ACPR

hell

My Hell Week/Major Project Week Experience

Hell week is infamous for those familiar with the Algonquin College public relations program. For those who aren’t, let me give you an overview:

  • Instead of having traditional exams during exam week, the second-year class is split into groups of four or five (assigned by the program coordinator), and they must respond to a request for proposal. Each team must put together a response (an entire campaign, or a large communications plan) and pitch their idea(s) to the client. The response includes elements such as corporate social responsibility, publicity, advertising, and social media, to name a few. Projects typically range from 60 to 100 pages.

This may not sound too bad, but let me tell you about past hell weeks. Hell week (which is being renamed major project week) got this name from students stressing out, crying, hating their groups, and having a week from hell. At one point, they only had five days to do it. It isn’t that bad anymore (we had eight days), and this is why it is now called major project week.

It was a long week, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. My group received an A and we didn’t shed any tears, kill each other, or pull any all nighters. Here are my tips for a smooth major project week, which are applicable to any team project:

  • Recognize your team’s strengths and weaknesses. I knew my strength in this team was writing and editing, so I played to that. Others enjoyed the creative aspect of making advertisements, or were idea people. It sounds like common sense, but don’t assign someone a task he or she is bad at.
  • Manage your time. Our longest day was 12 hours (9 a.m. – 9 p.m.), but I know of other groups who were pulling 16 hour days and all nighters. Working yourself too hard for too long will only burn you out, make you unproductive, and will guarantee you make mistakes. How can you edit for details when you can’t focus because you’ve been up all night?
  • Try to get along. I think I was fortunate members of my team didn’t have any prior issues with each other, but try to be respectful and get along. We had some tension early on in the brainstorming process when we were hashing out ideas, but that was about it. We’re all adults here, and no good comes from being rude and angry.
  • Don’t get attached to ideas. This can be difficult for anyone, but particularly difficult for some people who get emotionally attached to their ideas. Not everyone in your team may like your ideas, or your original idea may be shaped into something new (and hopefully better).
  • Ask questions.  We were allowed to email our coordinator some questions (which he would share with the class via email), but don’t forget to seek feedback on things from your team members. A couple days into the week, my group was printing off parts and passing them around for feedback. You have different personalities and perspectives for a reason – use them to your advantage!
  • Take a break. We’re not machines, and we need to take breaks (mentally and physically) once in a while. Talk a walk or get something to eat. I particularly enjoyed when my group would break at 6 or 7 p.m. and go to the Observatory (a campus restaurant/bar/hangout) for dinner. We would meet up with other classmates, have a laugh, and get back to work.

Major project week was a good experience, and I’m proud of my team. We worked well together and did a great job. It was also nice to work with people I never worked with during the rest of the school year. If you’re an ACPR student reading this, you’ll be fine, and feel free to contact me with any questions. For everyone else, please leave your comments and suggestions for team projects below!

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Exams Are Coming: Are You Ready?

My official exam week starts in eight days, but I actually have exams this week. In the Algonquin College public relations program, exam week is notoriously known as “Hell Week,” where students are assigned to teams and have a week to complete a campaign. I’ve had graduates tell me stories of people crying and fighting, and others tell me not to worry and manage your time well.

I’m not going to worry and manage my time well. I am pretty calm and level-headed, but if you aren’t, you may be feeling a lot of anxiety this time of year. Here are some tips to stay cool as a cucumber:

1. Stay organized. This may seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t bother to write due dates or exams in a calendar. You need to have a plan! I use a Macbook, so I schedule everything (exams, major assignments, group meetings, work, networking events, bill due dates, etc.) in iCal, and also have a list of homework and exams in my reminders section to the right. This way, I can see everything by date and can plan when to work on things accordingly.

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2. Relax and focus. This is a lot easier to do if you are organized, but you really need to relax. Take a deep breath and have a cup of tea, take a quick nap, or hit the gym. People who are always stressing and panicking stay in an endless cycle: they stress out about how much work they have to do, complain to other people about how stressed they are, stress these other people out, and stress themselves out even more.

Try to relax, focus, and just sit down and get the work done. If you’re organized and have lists of what’s due, start with the most important things first. You won’t get anywhere if you’re running in circles like a chicken with its head cut off.

3. Don’t procrastinate. So you’ve made a calendar and schedule, have relaxed, and are sitting down to focus on your work – but it’s due at 8 a.m. the next morning. Don’t leave things until the last minute! This will only stress you out (as discussed above). Some people say they work better under pressure, but if you’re rushing to get things done you will make careless errors, not have time to properly proofread your work (or have someone else look at it for you), and not have time to ask for help. I like to finish assignments early so I can come back with fresh eyes the next day.

When it comes to exams, it’s easier to study for 30 minutes a night than for seven hours the day before. You will also remember the material better this way. When you’re out of time and stressing out, you’re not going to retain information or perform as well for the exam. The best exam tip I can give comes months before the exam – pay attention and be active in class. I don’t speak out a lot in class, but I pay attention, listen, and think. If you’re engaged in what you’re learning, you will retain it and not have to study as hard later.

These are things that help me be successful during exam time, but I would love to hear your tips and tricks. Personally, my method comes down to self discipline and good time management skills. I make a plan, start things early, and force myself to sit down and get things done. These are skills that will also benefit you in your career once exams are behind you.