Just before exam season, students face one of the most stressful parts of the semester; however, I have a secret on how to have a stress-free stressful period. Yes, you heard me right; there’s a secret on how to make the most stressful time of the semester stress-free. But it’s still stressful! Ironic, isn’t it? Here is my secret:

Look at the Assignments on Canvas:

Seems straightforward, doesn’t it? Canvas is the Google Classroom of the University of Auckland where you submit assignments, find readings and lecture recordings. There’s much more to that. Canvas pages typically get released at least a week before the semester begins. What I do, is I look at the syllabus, reading list and most importantly, the assignments. Through this, I can look at what the big research assignment will be, so I read the essay questions or what is being asked for the research assignment, so when I do the readings, I can make connections. So when I read and sit in the lectures, I can make connections to each essay question or if I need to do a reflexive essay, I can make connections of the content to my life.

Proper Reading:

When I do my reading, I DO MY READING. I have a table that gets EVERYTHING ready for me. It has everything required for all assignments. Whenever I start a new reading, I make a copy of an existing document with my format, rename it for the applicable reading and then put it into that specific course folder where I have subfolders (week 1, week 2, etc.). Once the admin is done, I fill it out and read! I am going to put in a mini format below:

Reading Title


APA7 Reference

APA In-Text Citation Notes Page Extra comments
Blah blah blah 123
Blah blah blah
Blah blah blah Connected to Butler’s theory of performance.
Blah blah blah 130
Blah blah blah 132


This table allows me to prepare for the essays with all the details I need for notes and the reference list at the end.

Utilise my Body Clock:

I grew up as an actor, so I get most of my energy while working in the evening. Doing it for more than 10 years has made my body adjust to working from the afternoon through to late evening and early hours of the morning (this is also why I hate morning classes). 

Through experience working as an entertainer and my current job, I know that I am most productive from 11am until 2am the following day. This is the time I can get the most work done, and I can pump words out onto my documents in this time. If I try doing it from 9am, I’m not going to get much done. If my classes start before 11am, I’m not going to be as focused as I could, and I am going to be tired.

My mum has been to multiple universities. She told me that the last time she was in uni, she was most productive from 9pm until the early morning hours when everyone was asleep.

My suggestion is to find out when you are most productive so that you aren’t going to be stressed out and try to write when your brain isn’t functioning properly. I tried this in my first semester, the first lockdown, it didn’t turn out too well.

Set Mini Deadlines:

This is a strategy that is going to save your life. Short-term stress to make the stress in the long-term minimal. For example, I would have the strategy section of my research portfolio written two weeks before the assignment deadline. It motivates me to get things done and gives me my rush to get some words down onto the document.

Now you know how to survive the stressful patch in the semester! It won’t be like you’re being thrown into the deep end. Uni is already a test, you just need to find a way to make the test manageable.