I know we’ve all been chipping away at assignments and projects since October, but we’re finally on the last stretch before we go off gallivanting over the summer break, whether that be a nice exotic holiday or diving straight into the reality of post-graduation life, working that 9 to 5. But before we can think about that we have to wade our way through the remaining deadlines and exams of semester two. It’s OK, I’ve been there before so I’ve come up with some top tips to help you stay focused and motivated through these last 2 months! Who’s with me!? Now stop day dreaming about that exotic holiday and crack on!
1. Don’t leave it to the last minute – motivate yourself!
It doesn’t matter whether you have 6 weeks or 1 week until an assignment deadline or exam, some of us still manage to leave it until the last minute, with that rush of adrenaline and lots of caffeine getting us through some late nights. But we all know this isn’t good for our bodies or our minds. Planning in advance gives you more time to work on your assignments and prepare for exams and avoids unnecessary last-minute pressure. But how can you motivate yourself to just start the work?
The avoidance of last minute-pressure is a motivating factor in itself. The fear of failure or disappointment from a low grade motivates me to just get my head down and work hard, but it’s not always that easy, and days of low motivation can happen. When you don’t feel like doing any work, try and motivate yourself with a reward. Now we’re all students at the end of the day so this doesn’t have to tear into your financial resources, but an odd treat here and there, such as chocolate to keep you motivated in the library, or a takeaway of an evening, or evening purchasing a new item of clothing to go out and celebrate in after a hand-in, can help motivate you during those days where you don’t feel like doing any work. Doing uni work with friends can also be more motivating, but try to avoid being dragged into the trap of – if you’re not working, then I’m not working either.
2. Make a timetable
A timetable can help you juggle both assignments and exams, and although making a timetable may sound time-consuming, believe me, you’re saving yourself time in the long run. Time that you may have spent deciding what to work on when, and time you may have spent feeling unorganised and stressed. Simply visually seeing what deadlines and exams you have, when these are and how long you have until these are due can help you break these down into more manageable chunks, alleviating any overwhelming feelings. It’s always good to get a timetable prepared enough in advance to give you more time so that you don’t burn yourself out. So, if you haven’t already made one, I’d suggest you get cracking on whipping one of these up. Excel have some great templates ready for you to just fill in.
The level of detail you put in this depends on how you work as an individual, I tend to find if I make the timetable rigid with too much detail, I get more stressed out and tend to neglect them. I like to simply break it down into which exam topic I want to revise on a specific day, or word count I want to achieve on an assignment in a day. But don’t forget to block out time to socialise, exercise or unwind, this is just as important as it allows you to recharge and refocus.
3. Find your own learning style
It’s very easy to see friends and other people approaching assignments and exams in a certain way and begin to adopt this style in the hope that it’ll work for you too. Don’t fall into this trap. Everyone works and learns in their own way. Some people are visual learners, creating mind maps to help with revision, while others prefer note taking and revision cards. I’ve tried revising using mind maps and although I found them very pretty to look at, I found the information difficult to absorb. I prefer note taking from my lecture slides and suggested reading materials and then filtering this information into short and snappy revision cards. It’s about finding a style that works for you and sticking with it.
Which learning style are you?
You prefer images, diagrams and maps, and using videos as a learning tool.
- Rewrite your notes as mind-maps
- Use colour to highlight important facts
- Draw diagrams and sketches to help you remember points
- Watch short videos and tutorials
- Reader and writer
You prefer to take notes and read through old notes, using text to revise.
- Read over old notes
- Copy out your notes again
- Rewrite key points using different phases
- Try to write your points from memory, and test yourself
You learn best when listening and speaking.
- Read your notes aloud
- Record yourself reading key points out loud to listen back to
- Use repetition technique with your revision
- Try singing the key points and associate them with a tune
You’re a hands-on learner, with practical demonstrations or experiments suiting you best.
- Set up practical tasks to test your learning
- Mentally test yourself while you are exercising to see what you can remember
- Explain, discuss and test yourself as a group
- Move around the room or carry out an activity as you revise (probably not advised in the library)
4. Eat healthy
I know I previously mentioned rewarding yourself with the odd chocolate bar or takeaway, but this should be done within moderation. I understand the temptations of grabbing an unhealthy snack while spending copious hours in the library but try to avoid doing this regularly. Junk food, although it gives you an initial energy boost, can make you feel lethargic an hour or two later, making completing that assignment that much more difficult. Try to prepare food and snacks to bring to the library with you to help fill you up and to resist the urge to pop to the SU shop to grab something sugary. Healthy foods will make you feel more energised, fuelling that brain for longer and ultimately increasing your productivity. So that basically means if you eat right, then you can do your work quicker, leaving you more time to unwind. Winner, Winner!!
5. Give yourself regular breaks
Spending hours upon hours huddled over your computer screen will do you no favours. Although it may seem that the more time you spend working on assignments or revision the more you’ll get done, but this isn’t necessarily true. Working without breaks can actually reduce productivity. Long stints in the library, can cause frustration when you begin to lose focus and productivity slows down. I know that sometimes it can be difficult to step away from an important assignment or exam revision materials, but regular breaks can increase productivity and your success. If I’m in the library working, I try to avoid turning straight to my phone when I have breaks and tend to go for a walk to stretch my legs and even go outside to get a bit of fresh air that’ll wake me up. But do what works best for you, ensuring that you have a proper break from your work.
I wish you the best of luck in your remaining assignments, projects and exams; we’ve got this!!