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Stay productive when you feel overwhelmed

We're about to start week ten of the semester and I feel like I'm freaking losing my mind. I probably took on one too many classes this semester to make sure I was graduating on time, and have started feeling the stress of classes, work and blogging.

At times like this it's important to stay productive so you don't fall too far behind. Feeling overwhelmed sucks and it's easy to shut down and focus on what's due at the moment, but in the long term this is a recipe for disaster.

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Today I wanted to share a few ways I stay productive, even when I'm feeling overwhelmed with work, school and other responsibilities.

Do a Brain Dump

This is a tactic from David Allen's book "Getting Things Done". Basically get a piece of paper, or a page in your bullet journal, and write out any and everything you can think of that you need to do. Short term, long term, school related, personal life literally everything floating around in your head. 

Try to include general deadlines for things so when we're organizing later you don't have to go hunting for deadlines. Take as long as you need to get everything out on paper.

Getting all these thoughts down on paper means you're not expending the mental energy to remember small stuff like returning library books or making a plan for your art history paper. Even the small stuff not related to school or work takes up energy, so getting it all out clears up room in your head.

Prioritize your List

Your brain dumps acts as a master list of shit you want and need to get through. Looking at it you might still feel stressed, but these next steps will help you figure out what's important and what to do first. For this you may want to bust out some colored highlighters.

RELATED: Create a Color Coding System that Works

Go through and highlight everything you absolutely must do in one color, here I've used orange. For me, this is normally all my school work, but it could include some personal stuff like picking up a prescription, or returning a library book.

Next go through and highlight the things that you'd like to do, but could be put off for a few weeks or wouldn't matter if you didn't get to them. I'm using blue here. Now it's easy to see what things on your list take priority.

Knock out the Small Stuf

If something must absolutely get done AND takes less than 10 minutes, go ahead an do it now. Dramatically cross those fuckers off. Ooooooooooh See that scribble? So satisfying. For me these tasks included requesting an inter-library loan book and ordering some samples for a sponsored blog post.

RELATED: How I manage my Time in College

Plan to do the Bigger Stuff

Now address what else you have to tackle. Looking at your planner, I use a Vertical Erin Condren, and see what chunks of time you'll have to get things done. Here you can see my work, school and gym schedule and two big chunks of study time on Tuesday and Thursday.

Start filling out when plan on doing each of the tasks left on your list. I brought in a sticky note to fill out what I plan on doing during my big study sessions on Tuesday and Friday. Be sure to be realistic about what you'll be able to accomplish and keep your deadlines in mind.

I add other more time sensitive tasks to other days. I try to do most of my studying on Tuesday and Thursday, but when things get really busy I can't help but have work to do when I get home for the day.

As you add things to your planner, scribble them out on your list. Keep working down your priorities until your whole list is scribbled out. I normally push personal tasks into the weekend when I have lots of free time. 

RELATED: How to Color Code your Bullet Journal

Don't be afraid to write in tasks on the next week or further in the future. For example, I had some things to do for an Art History paper that I ended up waiting until the 10th to do.

Follow Through & Get it Done

Now we've got a game plan for all that stuff you have to do, now it's time to actually do it. I use a bullet journal for my day to day tasks. Just copy everything for that day into your bullet journal or to do list and viola!

RELATED: How To use a Bullet Journal in College

You've got a realistic amount of stuff to accomplish for that day without having to worry about other upcoming deadlines. Now there ain't nothin' to it but to do it.


Doing a brain dump and making a game plan is a great way to stay on top of school without feeling stressed out all the time. Using a planner means you can focus on what needs to be done right now instead of worrying about future deadlines. What other tips do y'all have for staying productive? Comment below!

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  1. teally love this productive tips!thanks it helps me a lot!!