Studying takes up a lot of time. An undergraduate degree is usually at least three years from start to end. Some people begin with a foundation year and others may continue to study a master’s degree and complete a PhD. I’m two years into my four-year degree (I did a foundation year, and I’m grateful I did!) and I was thinking about some of the things I’ve learnt so far that have helped to keep me motivated. Before starting university, one of my fears was losing passion for the subject I’m so interested in because of the pressure that comes with assignments and exams. So, I thought of some tips that help me through the study seasons and *usually* keep me sane. I like to think that these little pointers are the things that keep me going and allow me to enjoy the process.
1. Take regular study breaks and do what works for you, not your study buddies.
This is an important lesson I learnt very quickly but took longer to accept. I always thought I should either be in lecturers or glued to my desk like a 9-5. However, I realised that I work best in short, snappy chunks. There may be times I can get my head down for hours and not come up for air, but mostly I like to focus for 20 minutes or so and then take a short break. I’ll make a tea, do some stretches, sing and dance around my flat, or maybe even slump on the sofa for five. But this resets my mind and prepares me for another productive session. Alternatively, if you’re someone who prefers to avoid all distraction and really give your undivided attention to something for an hour or more at a time, then allow yourself that time.
But here’s the important part – it’s okay if your classmates work differently to you. If you prefer the snappy 20-minute chunks and a more flexible study schedule, then avoid the pressure of 8+ hour days in the library and feeling like you *should* be doing something all of the time. You do you.
2. Keep hydrated and eat delicious, nutritious food.
I’m a nutrition student, so I am a little biased, but keeping on top of your hydration and fuelling your body with good quality food is key to long-term focus and concentration. Ensuring that you are consuming sufficient vitamins and minerals will help keep your body nourished, contributing to long-term memory amongst a number of other health benefits. Of course, chocolate, cake and biscuits are sometimes, quite frankly, essential, and I’m all for listening to your gut…
3. Prioritise your mental health.
This is one of the most important areas to focus on for all stages of life, not just for studying. However, with a to-do list as long as your arm and deadlines looming, prioritising your mental health is not always the first thing you might address. Statistics show that many people living with a mental health condition are of university age. Studies have proven that small amounts of daily activity such as yoga and mindfulness can help improve mental health conditions and even your focus when studying. Physical exercise will also help get those endorphins flowing, giving you an extra boost and ‘oomph’ with your work. You could add a social element to this too by joining a society or volunteering.
4. Make things as easy as possible.
An obvious point to make, but one that will change your uni experience. An organised workspace = an organised mind. Spend some time arranging different folders on your computer and save your most used tabs so they’re easily accessible. Have a notes page open with thoughts and ideas you want to quickly jot down for your assignments and projects. If you are, like me, a pen and paper person, have a notebook dedicated to lists and ramblings. Keep a calendar, and even colour code it! Do whatever you need to keep organised. With multiple modules on at one time, this is half the battle and when it comes to starting on your assignments, everything is ready for you.
5. Allow yourself to procrastinate.
I know, I know…we’re always told not to procrastinate. Stop avoiding things. Don’t deep clean the entire flat two days in a row just because you don’t want to write the discussion section of your paper (sorry, it got a bit personal there). However, sometimes, just sometimes, procrastination gives your mind the space and freedom to reset. Sometimes, you’re just not in the frame of mind to produce anything you would be happy with, even if it’s scheduled in the diary to do so. You could call it procrastination, or you could call it being kind to yourself and accepting when to go with plan B. As the brilliant author Matt Haig said, “Find a routine baggy enough to live in”. Get it done, but get it done your way.
I hope some if not all of these tips are helpful. I use these to make uni life as easy as possible, allowing me more headspace to tackle the real work. It helps me stay on top of things and allow myself to enjoy the journey. Getting a degree is not easy and it takes time, but these tips could help keep your efforts sustainable throughout the years.
Thank you for reading!
By Bells Hann
(@bellshann and @lovelybalancenutrition)