messy student desk with laptop and half drank hot chocolate

Becoming the boss of your to-do list

Now that we are a few weeks into the trimester, you might have already started to feel the heat from incoming deadlines. It goes without saying, “when it rains, it pours.”

This sometimes resonates with student life when you have a quiz due the same week as a major assessment, and also having to begin revision for an upcoming exam… not to mention sporting, social, and work-related priorities.

I rely on my trusty to-do list when I find myself having to remember a heap of tasks that need to get done. I find writing every task down clears my headspace so I can focus on the moment at hand. Otherwise, I’m much of a frizzled mess come major deadlines, et cetera.

Just recently I sat down and made a to-do list for my upcoming assessments and work priorities… assessment here, blog to write there, training to do here, event to attend there – Gargh! The more tasks I needed to do the more I began to feel a tightness in my chest. How and when I am going to get everything done?! So, I asked myself, “how does one manage a never-ending to-do list?”

Quality over quantity

Accept you are not going to get everything done on your to-do list. If you’re like me and find yourself spending more time worrying about all the tasks you need to get done than actually doing them, you’re going zap up all of your energy. Once you accept that you won’t get it all immediately done, then you can start to set yourself more realistic goals.

If you love tech two of our favorite organisation apps are Trello and Asana, infact if you ask my manager – she lives by these.  Lots of design teams manage their workload in a kanban style – kanban boards use cards, columns, and continuous improvement to teams commit to an achievable whilst being transparent to their team mates, but it works really well for one person too – simply put you have a pile for backlog, work in progress, ready to go, done.

Be specific in your tasks

Sometimes you might quickly jot down something you need to do, and then later come back confused as to what you meant by, “finish the assignment.” It’s definitely a task, but it is too vague. What steps do you need to complete before you can truly finish the assignment? This might include another little to-do list, such as;

  • write up a reference list
  • edit and format document
  • before the all-important
  • press submit

Prioritise your list

Set yourself three to five tasks you want to get done – the key is achievable goals. Instead of aiming to do 15 in a single study session or day, try to focus on your top three most important tasks. You’ll find yourself feeling like it’s a lot easier to schedule and accomplish them. Most often than not you’ll end up with extra time to work on another one or two tasks.

To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be SMART;

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable)
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

Schedule when you will do it

Once you know which tasks you need to get done, creating a schedule is pretty important in making sure you have the time to do them! Once I’ve chosen which three tasks I need to complete, I’ll estimate the time it might take me to do them and then use that as minI deadlines. So, on a study day, I might block out the morning to watch the most recent lecture, then block out two hours to work through the study guide, and then another two hours to work on my assessment. This really helps to break it all up and make sure I zone in on the task at hand instead of trying to multitask all three of them!

Know when to have a break

To be the best version of yourself, you need to take time to focus on activities that also spark joy and inspiration. “The key to managing stress is to not strive for the impossible goal of trying to complete everything that is making you stressed.”

The brain needs time and space to think. Incorporating breaks into your day can improve productivity, focus, stress management, and problem solving. All of which are important factors to completing your study!

Being able to manage your study/life balance is a tool that you will find yourself using all throughout life. Finding your groove when it comes to staying on top of your work is not always easy, and we are here to help.


If what you are feeling has been impacting your well-being and you need someone to speak to
support is never far for our staff and students at UNE.

The team at Advocacy and Welfare offers confidential support to students! You can contact them here.
Student Success also has confidential counselling for students, you can find them here.