A Guide on How to Catch Up When You Fall Behind

To-do list

It’s the middle of the semester, and if you’re anything like me, you also realize you are falling behind. Despite your very best efforts to stay on top of your to-do list, you’ve fallen a little short of your goals and are faced with 60 action items that require all of your attention for the next week.

I won’t lie to you and tell you that it’s all going to be okay, and you’ll make it out unscathed in the end because you might not. However, that shouldn’t make you feel hopeless or discouraged to put in any effort because you can—and will—persevere through this and get your stuff done. I did it, and I believe you can do it too. So how did I manage to overcome my procrastination?

  • Trying not to stress
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Treating myself

How to Catch Up When You’re Behind in College

Don’t Stress About Being Stressed

Start off by just calming yourself down. I know that everything feels like it’s crashing down on you, but stressing over how stressed you are does nothing for your stress. Trust me, I know. 

So, to the best of your ability, take a deep breath and start to create a game plan. Your first instinct will be to immediately jump into everything all at once in a desperate attempt to propel yourself forward, but that will only burn you out. Instead, take a bit of time to organize your calendar and to-do list. Look at everything you need to get done and prioritize each item depending on when it’s due and what it’s for. This allows you to be more purposeful with what you do and makes what you need to do feel a little less daunting.

When I was in high school, my room would get uncomfortably messy, like disastrous, and every time I would try to clean it would just end in a bigger mess. My dad always advised me to take things out of the room and tackle small chunks at a time to make the process easier, and once I actually listened to his advice, it worked! Same philosophy here. When looking at the mass of stuff in front of you, it just makes you feel more overwhelmed. 

Get Sleep 

If your approach to getting caught up is anything like mine, you’ve already bought a 12-pack of Red Bull and are prepping for multiple all-nighters. While you may get everything done quickly with this method, it’s not healthy and can set you up to get even further behind. 

By not prioritizing sleep and ensuring that you are alert and mentally active, you risk losing out on the most critical part of your work and assignments: retaining the information. School can make you feel pressured to just “get everything done” instead of absorbing the material in front of you, pushing the boundaries of your health and well-being far past what is good for you.

Don’t strain yourself every night trying to stay awake to get things done, and take time to recharge, so you are able to attack the next day at full force.

Say “No” When You Need To

Maybe you fell behind in your classes because of your social life or extracurricular activities. While those are important aspects of life and broadening your horizons, it’s also okay–and often important–to say “no” when you are trying to catch up.

I know FOMO hits hard in college, but at the end of the day, you are getting your degree, and that’s a priority over one party out of hundreds. 

Acknowledge when you don’t have time to take on more, and know that it’s okay to decline plans. Once you’re caught up, you’ll have plenty of time to embrace your social life and, ideally, with a better plan for staying on track.

Treat Yourself at the End

I love to do something nice for myself when I am working endlessly on something, and I finally finish it. Especially when you are catching up on things you’ve fallen behind on, it’s easy to be hard on yourself and feel like you’ve failed. But that’s not the case at all. You’re working on getting things done, and regardless of why or what you’re doing, it’s always nice to have something to look forward to at the end.

Whether you go out with friends, have a movie night in, or buy yourself something fun, taking a little moment to feel good about the work you did can help make you feel better and destress.

You Got This!

The first semester is coming to a close in a few months, and everything probably feels like it’s ramping up in pace and energy. Don’t freak out because you are more than equipped to handle it, and if you need an extra boost, there are plenty of resources you can find on your college campus. Check out your professors’ office hours, tutoring center times, and study groups. These are all great places to reference when you need a little time to catch up.

Falling behind is something everyone goes through, but we know that you can catch up and end the semester on a high note!

Author Bio

Joining the team for a second year, Morgan is a sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School in Downtown Phoenix for ASU Barrett Honor College. She’s a native Arizonian, and taking after her dad, she loves writing and art of all mediums. Morgan is excited to gain new experiences through her second summer as an intern at GradGuard and form new relationships with the GradGuard team.