You have hopefully survived the first semester of the academic year and have recently emerged (relatively) unscathed on the other side of January exams. Studying might be the last thing you want to think about right now, but this is the perfect moment. Reflecting back on the last year, understanding the things that worked and those that didn’t, while they are still fresh in your mind, can help you to move forward with confidence, safe in the knowledge that your precious time will be spent efficiently and effectively!
1. I will learn from my mistakes: Cast your mind back to last semester. Did socialising often take priority over work? Set yourself a clear timetable of work and downtime; stick to it and learn when to say no to people. Where did you do most of your studying last year? If you were distracted by housemates, the TV or social media whilst studying at home, you need to find a different place to work. Try a local library or quiet cafe where you can focus your mind. Did you leave yourself enough time to write that essay or revise for that exam? If not then remember that horrible panicky feeling and do something about it now; plan early for future tasks and be realistic about how long they may take.
2. I will stop procrastinating: Making a change to your environment can help minimise procrastination. Find a good place to work (see above), and if you decide to work from home, make it a pleasant space — have a tidy desk and organise your books and notes for each subject. Figure out the points in the day when your energy levels are highest and plan to do your most demanding work at these times (leaving lesser tasks for when your concentration is fading away). You could even download a free app such as AppDetox which will remind you to take breaks and restrict your access to apps at certain times of the day.
3. I will get organised: Get into the routine of attending all lectures and seminars, and into the habit of reading through your notes afterwards to help the information sink in. Check the reading list for each subject and incorporate finding and reading this material into your weekly schedule. Create a wall poster or diary dedicated to your study schedule, assigning topics or tasks to each day. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, divide your studying into 60 minute chunks with short breaks in between. This will allow the information to register, and boost concentration upon your return.
4. I will join a study group: Many universities are starting to offer group study and revision sessions to their students, and this is a great way to feel more in control of your studies. Meetings can be as short as an hour and group discussions can help you to consolidate your understanding of a lecture, share ideas, plan assignments, ask questions and test your knowledge. If a group doesn’t exist, ask around following a seminar to see if any of your peers are interested in creating one; it’s a great way to make friends and you could even schedule a nice reward to follow such as coffee and a cake!
5. I will look after myself: Finally, none of the suggestions above will work very well if you do not also pay attention to your mental and physical wellbeing. Make time for regular, healthy meals, exercise, socialising and a decent night’s sleep. Also be aware of the support that your university has to offer, from speaking to your tutor if you are struggling with the course to accessing the wellbeing services if something is happening in your personal life that is affecting your studies. Early intervention will help you to nip certain problems in the bud and ensure that you reach your potential!