As a student, it can sometimes be difficult to identify when you are working too hard or not working hard enough. No one ever tells you exactly how long you should spend working or when to take a break, which can result in a day spent staring at a computer screen without making time for lunch.
With lockdown putting immense mental strain on students, it is more important than ever to incorporate enjoyable activities into your daily routine. I want to share my top tips for finding the balance between work and play
1. Practice self care.
University can be the source of so much stress and anxiety, especially when trying to navigate through a global pandemic and periods of social isolation. However, it is important to remember that university will always come secondary to your physical and mental wellbeing.
It is near impossible to retain knowledge and study effectively without being physically healthy and in a good headspace. Read my blog on ‘selfcare for students’ for some ideas on how to look after yourself at university.
2. Take control of your time.
It is essential that you recognise that you are in charge of your own schedule. Instead of passively drifting through the day, ensure that you are making active choices about how to spend your time.
I find the most useful method, to ensure that I spend my time constructively, is to devise a daily plan or check list. A well-balanced day should encompass some fun activities and hobbies in addition to your work or studies. It does not matter that on some days you will prioritise work and on others you may spend very little time in the study, what is important is that your life has components of both work and play.
A good way to devise your time effectively is to divide each day into slots for studying, socialising, hobbies, and relaxation. These slots can be as short or as long as you like to fit into your schedule. It is essential that you stay aware of how you are spending your time and be prepared to acknowledge when you begin to tip the equilibrium and make changes accordingly.
Read my blog titled, ‘there are enough hours in the day’ for more ideas on how to use your time effectively.
3. Do not mix work and play.
Once you have a plan in place it is vital that you do not waste time. If you have allocated an hour to spend studying, turn your phone off and remove all distractions. Likewise, if you have a day planned with your friends, do not be tempted to reply to any university emails.
Blurring the boundaries is an inefficient use of your time because productivity will reduce, leaving you feeling unfulfilled and frustrated.
4. Take regular breaks.
You do not need to spend countless hours staring into a textbook to study effectively, in fact, this is actually a less productive way to conduct your work. Smaller bursts of studying with regular movement breaks can seem a lot less arduous, resulting in a reduction in mental fatigue which can only be beneficial when trying to acquire knowledge.
I enjoy going for a run at lunch or a walk in between lectures to help my mind and body switch off from studying. You will find that a small amount of exercise in the fresh air goes a long way in helping your mind and body stay healthy and happy.
It is also important to fuel correctly throughout the day and so take advantage of your breaks and grab a nutritious lunch or snack. Skipping meals can lead to increased fatigue and a reduction in cognitive function, not ideal if you are trying to concentrate in a lecture and retain important information.
5. Seek additional help if required.
Finding the balance is an incredibly difficult venture and one which you do not have to tackle alone. The University has a copious number of resources that you can use if you are finding managing your time a struggle, these include:
- An Introduction to Time Management, by the Careers Service, which details activities that could help with developing time management skills.
- The Library’s My Learning Essentials which provides students with an online platform to develop your personal and professional skills.
- Student guidance PDF developed by the university on effective time management and avoiding procrastination
- Student guidance PDF written by Dr Rachid M’Rabty (SEED student support and engagement officer) on improving your time management skills
- The University counselling and mental health service which offers support in the form of workshops, group sessions, resources, and individual consults.