Opinions, Column

Ending Burnout: The Power of the Two-Week Plan

Picture this: you spend your whole week leading up to this moment, the one where you finally have a homework-free weekend. Everything sounds good, in theory. I mean, you finished all your weekly quizzes, submitted that one terrible essay a few minutes before midnight, and now find yourself anticipating an amazing Saturdaythe one where you are free from the week’s burdens and everything it encompasses. Now, waking up that Saturday morning and realizing you can spend it doing whatever you want. You feel absolute happiness. This, however, could not be further from the truth. 

Those readings you put aside to complete all your other assignments begin to pile up—turning from an hour’s worth of work into at least three. That headache you thought you could avoid suddenly catches up with you. And those exams for next week feel utterly daunting, already mocking you days ahead of schedule. Past, present, and future are all greeting you at once. 

Suddenly, that peaceful Saturday is gone. Vanished into thin air. All your hard work has turned into nothing but a mirage of a promised Saturday and a homework-free weekend. And for what? A few A’s or B’s (if we’re being optimistic)?

You can’t help but ask yourself, “How did this happen? How did this weekend take an absolute turn for the worst?”

You’ll go through each day, retracing your steps, realizing that you did everything right: you turned in your assignments on time, spent (relatively) enough time studying for that test, and checked off all the boxes on your list. And yet, you still find yourself drowning in homework. Suddenly, burnout looms on the horizon and you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. That show you have been trying to watch for weeks is now impossible to find the time for.  That trip to Boston you planned with your friends has to take the backseat as well. This time is now spent wallowing about homework and feeling as though everything positive has turned into a negative—that the task of school work is never ending and there is no escape unless you stop caring about your grades altogether.

Now, this is where the importance of two-week planning comes in. This might sound extreme, and that’s because it is. In my experience, however, it also is the key to happiness in college—the solution to that impending burnout everyone dreads. It takes something extreme like this to give you much needed balance in your life. 

The key to two-week planning is simple enough. As implied, it starts off by figuring out what upcoming assignments, quizzes, essays, etc. you have assigned in the next two weeks. From there, you can break it up into smaller pieces that can be completed in less than an hour or so. This can range anywhere from writing a paragraph here to creating notecards for a chapter there. Again, anything that can be completed in a shorter amount of time rather than doing it all at once. Then, it becomes a matter of planning—very detailed and strategic time management, as though your whole life has been leading up to this moment.

It means taking out your planner, pulling up your Google Calendar, or clicking on your Notion page and reconfiguring your next 14 days. In addition to the basic deadlines—think the theology paper due Tuesday or the Spanish exam on Friday—you should add smaller tasks to your to-do list as well. This could mean planning to write a single paragraph or memorizing a specific section of Spanish vocabulary every day leading up to your deadlines. The point for this meticulous work is to break up those huge goals into smaller, more manageable ones that can be easily distributed across your day. It’s about holding yourself accountable for completing two to three things that day (or four if necessary), as long as each task doesn’t exceed an hour at a time. 

This kind of two-week planning allows you to avoid both procrastination and that impending burnout from school. It paves the way toward a guilt-free Saturday, and although it is not completely homework-less, it allows you to not feel overwhelmed to the point where the weekend becomes another school day. If planned out just so, it allows you to have free time at the end of the day when checking off your two-week structured to-do’s, knowing that you have done everything you could to set yourself up for that week and the next. 

Instead of waking up that Saturday morning and being greeted by the stress of the past, present, and future, you may now be welcomed by those smaller to-do’s of finding quotes or writing your concluding paragraph and calling it a day. So go forth and wake up guilt-free on your Saturday. Enjoy that Netflix series or go to Boston with friends—just make sure you check off at least a few things from your two-week plan.

November 1, 2022