to panic while looking at the massive list you’ve just created. You have to do all of this end-of-the-semester work plus the day to day work that is still piling on? Oh, yes. After you’ve made your list of assignments and exams, take out your calendar. I still prefer my Outlook Calendar but many people prefer Google Calendars or even physical, handwritten calendars. Like a notebook to keep track of to-do lists, if you don’t already have a calendar you use consistently, you should get into the habit immediately. Scheduling due dates and other tasks on a calendar helps you visually gauge and organize your life.

Take the items on your list and place them all on your calendar, if they aren’t already. That, unfortunately, is the easy part. Now that you can see when all of your assignments are due and exams are scheduled, you should start to set aside blocks of times to do prepare for these assignments. Because you still have to do your day-to-day work, you will have to play around with designating certain parts of days to certain projects while still leaving space for your daily work. It’s a tricky balancing act. I like to designate certain weekends or weeks to different projects and color code them accordingly. That way I know that next week I will have to work on my Greek religions paper while next weekend I will have to start on my project for my Communication class.

By sitting down with your calendar and list of assignments and specifically scheduling blocks of time to do major assignments, you have locked it into place in your life. You can know for certain when you will have time to do all of the things on your list instead of just trying to randomly find spare time to work on various projects. If you don’t schedule it in, it’s much easier for you to procrastinate and never get around to it. Scheduling things also gives you a deadline for when you should be done with your assignment. Deadlines will motivate you to get your work done in the period you have set aside for it. Additionally, self-set deadlines is an important skill to acquire before you venture out in to the real world.

Be the Early Bird

All of these steps may seem like taking very early steps in preparing for finals season, but I want to suggest that you take this idea a step further, especially with papers and projects. If you know that you have a paper due at the end of the semester, begin brainstorming for topics, ideas, and sources now, early in the month so that when you actually sit down to write the paper, you have already saved yourself time.

Schedule meetings with your professors about paper and project topics early so that you already have the go-ahead. Additionally, if you ask for help from professors early in the month, you will have more time to track down the hints and helpful information that they may give you during your meeting with them. Your professors want you to make a good grade. Asking for help or a point in the right direction early will not only let them know that you’re on the ball but it will give you more time to use these suggestions in your final assignment.

Ultimately, starting projects and papers early will both help you stay organized and on top of your other things to do and will give you more time to produce a better final project or paper.

Do you find any of these tips useful? What do you do during November to help you prepare for the end-of-the-year rush of finals? Let us know in the comments!