I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I do know a thing or two when it comes to studying effectively. I’ve done my time at Uni. I’ve even been known to go let things go to the last minute in my early days. I learnt my lesson quickly. I figured out some crucial factors to getting the most out of my study. Here are my top five, for those of you out there feeling overwhelmed or lost at sea when it comes to tackling higher education.
1. Set up your space.
You need a designated work area. Somewhere with everything you need – pens, paper, highlighters, and your computer. Try to avoid working at the kitchen bench or from your bed. This area needs to be in a quiet place where you can close the door and focus on the work at hand. While you’re at it – make it pretty. I found great satisfaction when I created neat and attractively colour-coded notes. It made me want to study more when using them. Maybe my OCD is shining through here, but you get the point. Keep your work and workspace neat and attractive and it will be an environment that motivates you.
2. Schedule your time and let everyone know.
Time management is a big deal when it comes to juggling life and study. The best way to find that balance is to schedule your time properly. If you know you have space on Tuesday afternoons with no one else home – plan that as your regular study time. And, most importantly, make sure to let everyone know that this is your time to concentrate. Unless it’s an emergency, they need to wait until you’ve got what you need to do done. This allows you to put your phone out of sight and not be bothered by questions.
3. Write a to-do list.
Maybe you’re already on the ‘to-do list’ wagon. If not, you need to jump on ASAP! Lists help you to both map out what needs to be done and fulfil a sense of accomplishment when it comes to ticking items off. When it comes to study, it’s one of my most valuable tools. I right down the specifics of what needs to be done; different sources that need to be read, intros, paragraphs and conclusions each get their own lines too. Anything that needs to be done – even the most menial of tasks – goes on the list. I even including printing off and submitting assignments. Every little tick or line you put through gives a sense of success and achievement. You can visually see the list get smaller. The more you break things into small, menial tasks, the faster you finish them and the more often your coming back to your list to see what’s next.
4. Don’t feel alone.
When it comes to studying at a higher level, it’s easy to forget that you have help and assistance. Yes, it’s a very different environment to the days back at school. However, that doesn’t mean the resources aren’t available to you. Nobody wants to see you struggle and you can always get the assistance you need. I learnt this the hard way when I was at Uni. I had a really difficult few months and it was reflected in my studies. I ended up with no idea what I was doing for a final assessment and I had left it too late to hand anything in on time. I could have failed the subject. Instead I emailed my lecturer and explained my situation in full. I put my hand up and took responsibility and asked for their help to pass the subject. Ask and you shall receive, I promise. People are people – strangers don’t have to be monsters. Chances are, if you reach out then you’ll get something back.
5. Look after yourself.
This seems unnecessary to say but believe me, it’s important to remember. I’ve been there. I’ve been at the end of a semester when all the assessments are due days apart and your rushing to get everything completed and you’re trying to focus and everything else falls by the wayside. Dinner turns into takeout or slapdash meals. Snacks turn into Doritos and Tim Tams. Exercise goes out the window. Routine is lost. While study might become priority, it’s important to focus on your routine. Make sure you do a big shop each week so you have everything you need to make decent meals each day. Have healthy snacks available in arm’s reach instead of chocolate and chips. Make sure you factor in your half an hour of exercise, if that’s part of your usual routine. And, most importantly, get your 8 hours of sleep! You can achieve everything you need to do in the time you have. You’re concentration and work will suffer if you let everything get out of control. Look after yourself. Run a bath or go for a run.
Have you got your own way of making study easier and more worthwhile? Let us know in the comments!