November 1. This is it—the beginning of the end. I have six months to complete the requirements for my degree, and I’ve just started my very last course. Within six months, I’ll submit the final assignment.
Breaking the plastic wrap on the final bundle of textbooks, printing out the final study schedule, staring at the final six months—it prompts a moment of reflection. Alas, a moment is all I can spare. This course joins three already in progress. The Big Push is on!
It reminds me of the time I set out on a 40-kilometre hike. At that time, I had never hiked more than 25 kilometres. Consequently I had no idea if 40 would prove to be beyond my limit. But my ride dropped me off at kilometre zero and my car was parked at the 40-kilometre mark. I just knew that I had to go the distance, no matter what. And I did.
University studies can feel just as arduous and insurmountable as a long-distance hike. I’ve never done four courses at a time before. I’ve seldom tackled more than two courses simultaneously and I’ve only been juggling three since earlier this year. Can I do four? Just like that hike, it doesn’t matter if I believe I can or not—I must! If I want to attend AU’s Convocation 2018, I need to be finished my courses by April.
I spent months preparing and psyching myself up for the 40-kilometre hike. I’ve done the same with my courses. I’ve planned for a year for this big push. I gradually withdrew from most of my volunteer activities and scaled back on social obligations. I’ve told everyone I know that I’m unavailable for most activities until April.
Most importantly, I’ve prepared myself. When I started taking three courses at a time earlier this year, I had to fine-tune my study habits. After five years of taking courses at AU I’ve discovered what puts wind in my sails and what drags my anchor. I’m organizing my time better, setting aside regular hours for coursework. If I think of some unrelated task, I write it on a to-do list for non-studying time. I use a digital timer to keep me going when I’m flagging, and I log off of social media accounts—most of the time—to minimize interruptions. My husband—bless him—prepares supper on study days and helps keep distractions from intruding into my time.
One positive aspect of working on multiple courses is the ability to switch between them. If my focus flags on one course, I put it aside and work on another. I break down textbook readings into digestible chunks, which I consume at multiple sittings over the course of the day. I can even take a day or two off from one course to focus on another. I set daily and weekly goals for each course to keep me on track overall.
With four courses on the go, there’s no time to reflect on what it’s taken to get here, nor on where life will lead me after I’m done. There will be time for that later. Right now, my concerns have more immediacy.
Have I fine-tuned enough to get me through these final six months? Can I really do four courses at a time? At this point it doesn’t matter and there’s no time to worry about it. I’m just busy doing it.