Being focused is key to getting good grades at university, but you know how it goes; you’ve used up the majority of your willpower over the first few weeks of semester one, and now you’re starting to burn out as we approach Reading Week. The more tired you get, the more deadlines seem to be coming your way. It’s fair to say that at this point you’re feel like you’re starting to lose control over the workload, and as a result bad habits have started to develop; procrastination, all-nighters, increased caffeine intake, whatever the rest. While some bad habits are unavoidable at university, it’s important to kick the avoidable ones, and try to get back in control. As a third-year student, here are my tips:
1. Minimise Distractions
Distractions can range widely; from using all your spare time to socialise and overindulge in hobbies, to merely staring out of the window while you’re trying to write that essay that’s due in a few days’ time. But it’s best to keep those larger ones in check. For me, there are two things that I have had to give up until 3rd year is over- video games and making YouTube videos. Over the course of my time at Queen Mary thus far, those two by far have been my biggest distractions- as they are the things I love doing the most- but now that I am in my final year, things are getting serious. I have physically put all my games into a bag and stuffed it in my wardrobe, and I hardly even look at my cameras these days. And, to tell you the truth, it’s worked- although I have had my moments of weakness where I’ve had to refresh my brain by playing a bit of PUBG Mobile, Pocket Camp or Tomb of the Mask (short refresher breaks are important!), my devotion to university is greater than it ever has been.
2. Have a ‘Semester Plan’
A lot of the time it can feel like assignments spring out from nowhere. They throw you off course, you abandon everything to focus on them, and you feel overwhelmed. And then, once you’re done, you realise that you have three weeks’ worth of reading to catch up on. This can be avoided, or at least be less devastating, by creating what I call a ‘Semester Plan’. Here’s what you do:
(i) Use QMPlus to get all your due dates together for the semester
(ii) Get a piece of paper to stick to your wall or a planner (depending on what you’ll look at more)
(iii) Plan each week out, giving yourself goals on what to achieve on that week. Clarify to yourself what week each assignment is due. Make sure you give yourself at least 1-2 weeks’ planning time for your assignments. This will allow you to structure each week in relation to your assignments, so that they don’t jump out at you at much. You’ll feel more prepared to face them.
3. Stay Physically Organised
A messy room is a messy mind, and that can’t be truer. It may seem like a lot of effort to clean your room every day, especially after a long day at university, but if you spend the majority of the time in there studying, it’s definitely worth it. You may not realise it, but if you work in a messy environment, your mind is more stressed out about the mess than it would be if it was clean; it’ll cause you to get distracted. Being tidy is not only satisfying, but it makes you feel more at peace- there’s one less thing to think about.
Being organised for lectures, seminars, workshops (etc) helps with stress too. Pack your bag and pick out your outfit the night before class, so you can wake up and not have to worry about anything except eating breakfast and getting to university. Even though those seem like menial things to do, they still add to the stress of the morning. You’re going to get stressed anyway, but you might as well postpone it by making your mornings a little easier.