While our world is turned upside down and our normality seems to change every day, it is difficult to sit down and work on university assignments. Motivation has fled and your brain is all over the place, trying to make sense of the new and uncertain situation you’re in. Yet, you still have deadlines coming up. And they’re approaching fast. But don’t panic, I’m here to help you get through.
Waiting for a burst of motivation to hit is not going to help, neither is waiting for inspiration. Motivation comes and goes – it’s unreliable. Having said that, do take advantage of the times you feel ambitious. But don’t depend on these bursts. Instead, follow these practical steps to write your assignments.
Bring out a calendar and write down in your deadlines. Then, realistically divide the days until your deadline into time for research, writing and editing. Ideally, aim to finish your assignment a few days before the deadline. This will give you a small break from the work, so you can return to it with fresh eyes and make it even better. It will also help you avoid pulling an all-nighter to complete the assignment – because nobody likes a coffee hangover.
Write out an assignment plan outlining the themes you want to include. This will help you identify which resources could be useful and add to your arguments. As you go along, you can also write in notes and quotes from different sources. When you start writing, all your material is already in front of you. You won’t have to keep going back and forth between documents to find the right reference. While most people dread doing their bibliography and usually wait until their essay is done to write it, it’s much easier (and less stressful) to fill it out as you go along. That way, you always know where your material is from and can easily reread sources if needed. Remember to follow your course’s referencing guide, which is available on Moodle.
Identify the time of day when you work best. Are you a night owl or an early bird? Schedule in more challenging and demanding tasks for this period as you will have the energy and focus to complete them. This could be writing and editing. Notice when you’re losing focus and take a break. Maybe get a cuppa, some fruit or some fresh air. For the time your energy is low, do easier tasks that demand less active participation and thinking, such as research. Also choose a time to end your work. Don’t spend all day writing assignments while the sun shines or Netflix waits for you.
Research without hardcopies
Without access to the library, you might be fretting over the huge task of research. But worry not! The library has loads of online resources and your Roehampton University account gives you free access to several online journal bases, such as JSTOR. If you cannot access an article you need, send the researcher an email asking for a pdf version. More often than not they are thrilled that people are interested in their work and will happily send you the article.
Divide the work
A 3500-word essay seems a daunting task and could therefore be difficult to start working on. Nobody like staring at a blank page, do they? Divide the writing into intervals. This method will look different for everyone. Some divide it into words, for example: write 500 words at a time. Others divide it into paragraphs or topics. Others take a different approach and section work into time slots. A common technique here is the Pomodoro method, which consists of 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break. After four rounds of this, the break is 15 minutes. Then repeat. Find a method that keeps you focused and works best for you.
Be kind to yourself
During these difficult and uncertain times, our productivity and focus are lower than usual. The constant pressure to be productive still remains. When the pressure becomes too overwhelming, take a step back and listen to what your mind and body tells you. Do you need a break? Take it. Do you need to get outside? Go for a walk. Do you need some snacks to keep going? Eat. Celebrate your accomplishments, acknowledge your achievements. Be the support that you need.
If you are struggling to focus and filled with anxiety, find ways that help centre you. It might be yoga, meditation, journaling or maybe even kickboxing. Whatever it is – set aside time for yourself to work through your thoughts and emotions. Most importantly, don’t suffer in silence. Let the people around you know how you’re feeling. Talk. Sometimes, all we need to feel a little brighter is a really good chat.