Written by Courtney Grams

[5-minute read] We know the end of the semester can be hectic for faculty. Psychology Today says that “Productivity results from a mix of factors: motivation, talent, training, work environment, support from others, time management, and even luck.” The following tips will help you shed your end-of-semester procrastination and fast track your way to intersession (without losing your sanity!).

1. Brain Dump with Morning/Evening Pages

As we get busier and busier toward the end of the semester the amount of thoughts swirling around in our heads intensifies. According to the British Psychology Society, “Insight-based problem-solving requires a broad, unfocused approach. You’re more likely to achieve that Aha! revelatory moment when your inhibitory brain processes are at their weakest and your thoughts are meandering.” That’s why we suggest trying morning or evening pages. Take 10 minutes each day to “brain dump” with this technique.

2. Schedule Your Work

With any project, it’s important that you plan ahead in order to be successful. According to time blocking expert, Kevin Kruse, “to-do lists contribute to stress. In what’s known in psychology as the Zeigarnik effect, unfinished tasks contribute to intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts.” Take 15 minutes to define what grading needs to get done & block time to accomplish your grading by the deadline. It’s best to chunk projects into smaller tasks so that they feel more achievable!

3. Keep Moving

When you’ve been stuck at your desk for an extended period of time, you start to feel it. The New York Times says that “Standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday could lift your mood, combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention, and even dull hunger pangs, according to an instructive new study.” We tell our students that breaks are important during studying, and periods of intense grading are no different. Try a dance break with our carefully crafted playlist, or take a walk!

4. Declutter Your Space

It’s the end of the year and things are piling onto your schedule and onto your workspace. Take a quick ten minutes to conquer that mountain of clutter to create your own mini-sanctuary. According to Livestrong.com, “Clutter can have a detrimental effect on your mental and physical health. In fact, some psychologists are starting to recognize that having a clean, organized home [or workspace!] is an essential part of the wellness equation.”

5. Take a Cute Baby Animal Break

“According to research by Hiroshima University, looking at cute animal photos can increase fine motor coordination and attention to detail,” something that is very important for grading. We’re suggesting that you do just that: look at cute baby animal photos. Prepare to have warm & fuzzy feelings (and enhanced attention to detail)!

6. Pomodoro Your Work Time


Hit “do not disturb” with this interval focusing technique. “The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the early 90s by developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo named the system ‘Pomodoro’ after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student.”

7. Relieve Stress with Coloring

Coloring is just as cool now as it was when you were a kid. This “once-niche hobby has now grown into a full-on trend, with everyone from researchers at Johns Hopkins University to the editors of Yoga Journal suggesting coloring as an alternative to meditation.” Our favorite coloring templates include Fa la la llamaHappy Little Snowman, and Uni-Kitty.

8. Employ Auditory Neuroscience

Several folks in our office have been raving about the positive impact Brain.fm has had on their ability to focus at work. This online, scientific music radio offers playlists to help you focus, meditate, relax, and sleep. From their white paper: “Brain.fm is a patented music software as a service technology that capitalizes on the latest in auditory neuroscience concepts coupled to empirical developments to generate music from the ground up that helps trigger specific cognitive states.”

9. Meditate

When stressed, whether it’s anxiety, depression, or worry, one of the things people notice is that their attention begins to dissipate. When attention gets hijacked, focusing on the task at hand becomes difficult and the ability to concentrate vanishes. Mindfulness has been proven to increase attention, creativity, and help with emotional regulation. Try this five minute guided meditation to focus your awareness on the present moment.

>>> You can use this in the classroom, too! Learn more about how to incorporate a mindful practice in your classroom by visiting “When Mindfulness Meets the Classroom” Blog by Chelsea Biggerstaff (TLED Faculty Development Coordinator).

What’s your favorite way to “stay sane”? Share in the comments below!