It’s an all too familiar feeling: you wake up one day, and suddenly realise that you’re horrendously behind – internals piling up, a crazy long to-do list, no clue what’s going on in class, with three tests next week. Whatever the reason, whether it was because of procrastination, being busy, sick days, ‘sick days’, or just zoning out period 5 last week, you are now drowning in work. Here’s a quick guide on how to salvage the situation (and your sanity).


Prioritisation is an amazing tool for when you’re behind and it will save your life.You need to make a list of every single thing you need to do, big or small. Now prioritise. To do this, ask yourself some questions. What do I absolutely have to get done right now? What can I afford to put off for a day or two? How much does it matter if I do this? Can I delegate this to someone else? Is it absolutely necessary to do at all? The important thing is cutting your losses. A crucial final step: work down your new priority list in order! It can be so tempting to get something else done because it’ll be easier, and you still feel productive because you’re doing something, but you need to get the most important thing done first.

Work backwards 

One of the worst feelings is sitting in class, with absolutely no idea what’s going on or how to do the questions on the board. It’s so easy to fall behind on the content, but once you’re behind you just keep slipping further as the class keeps learning . To make sure this doesn’t happen, as soon as you find yourself behind make it your priority to understand what’s going on in class right now, instead of trying to start from the beginning and hoping you’ll catch up from there. Say the class is up to chapter 7, but you’re still at chapter 4. Skip ahead and try and get a grasp on chapter 7, so you can keep learning in class and don’t fall behind further. Once you have more time you can go back and fill in the gaps you missed.

Cover the basics 

It’s better to know a little about a lot, than a lot about a little. At the end of the day, it’s far better to have a base level of understanding about everything than to know just one topic in lots of detail. To do this, you need to identify what ‘the basics’ actually are. If your teacher has given you a topic outline or SLO’s, they’re a great place to start.  There are heaps of really good summary sheets, study guides, and videos online too. The key thing is to cover only the basics then move on. 

Work smart, not hard

8 hour marathon study/work sessions aren’t going to help at this point. It’s important to work smarter, not harder. This means figuring out the best way that you learn and get things done. It’s different for everyone, but it’ll make everything so much easier. Try changing up your study technique, working in different locations, or doing things in a different order.

Ask for help

Recognise that you don’t have to struggle alone. There’s plenty of people who are willing and able to help. You could reach out to friends, parents, teachers, counsellors, forums, or online chat lines like Youthline. They’ll be able to teach you things, help with homework, or just provide emotional support and a place to vent if that’s what you need.

Get some sleep

While it’s tempting to pull an all nighter to get as much done as possible, sometimes the best thing you can do is to call it a night. At a certain point, being overtired and frazzled will just make everything worse Remember, your wellbeing comes first!

Kate is a Year 12 student from Canterbury. She enjoys music, languages, sunny days, and a good book.


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