Organisation Printable Students University

How to Avoid Falling Behind at University

August 23, 2016

Whether you are a new or an experienced student, falling behind in your classes can be a serious danger to your academic success. Studying can be overwhelming for anybody and a build-up of work can increase your stress levels. Playing catch up is, however, a common occurrence for students. Even with the best intentions to stay up to date there are always things that can push you off track. We can fall behind due to unexpected events, like illness, but sometimes we just get lazy or lose our motivation. Luckily, there are things that you can do as a student to avoid falling behind.

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What can falling behind do?

Stress! Falling behind causes stress and believe me that is the one thing you always want to avoid as a student. Unnecessary stress is your worst enemy. When you get behind in a class, the work you need to do starts to build up. Maybe you miss a class and tell yourself that you’ll catch up by the next week. If you don’t catch up, you don’t go to the next class because you’re a week behind, and now you are two weeks behind! It creates a snowball effect. You end up with a mountain of work that seems incredibly daunting to climb.

Ever heard of stress procrastination? This occurs when you are so stressed about the work you need to do that you can’t start anything. You end up procrastinating because you don’t know where to start and the stress continues. It’s a really demotivating feeling, and I know what it’s like. I was often overwhelmed by the amount of work I had to catch up on during my first semester at university. I hated the feeling. So, I’m going to share with you some techniques that I use to avoid falling behind during the semester.

Aim to complete things ASAP!

It seems like some pretty obvious advice. Do your work! Despite this, many students think “I’ve got 4 days before this is due” and put it off until the end of the week. Be careful, this can be your undoing. By planning to complete things later than you have to, you run the risk of interruptions and delays. Aim to do homework or simple tasks on the day that they are given to you. It gets completed (one less thing to do) and out of your mind (so less likely you’ll forget later).

Often, it’s the small things that students to put off. Completing an online quiz, a 100 word summary or a recorded lecture can be done in one night. Yet, these things get pushed to the back of the list. Procrastinating or skipping non-assessable content (such as listening to the week’s lectures) is quite common.

By completing your work as soon as you have the time, it creates a good study habit. It also means you a prepared for any unexpected events. Your studies won’t suffer  if you go out with friends because you know you won’t have any work to catch up on.  By staying up to date on everything in the class, you make it easy to avoid falling behind.

Engage with your class

Don’t skip! I know it’s oh so tempting to skip a class every now and then. You might have convinced yourself that you can study the content by yourself, or maybe you wanted to study for another test.

If you can get to the class, go to the class. It’s very easy to skip one class and make it habit for the semester. Falling behind on classwork can get drastically more difficult if you also have to catch up on going to the actual class.

Keep yourself engaged in the class. Make some friends and get to know people that will expect you to show up. Adding extra expectation on yourself to show up means you’ll be less likely to skip class. Asking questions and contributing to class discussion also makes it easier to catch up. You’ll get to know the teacher, and this means that if you do have to miss the class (perhaps due to illness) it’s easy to send an email, or ask them what you missed.

What if you can’t get there?

Sometimes, no matter how organised you are or how much you want to go a class, you can have clashes in your timetable. I’ve been there. One semester I had to miss all 3 hours of my physics lectures because I had a language class at the same time. Fortunately, I could listen and learn the class content because my lectures were recorded.  It is important that you aren’t falling behind on lectures because, as I’ve said before, they can be really daunting to catch up on. Too often I’ve heard students say “I have 16 hours worth of lectures to do before tomorrow’s test!” and let’s face it, it’s not possible. Nobody listens to 16 hours worth of lectures in one night instead of studying for the test.

Make sure you stay on top of the classes that you do miss. It’s very easy to start falling behind once you’ve missed one, so use the “same day” approach. If you miss a lecture on Monday and are free on Monday night, aim to catch up on Monday night. If you find yourself losing track of what you need to do make a list.

Make a list to keep from falling behind

Which brings me to my next step: make a list. I’m sorry if I’m bring up lists again, but I just really love them, okay! Let me tell you right now, lists make everything better.

My go to is to make a list of everything I have to do for the week to make sure I stay up to date. This includes little weekly tasks such as homework exercises, or readings I need to complete as well as any assignments that I want to work on or have due. Throughout the week I check off each item and make sure everything gets done.

Keeping this list somewhere that you see everyday such as above your desk or next to your computer is a great way to remind yourself to complete something. In fact, it kind of guilts you into doing work. If you are scrolling through your Facebook feed and keep seeing a list of schoolwork to do, it basically prompts you to do something so that you don’t feel so bad.

Today, I have a free printable weekly list for you (in pink and blue). Download it below! This is the weekly checklist that I made for myself and am currently using to make sure I stay on top of everything. So, create a good weekly to do list, stay up to date, and don’t get hit in the face with that stress procrastination snowball!

Got some more tips? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

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  • I’m a big fan of to-do lists, so this printable seem perfect for me! It also looks super cute (I looooove the pink one!), so it’s even better! To-do lists motivate me to get stuff done, because is there a better feeling that crossing something off your list? Great post!
    Amelie recently posted…The Ultimate Guide to Getting A’s in CollegeMy Profile

    • Thanks Amelie!
      I made this list because I couldn’t find anything like it, and I wanted to put the week on one page. So thought I’d share.:)
      Also, yes! Crossing things off makes me feel so much more productive. Haha! So happy you like the post.

  • I’m always making 10,000 to-do lists. It’s organized chaos. My schedule is crazy busy this semester so I’m very afraid of falling behind, but reading this made me feel more confident! Thank you!

    • Crazy busy can be so overwhelming!
      I know sometimes I have 3 or 4 things do in on one day, so I need my lists to keep track of everything.
      Glad I could help!

  • Sonia

    Working by lists is how I function! I’m too quick to forget the little tasks that need to be done and often find myself completing them in a stress filled panic the night before when I’ve realised I forgot them. Lists are the best way to keep track, I like your thinking 😉