How to Efficiently Manage Tight Deadlines as a Student

By Kristin Savage

Posted 4 years agoGROWTH

Being a student seems so fun and careless, right? It probably does until you realize that you have a big exam in two days and the closest you came to studying is when you used the book as your pillow for an afternoon nap (been there, done that). That is when that terrifying feeling of panic comes in and starts bothering you more than your mother will if you fail the exam.
12 Mind Hacks on How to be More Productive and Get Things Done in Less Time

You’ve probably asked yourself (at least once) does it really have to be that way? It actually doesn’t because even the worst procrastinators can handle tight deadlines. The only thing you need is some help with your organization and habits.

Being a professional procrastinator and not being able to resist the procrastinating life, I needed to come up with a solution that will help me get through college painlessly. After a long and exhausting researching, trying out numbers methods (I stopped counting at some point), and failing a few exams because of some meaningless pieces of advice, I singled out some ways that truly help.

So, fellow procrastinators, here are a few tips that help me manage tight deadlines.

Be determined

Let me just tell you from the very start that without the power of will you won’t be able to cope with tight deadlines. Every action comes from you and every decision is influenced by you.

Set yourself into this mission to become more organized, efficient, and improve your current results.

For these tips to work, you need to be determined and persistent. If you are hesitant about whether you can do it or do you even want to do it, I have just one piece of advice – try it out, you have nothing to lose.

IMPORTANT: Most people get this one thing wrong. It doesn’t matter the most how much time you put into the task. What matters is how efficiently you use the time you devote to performing a task. It is scientifically proven that just 20% of what we do brings us 80 % of the result. Work smart, not a lot.

Clear your schedule

Any unnecessary plan needs to be crossed off. When dealing with urgent situations such as a tight deadline, there is no mercy.

I know that canceling off your scrabble Mondays is difficult but know that it’s for the greater good.

Clearing off your schedule will put your focus on what’s important and that is getting thought this exam period.

When it all ends you can get back to being a social butterfly but for now, it is time to dedicate all your efforts to studying.

Just to clarify, I don’t mean that you should cut yourself off from the world. You should only stay away from making plans each day for the whole day, partying until 6 am, and engaging in similar shenanigans. 

Make to-do lists

To-do lists put all your obligations into perspective. If you write it all down, you’ll have a better representation of what’s coming up.

It might sound crazy, but to-do lists help me to get motivated because when I don’t see all the tasks written I subconsciously dismiss them, thinking that I have lots of time to deal with them later.

You can make different to-do lists that will organize your time and obligations. For example:

  • General to-do list – Contains all your tasks and shows you what you have to deal with.
  • Weekly to-do list – Spread your obligations across weeks for better time management.
  • Daily to-do list – Set your plans for the upcoming day the night before. In the morning you won’t have to think about what you have to do that day and you can start working on the tasks as soon as you open your eyes.

If you need some recommendations for to-do list apps, here are a few that I find useful:

  • TeuxDeux
  • nTask
  • Todoist
  • Wunderlist

Create reminders

With so much information being thrown at as daily, it is hard to memorize all the plans and tasks. However, the world of technology has blessed us with a magical gift – a reminder.

What you need to do is to set reminders for every test, exam, or project as soon as you hear about it.

Don’t just set the reminder a day before the exam because that won’t do it. What worked wonders for me is to set a reminder on a day that I should start studying. When an exam gets announced, I instantly think about how much time I’ll need to prepare it and set a reminder based on that.

Feel free to write any important notes about the exam in your reminder.

I also set a reminder the day before the exam so that I don’t forget the exact time.

This takes some pressure off because you don’t need to think about what you need to work on at which point. You’ll have a personal assistant in the form of your phone.


Having multiple exams at the same time tends to be overwhelming. The worst part for me is not knowing where to start. Actually, that was the worst part, until I learned about prioritizing.

Whenever I find myself worried about having more exams in a tight deadline, I just start prioritizing.

Ask yourself: Which exam is more important? Which exam demands the most time?

For example, if I have two exams in a very close deadline, I’ll think about which one is the hardest, work on that one first, and then work on the other one.

Remember that it is best to first take care of the hardest one because after that everything else will feel like a piece of cake.

Organize your study time

The organization is the mother of success. Consequently, you need to have a clear plan for your study time.

This is important because overwhelming yourself with studying isn’t what you should aim for.

Set clear units of time for studying, relaxing, and sleeping. All of these aspects are important for effective learning.

If you need some help with time management, tools such as RescueTime can help you keep track of how much time you spend on each activity. It can even send you reminders if you spend too much time on a specific task.

Your study time also needs to be organized and segmented into smaller units. You’ve probably already heard of the world-famous Pomodoro technique that advocates splitting your study time. In that way, you’ll have a better focus.

The way this technique works is that you should set a timer for 25 minutes which you should spend studying. After that, take a short break (5-10 minutes). After you finish with your forth 25-minute study section, take a longer break (20-30 minutes).

This will help keep your brain energized and fresh so that you can memorize better and faster.

Step away from the social media

Social media has crawled in into our lives and now we aren’t even aware of how much time we are wasting on it. I used to spend so much time on social media that at one point I just stopped and asked myself what would happen if I spend all that time studying?

As it turns out, replacing social media time with study time gives you some great results.

Don’t worry, you don’t have shut down all your social media accounts (we won’t go to extremes). Just try to minimize the time you spend on it.

The most important part is to not to use your phone during studying. It will completely mess up your concentration. So, turn the phone off or turn off the mobile data and Wi-Fi.

Another alternative is to use an app that will help you unplug. For example, Offtime blocks any distractions such as social media, messages, or games for the time you set.

If you need motivation for this part just think about it like this – instead of spending time watching how other people live their life, spend that time working on improving your own life and ensuring yourself an accomplished future.

Take care of yourself

All work and no play will ultimately lead you to a breaking point. And we don’t want that.

No matter how tight your schedule is and how many obligations, exams, and tasks you have, you need to take care of your mind and body.

Having a healthy body and mind improves your focus and memory and you need both to successfully pass your exams.

The number one rule for a body and mind harmony is that you need to get enough sleep. You don’t need 10 hours of sleep, believe me, but you do need 6-8. When you are tired, or even worst, chronically exhausted your memory will be so poor that you’ll need much more time to memorize the lectures.

Make sure that you plan out at least 6 hours of sleep each day.

In order to get a good night’s sleep you also need to relax. Physical activities can help you with that. You don’t need to do anything extreme, just do some stretching or go for a run or a walk.

What helps me is going for walks whenever I make a break and before I go to sleep. Breathing some fresh air and moving your body can completely relax you.

Also, there is something crucial that you need to remember – taking a physical break but still obsessing in your mind about the exams won’t be of any help.

When you are not studying, stop thinking about it. What took me so much time to realize is that obsessing with things won’t get you anywhere, only actions will.

So, use your free time to fully relax and energize your mind. Listen to music, chat with your friends, or read a book. Do whatever will make you happy.

Ask for help

If you are really stuck and no organization tip in the world can get you out of that mess, it is time to pull out the joker card – backup.

Don’t hesitate to ask your friends or fellow students to help you out. You can spend all the time you want on a specific project, but if you don’t understand it, you’ll only be wasting your time.

Create a study group if you think that having others helps you to memorize the lessons faster. Sometimes discussing the material and questioning each other works better than burying your head in the book.

You can even reach out to your professor to clarify any doubts you have. As much as you hate asking for help, know that every minute you have is precious and you don’t want to waste it by leading your project in the wrong direction.

Have patience

Success doesn’t come overnight they say, and I have to notice that they are right. Throughout this whole process, know that you need to have patience and approach each task with dedication.

What I mean is that creating hundred to-do lists, shutting yourself out from your friends and family, erasing all social media accounts, and start going to the gym each day even though the closest you’ve come to exercising is lifting a pen, won’t have the desired effect.

Absorb all this information and slowly start implementing each piece of advice into your everyday life.

It will be hard at first – I know – but trust me that once you get the hang of it, you won’t be able to remember how your life looked like before.

About the author Kristin Savage

Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at GrabMyEssay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.