Me and The Syllabi Syndrome (too much too fast)

The Syllabi Syndrome is the overwhelming experience of being presented all your work in a short period of time. Maybe like me you experienced this in college. It’s the first week of classes and each professor provides you their class’s syllabus. But you take more than one class. So, over your first two days of classes, you have 5-6 syllabi (I learned the plural of syllabus is syllabi in college).

Bolded deadline dates from your five classes looks intimidating.  That overwhelmed feeling is Syllabi Syndrome. When experiencing said syndrome it doesn’t matter that all the work is not to be completed in a week but over a four-month period. Or you’ll learn to skim the two thousand pages of reading that’s required.

Instead, you see and feel the expectations of five professors all at once. And you think to yourself, “How I am ever going to get this done?”

The Syllabi Syndrome is not limited to the freshman college experience. It’s for all of us who have entered a new situation, and in that new situation, feel like there’s so much to be done. So many people to meet. So many details to follow-up on. So many expectations!

I’m suffering from Syllabi Syndrome now. I have a new job. New church. New home. New city. New state…you get the idea. So, to self soothe and perhaps provide some practical takeaways for some of my readers who are in a similar situation (or will be), I’d thought I give some thoughts about how to maneuver through it.

When you’re faced with a lot of “new” in short period of time and feel the need to find a pathway to performance…

  1. Take a deep breathe. Literally and figuratively. Literally, long deep breaths have many positive effects. You can read about those through smarter people than me. And figuratively, create some margin to back away from the tyranny of the urgent.
  2. Set simple systems. Don’t take it all on at once. Set short-term low goals. If you have two thousand pages to read, well, you have four months in your semester to read it. So, take 120 days divided into your 2,000 pages to be read, and you have your short term low goal of reading 16 pages per day.
  3. Get commitment clarity. Avoid committing to anything that’s not required. When people give you things to do, seek clarity. Am I required to this? If so, what’s the timeline? You may learn what you think is required or expected, was closer to a suggestion and really shouldn’t even be considered.
  4. Remind yourself you’re not indispensable. Particularly if you’re having the syndrome feelings in a new job. Remind yourself that you haven’t always been here, and in most cases, they were managing without you.
  5. Look for sympathy, better yet, empathy. Find people who have been in the same situation and get a little perspective from them. They’ve been there the previous semester. They’ve been the new guy or gal on staff. They know what it’s like to drink from a fire hydrant. And they also know the fire hydrant eventually runs out of pressure.

So, if you’re experiencing this made-up syndrome like I am, then join me in using these steps to get out of it.

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