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- Plan early for midterms. Now, unless you have a time machine (if you do, PLEASE let me share that resource!), this may not be applicable to you at THIS point in the semester, but you can work it in your course preps for next term. To plan effectively, try to stagger the timing or your assignments in your courses (or the types of assignments (essays, multiple-choice exams, projects, presentations) so you don't experience a flood of grading 200 essays in less than a week.
- Approach midterm week with a plan. I schedule the most time-consuming or mentally draining grading first thing each morning of midterm week. Then, my tasks get easier as the day goes on AND I can move more efficiently first thing in the morning, so I am actually working faster with a higher quality response process.
- Beware the time eaters! Emails, tweets, IMs, phone calls and drop-ins can all whittle away at the entire week! If you are not in office hours, don't have your email open or your hand hovering near your phone. Schedule appropriate DAILY time to manage the increased communication from your students. Doing this will allow you to keep on task and not find yourself drawn away on a 20-minute time suck answering a student email. You will answer it effectively and within 24-hours, but it won't derail your grading/writing/research if you schedule it in.
- Of course, this does not mean you become unavailable. You are prioritizing and protecting your time, so stay focused and keep that office door wide open during office hours. Stay on IM during office hours. Have your email in-box ready during office hours. But don't spend an entire day on the small tasks while falling even further behind on the big tasks.
- Bribe yourself! "When I finish my midterm grading, I will _____ (sleep for the entire weekend, wear pajamas and watch my favorite movie, get a nice dinner out with friends, get a weekend in the garden, explore a local museum display, etc.)" I find a little carrot dangling in front of me can often be JUST enough to power through a few more essays or emails and stay on target for the week.
You can muscle through the midterm slump! Stay focused, work diligently, and the balance to this sometimes hectic week WILL come.
See also Tools to Avoid the Midterm Slump from last fall's midterm season.