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Master dead week this year

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DECEMBER 08, 2014

Here’s the deal.

In about five and a half months, I am hitting the road. My long and lovely undergraduate career will come to a close, and I will make my way into the great wide yonder with a spring in my step, a smile on my face and a humanities degree of dubious practicality to my name. I have learned much in my years here and gained confidence in many fields. But there is only one area in which I can absolutely say that I have gained true mastery: dead week efficiency.

I am always productive during dead week. I am notoriously productive during dead week. Twice a year, every year, dead week and I meet for an arm-wrestling match, and I come out the victor. On the cool spectrum, statements such as these probably fall dangerously close to the wool-socks-plus-Tevas end of things, but it is just the truth. I historically use dead week to my favor. And because in less than half a year, that specific skill set will never, ever be useful to me again, it is time that I do my part for future generations. It is time that I pass on the baton of my knowledge to you, the next leg of this grand, academic 4-by-400-meter relay we call college. What you do with that baton is up to you, but I sincerely hope that you hit the ground running.

OK, no more track metaphors. Time to get down to business.

Dead week is a slippery thing. At first, it is a beautiful expanse of time. Just imagine what could be done in a whole week! A trip to Tahoe! A senior thesis! A stint in the circus! But then, in the blink of an eye, dead week is over, no apparent studying has been done, and the freak-out begins.

But there is an antidote, my friends. It is quite simple, really, but somehow still elusive. After years of trauma and toil, I have discovered the secret to making the most of dead week — and it is to actually use dead week. Calmly assess how much work needs to be done, and then, for about six hours each day during that week of glorious freedom, actually do that work.

It sounds terrible. Terribly boring, at least. And it kind of is. After about four hours in the library, my eyeballs start to feel like they are going to shrivel up and fall right out of my face. Because that would be a terrible thing to behold for everyone involved, I usually go exercise or get some food before that happens (two other good things to remember during dead week: eat and work out, in order to keep your body from acquiring the resting levels of a seasonal yam). But in general, if you want the payoff, you have to put in the time. No pain, no gain. Hard work beats talent when talent hardly works. Love thy neighbor. Etc.

Write down everything you have to do. Make a list. Make an outline. Make a flowchart. Make an acrostic poem, or whatever helps you organize your thoughts and gets all your tasks in one place. And then calmly, gracefully, beautifully, start checking things off that list.

I’m not telling you to have no fun. In fact, having fun is an essential component to making the most of dead week and combating the effects of freak-out syndrome. Go out to lunch or dinner with friends. Go to parties at night. Take a day trip to Napa, if you so desire. But in the back of your mind, know how much you have done and how much you need to get done. Then find your way back to the library or cafe, tell Facebook “sayonara” for a little while and take care of business.

And we must be wary of every extreme. Dead week can’t be completely blown off, but it can’t be strangled to death either. One of the most essential ways to have a successful dead week is to remember to continue acting in the manner of a sane human. I think finals are just as stressful as the next girl does. But when I see people sleeping in the Free Speech Movement Cafe, laid out flat on the booths in their pajamas, I think, “Why?” Surely that can’t be productive. Surely that can’t be using dead week to its fullest. Surely we can all be successful individuals while maintaining balance and health in our lives without resorting to snoring next to someone who is trying to eat a turkey panini in peace.

This time is precious, and it is yours for the taking. Make the most of it, and eternal glory will be within your reach. Schedule your time efficiently. Eat regular meals. Maintain a consistent sleep cycle. Only watch two Netflix episodes per day. Believe in yourself. Believe in love. Believe in the power of dead week.

And guess what? You’ll have a whole dead month afterward just for recovery anyway. So let’s get cooking.


Contact Erica Hendry at 


DECEMBER 08, 2014

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