11 Reflections on My University Experience

Four years ago, I spent the summer stressing about whether I’d received a place to study at the University of Birmingham. If only I could go back and tell my 18 year-old self that it was going to be fine and that I would be graduating with a first class degree in four years time (yay!!).

University was always in my plan, the next step. I visited so many university open days, mainly as an interesting day out, but also to think about what life could be like there. When you find the right university for you, you’ll know.

Now it’s four years on, what have I learnt?

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How I’m Navigating my Final Year of University

If someone could tell me where the last 3 years have gone, that would be great. I can’t believe that I will (hopefully!) be graduating in the summer. It only seems like yesterday that I was actually getting ready to embark on the big adventure as such. Who knew I was going to fall in love with the city of Birmingham? (Not everyone’s cup of tea though I know).

Final year can bring quite a bit of pressure. It feels like time is running out and you’ve got deadlines, seminar reading, class tests, job applications, friendships, fun, health and wellness all to juggle in one go. Talk about spinning a few plates at a time. Mainly it’s pressure that I’m putting on myself, I want to get the best grades possible but have the best time too. I’m getting by (I think?), so here’s how I’m attempting to navigate my final year at university.

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How to Improve your Productivity over Christmas

I’m really not sure where the last university term has gone, it’s felt like a whirlwind. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that final year is a marathon, with sprints thrown in every so often. Not to mention the stress, it’s a constant weigh up of wanting to have fun and avoid stress but also not wanting to stress yourself out by having fun. And unfortunately, the January deadlines that seemed miles away at the start of October are now just around the corner. Fun, I know.

This is my fourth Christmas break with January deadlines & it’s definitely been trial & error to work out the ways to be most productive, whilst still enjoying the time away from uni. If you’ve also got deadlines in January too, don’t worry, I feel your pain! Everyone is different, but here are my productivity tips for getting assignments done over Christmas. Hopefully you can adapt these to suit you & we can all *try* to be productive over Christmas right?

Set Achievable Goals

Essay deadlines can seem like a HUGE task and when you’re home from the Christmas break, it’s not as easy to sit at a desk for the day & bash out a few thousand words for your essay. By setting achievable goals for what you can do & when, this should be the best way to break down the task in hand, get things ticked off your to-do list & overall feel that bit more productive.

Have a Tidy Environment

When you’re working in a different environment to the normal desk in the university library, it can impact your focus and most likely get less done. Adding clutter into the mix, it also might be difficult to get your thoughts in order & hindering your productivity as a result. Tidy space, tidy mind rings true here!

Take Regular Breaks

Essay deadlines/exams may be looming, but it is actually your break & time to rest from a hectic term. Schedule in a few hours work for the morning and do something nice in the afternoon, or vice versa. I’m a morning person, but not everyone else is!

Eat as well as you can

I’m not going to say ‘eat healthily’ here because lets be honest, it’s Christmas & the Quality Street tin is probably already open. But although all the food at Christmas is great, it can make you feel quite sluggish. This doesn’t mean avoid the Quality Street tin, but maybe find some healthy recipes to make in the midst of all the Christmas food. By eating better, this should hopefully improve your focus.

These tips may seem a bit straightforward, but often these are the ones we forget about when stress kicks in. Hopefully, by using these tips will help work out the balance between being productive and enjoying the Christmas break.

Let me know how you get on!
Im x

Introducing the Student Series

So, hello! I took a bit of inspiration from Vix Meldrew’s Glow & Grow podcast & decided that I was ready to start a series, so here I present; The Student Series! It’ll be covering all kinds of topics from a student perspective & not claiming to be an expert, but more wanting to open the discussion to the parts of being a student that are not always talked about (please head over to my Twitter to find out more & chat with me about the kind of topics you’d like to see!).

The first topic I’m going to be covering is ‘time’. As a student, lecture ‘contact’ time differs depending on the degree, but it tends to be a LOT lower than an average working week. Then you’re left with the ‘time’ to do independent study and before you know it, the deadlines are stacking up. Without the structure of a working week, it is easy to feel a bit ‘all over the place’ when it comes down to how you spend your time. It’s also easy to feel overwhelmed, when all of your deadlines are ‘bunched’ together (I’ve written a post all about this which you can read here). But one of the key parts of feeling overwhelmed is feeling like you don’t have the time, or as such, you don’t know how to use your time.

If you’re like me, feeling like that is when the planning mode comes in & all the to-do lists are created, but this can hinder productivity by doing so. It’s not easy, but here are a few tips & tricks to hopefully help you juggle your time as much as possible.

Know what you want to do

The main way to ensure you can do everything that you want to, whether that’s a night out, going to the gym, visiting home etc, means you have got to incorporate the planning aspect (yay!). By working out what you’ve got to do and when, means hopefully you’ll be clearer in your mindset, feel more in control of whats going on around you and know where you can add last minute plans in (just a heads up, this is something I definitely need to perfect). Essay deadlines tend to be set months in advance so although they may seem ages away, to combat feeling stressed work out what you can do in the meantime & go from there.

Find pockets of time

Sometimes this is one of the best ways for productivity. Every so often, I tend to excel at some work done during a half an hour train journey, compared to two hours sat at a desk. By breaking the big pieces of work into smaller chunks can make it easier (& less overwhelming!). It might make your to-do list look bigger, but even just simplifying a deadline into steps; plan, reading, draft 1, draft 2 etc, will hopefully be clearer as to what needs to be done to achieve bigger tasks.

Take time to unwind

It might feel like an endless juggle of time, but doing too much of uni or social can lead to ‘burn out’. It’s important to recognise that you need your own time (even if you love being in others company), because we all need time to process our own thoughts or just have some downtime. Schedule in some time for you, have some space from everything and enjoy your evenings.

Remember to do things at your own pace

The thing is everyone’s way of working is different. You might work better in the mornings or better in the evenings, but take it at your own pace. It’s easy to make comparisons between the time you spend working, compared to the amount of time your housemates are. But the probable reality is that everyone is overwhelmed, but just dealing with it in their own way. Don’t worry – you’ve got this!

There we go, the Student Series has been introduced! I’m really excited about this and have a few topics in mind for upcoming posts, but please let me know what you’d love to read!

Im x