“I’m going to get myself organised” One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves after “I can totally make my 9 am on two hours sleep”
University is a nightmare. Whether you are a first-year or a post-grad, we never quite get used to the drastic change in routine. But one of the best kept secrets of higher education? It’s okay to start out disorganised!
The key to getting yourself organised is accepting that things will change and there are several external factors that will affect whether you are motivated that day. But that isn’t to say there aren’t ways to make it easier on ourselves.
SLEEP! You need to make sure you’re sleeping regularly, at roughly the same times of day, that will drastically reduce how tired you’re feeling because your body will be in a regular routine. Note, I said ‘same times of day’ one of the weird and wonderful things about university is, unless you are working full time while you’re studying, you have twenty-four hours to do what you want, when you want. So, if you get struck by motivation at 7 pm every night, be a night owl for a while until your work is done. The best advice I ever received from a lecturer while doing my undergrad dissertation was “if you’re going to work at night, stick to that and sleep properly during the day, as long as you don’t start missing classes” and the system worked! On the flip side of that, you might thrive in the morning and find your motivation starts to slope off by midday, so find what works for you but make sure you’re getting enough sleep!
EAT! Think like the snickers advert, you’re not you when you’re hungry, you won’t be able to do your best work if you’re constantly thinking about what to eat when you get home. We had a blog out earlier this week on brain foods, and while the science is there, if you want to scoff a pack of chocolate buttons because that’s what you’re craving, roll with it! There’s nothing wrong with falling back on a snack you love if it will satisfy you long enough to stop distracting you, but make sure you have a proper meal at least once that day.
Find a studying system that works for you. During our interview with lecturers last semester. We were told that when you read a book, you should only ever need to read it once. So how we take notes is important. Whether you prefer to type them, or handwrite them, make sure you include your full reference as you would need it for your work. This will save you so much time in the long run. Beyond that, work through your reading list in a way that makes sense, don’t just read the shortest ones first! Find the links between the sources, it will create a more coherent narrative while you’re reading but also, your notes will flow too.
The other side of your ‘system’ is how you file your notes away, personally, I colour code EVERYTHING, pastel highlighters are brilliant for this as they aren’t as harsh. By assigning each ‘theme’ of my work a specific colour I can tell immediately what I am looking at and it makes filing everything away that much easier. Some people can’t stand colour all over their notes pages and find it distracting, some people prefer to use headings and split things across different pages, so work out what works for you.
You can also consider whether giving yourself a regular study schedule is worth doing. Some students find that by allocating specific time to work during the day that they can get themselves into the habit of working every day. Some students prefer big chunks of study time in one go. If this is something you think would work for you, we have several different timetable and essay plan templates online you can download.
Personally, I hate study schedules, I find it puts pressure on me to study when I might not be motivated to, the only reason I mention it is because it’s okay if you don’t like them either, all these tips and tricks have come about from other students finding what works for them and it's up to us to pick and choose what works for us.
One of the best pieces of advice is, where you have the space, set yourself up with a dedicated study area. Make sure it is well lit, with enough space for your books, laptop, PC whatever you need to get some work done. Having a dedicated space means when you hit your limit you can just get up and walk away. You don’t need to spend time tidying up or setting everything up when you get struck with some motivation. This also means if you are short on time, say you have an hour before class, you can pick up where you left off without having to set everything up again. One of the worst places to work is from bed! You need to keep your bed as a place of rest, and it can make it harder to get a good night sleep if you work in bed too.
A lot of the stuff we have been talking about comes down to ‘find what works for you’ and once you’ve found your system, you will find your productivity skyrockets! But what if you need some help? This is where Study Skills comes in, it’s an awesome service offered by the University to all students from Foundation through to Postgrad where staff will help you with anything from finding your study system, exam revision, referencing, presentation skills and more! You can check out the full list or book a slot with them here: https://www.uwtsd.ac.uk/study-skills/. Remember, you won’t find a miracle study system overnight, it will take some time and a little bit of trial and error to really nail down what works for you.
Now you’re eating right, getting enough sleep, you’re armed with twelve shades of pastel highlighters and you still can’t bring yourself to open a book? Take a break! We all chose our subjects (hopefully) because we are passionate about the topic, if you find that your motivation is non-existent one day, that’s okay! As a society, we need to stop holding burn out as a point to aspire to. Self-care is real people! Play that video game, read that book that has nothing to do with uni, have a couple of drinks with your flatmates or take a nap if that’s what you need! It’s important we take a step back and take a breath, especially with the current global climate.
That said, it’s a difficult time to be a student. There are several services here to offer you support. I’ve included a list of a few below.
Take care, Tammy.