Whether it’s juggling multiple assignments, the thought of exams looming in the distance, writing up your dissertation – or a combination of any of these – it’s a busy time of year.
When you’re feeling busy or stressed, it’s easy to get into habits that reduce your effectiveness. So if your stress levels are rising it’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about whether you are making good use of your time and here some tips to get you started:
1. Set a reslitictic schedule with achievable goals by setting yourself SMART objectives for set tasks or pieces of time:
Specific: Make sure your objective is well defined and clear.
Measurable: How will you know when it is finished – make sure it has an end and you know when to stop.
Achievable: Is it realistic given the time and resources you have?
Relevant: Is it ‘nice to have’ or essential? If it’s not essential think about why you’re doing it.
Timely: Set a realistic timescale for this task.
You may have heard of ‘SMART’ objectives in a different context, but thinking about your work in this way really can make sure you stay focused.
2. If you use a to do list get in the habit of writing a realistic one for each day to help keep it manageable – and write it the night before. That way, you can hit the ground running first thing in the morning.
3. Know yourself and be honest! Work out when in the day you are at your most productive or work out what stops you from studying. Also think about what motivates you – do you like to work steadily or under the pressure of a deadline? By thinking honestly about how you work you will plan your time better.
4. Be accountable. Use someone – whether that’s a tutor, friend or family member as a project manager. Show them a plan of what you want to achieve and ask them to regularly check you’re on course. It’s all too easy to keep rolling things onto the next to do list if you don’t have to tell anyone about it!
5. If you’re not feeling motivated with what you’re doing don’t slog away for little reward. Do something else useful. For example if you’re writing up an assignment or chapter in your dissertation and you’ve got severe writers block, do some useful ‘admin’ – check your formatting is correct or do some work on your bibliography.
6. Don’t underestimate how much you can do in a short space of time – short bursts can be really productive. So, if you’ve set yourself a deadline of 4pm don’t stop work at 3.45!
7. Sounds obvious – but don’t get distracted by social media and emails! Set yourself specific times to check them – and stick to them.
8. Take breaks and reward yourself! You can’t work 24/7 and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. Taking a break to do something nice or promising yourself a treat at the end of the day are not only necessary to keep you sane but can be great motivators.
If you want further support, think about booking onto a My Learning Essentials Workshop. There are plenty of workshops designed to help you cope with the pressures University life including reducing the stress of perfectionism, mindfulness sessions, as well as academic support sessions covering a range of topics like critical reading, referencing and proofreading. And if can’t make any of the sessions, don’t worry there are also online tutorials.
And remember if things are getting too much there’s plenty of student support available to help you stay on track and to take care of yourself.