Hello book lovers! Today I thought that I would do a bit of a lifestyle discussion after sharing a very stressful night of research for a paper on my Instagram and getting a number of followers requesting that I do this type of blog post. I am currently in my second year of university with my courses being fully project and paper based rather than exams. As good as that is for me, as I am not the best test taker, the short period of time that we get given or lack of guidance is more often than not absolutely overwhelming. Hence why I feel like I have now found a great system (half way through my second year) that helps me survive the chaos. I realise that obviously not all of these will work for everyone but it’s always helpful to hear other people’s tips that you have perhaps not tried before.
1. Drink hot chocolate while working.
I put this tip at number one because it has honestly been the most helpful during these last three months of school – which included a lot of breakdowns. As a student who knows a lot of people who drink alcohol while working on assignments (I really don’t understand why), I found that having a hot beverage works best compared to a cup of water. I do typically have a cup of tea while getting my morning work done but starting from afternoon to midnight, a hot chocolate (sometimes topped with whipped cream and toffee sauce) is my go-to. I just find it to be so comforting and enjoyable. It’s as if it gives me a touch (and the warmth) of being back home and helps the work time fly by.
TOP TIP FOR THIS: Make sure that it is super hot so that you can get work done while waiting for it to cool off. Then once it is good enough, you can get even more work done while savoring the internal chocolate hug.
2. Take proper breaks.
Back in high school, I typically plunged my way through the work after a 30 minute break once I got home from school. However, seeing as I only do four different courses in university, getting it all done at once can be overwhelming. Instead I like to take breaks after each task/assignment. My go-to for this is usually to watch 15 to 30 minutes of a show (depending on the length of it) or read a book that I am reading for pleasure. I know that some people might see this as a way to lose concentration, but for me it’s my chance to breathe and allows my mind to switch over to the next task at hand.
TOP TIP FOR THIS: Whatever you do, do not lay down. I repeat, do not lay down! I have perfected this tip this year but admit to accidentally taking a nap a lot of the times last year. I’ll discuss the importance of sleeping at night for tip number six.
3. Train yourself to be able to not finish a TV show episode in one go.
I know, this may sound absolutely wrong, and I totally agree when I am back home and not dealing with university, but just give me a chance. On days that I have class, I really only have two meal times so these are always my TV times. With that being said, this is also my work break which means that I have to watch the time. This often results in me not finishing a show and leaving the rest for later. Cutting down on this has just made me work out a system so that I can award myself after tasks by finishing a good show and making me eager to find out what happens by getting stuff done. Really it’s a win, win situation.
TOP TIP FOR THIS: Save the long shows that you can’t bare to stop in the middle of for the times that you can sit through a whole episode. This is me speaking from personal experience for shows like Stranger Things, Queer Eye, and Mindhunter.
4. Cook yourself a homemade meal at least once a week (and have leftovers).
Now this one is specifically for university students who have kitchens – so not the students in America who get fed by the cafeteria.
I know that most students survive off of pot noodles/cup of noodles and baked beans but as one who loves to eat properly while way from home and makes the most of learning how to cook, I rarely get take-out. Eating out or ordering take out pizza is just a treat for me and I see it to be more important to make healthy meals that will still be manageable with time, rather than tossing money on unhealthy food that leaves me relying on other cooks or delivery. Yes I know, I’m a “weird” university student. Not to mention the fact that leftovers are often more achievable when you control your own portions.
I would happily do a whole post about the meals that I suggest if you guys are interested but the main point of this tip is that it will help you feel healthy, keep up your mood, and help you deal with homesickness (we all get it at some point or another, especially me). Be sure to do some research for recipes that you have wanted to try before, one’s inspired by your favourite dishes, or even recipes from your family members. Taking this extra bit of time from your day will give you a break from work and fill your stomach so that you feel more alive and ready to be productive (more than most uni students will/do).
TOP TIP FOR THIS: One pan recipes are your savior on busy nights. Just quickly toss some chicken and fresh vegetables on a tray with olive oil and seasoning (NEVER FORGET THE SEASONING!!) and voila, there you go. Use the cooking time for work time!
5. Get work done in coffee shops.
Repeat after me, “Starbucks is your friend.” Yes, I know. We have all been annoyed by the people in coffee shops hogging tables with laptops at least once in our life but trust me, becoming a university student completely changes that view. The amount of times that I have camped out in a coffee shop for one to two hours reading and or getting word done while slowly savoring my grande is probably embarrassing but oh well.
I just find that being in an environment that I love while being away from the temptations of bed can get me through any assignment that I am really struggling with. I also set up (practically) an award system for myself last year where every Sunday I got to spend an hour (or more) in my local Starbucks reading as long as I already got the work done that I needed to for the week ahead. I absolutely loved doing this and though I have stopped this year due to a different class schedule (and having the freedom of my own flat), I still highly recommend it for anyone who struggles with setting strict deadlines.
TOP TIP FOR THIS: Bring work that can be done either on a notebook, read a book for class, or just make sure that your laptop is fully charged, so that you can avoid the awkward search for a seat with a plug.
6. Let yourself sleep.
As a student who had an inconsistent sleeping schedule last year due to having Netflix for the very first time, as well as some obnoxious flatmates, this is something very important to me this year. Setting yourself on a schedule of falling asleep and waking up around the same time every day gives your body a healthy clock that will keep you going and make you feel so much better. I personally do 12 am to 2 am for going to bed every night and waking up at 10 am. Doing it this way ensures that I always get at least eight hours of sleep which is the minimal perfect amount for me.
I know that you are thinking: 10 am?? For a university student?? But lucky me, I don’t have class until one or two, depending on the day.
TOP TIP FOR THIS: Cut yourself off from work an hour before bed so that you can allow your mind to shut off and stress to take a pause until the next day. This also gets you to push yourself to get work done in the daytime/evening, rather than realising it’s 4 am halfway through an assignment.
7. Juggle books for pleasure and for class.
Let’s put it this way, I currently have three books next to my bed. One for class, one for pleasure, and one for learning my own thing. As a reader who used to only be able to manage and focus on one book at a time, this has been a big change for me this year. I find myself being able to read books quicker this way as I basically set up a bribing system for myself. “Read three chapters of one book so you can read two chapters from the other book.”
TOP TIP FOR THIS: Set aside time for yourself to read every night before bed. It is such a relaxful way to still be productive while also getting your mind to calm down and prep for sleeping through the night.
8. 2 to 3 day system.
This is the number one thing that I suggest to everyone that I know struggling with deadlines. I call it the “2 to 3 day system” and I absolutely swear by it.
- Get your assignment done 3 days before the due date.
- Take a day off to get into the mindset of an editor.
- One day before the deadline, read through it, edit and make any necessary changes, and submit it.
I do sometimes do all of this four or five days before the deadline but that’s when I am lucky with an assignment that I have had a lot of time to complete.
TOP TIP FOR THIS: For your first go at this, do not let yourself break it AT ALL. It can be so beneficial to not have to worry about any submission problems right before the final due date and also prepares you for deadlines that you may have in your career later on. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
9. Planners are your friend.
Do you have a planner sitting next to your laptop? Or at least somewhere stored on your work space? No? Well you need to go buy one!
As a person who used to rarely use her planners that were supplied by her high school, having a planner in university has changed my life. I always have it sitting right next to my laptop space and fill it out as I think of things (even if that is at first through a notes page on my iPhone while I’m out). I cover everything from blog posts, due dates, laundry loads – you name it, I’ve got it.
In terms of assignments, I set myself up little reminders to get through certain portions, as well as marking the deadline. For example, a research paper that I have due in two months:
- This week: Research and read through the books
- Next week: Finish the data presentation
- Week after: Write up the conclusion and begin editing
And so on. I do write in my planner within two weeks time so if my deadline is outside of that, I only write it on my calendar until I get closer to the date.
TOP TIP FOR THIS: Do not carry it around, or else you may forget about it like I did. Instead I take the time each morning and night to look at what I have achieved and need to achieve, as well as check things off as I do them.
10. Have a calendar in front of your face at your desk.
This is basically the same idea as tip #9 except it is for things that you need to get done throughout the month (or even further out). I used to have one calendar for personal stuff and one for academic and blogging stuff but now I only have one. My calendar covers everything from deadlines to volunteer shifts to blog posts to days out with my boyfriend.
I highly recommend doing something similar so that you can keep up with what is happening each month, as well as having constant reminders in your face for deadlines and events that you need to prep for.
TOP TIP FOR THIS: Find a calendar that has good sized chunks to fill in. I find small calendars to be so constricting and therefore not very helpful in terms of productivity.
And that is it guys! Congratulations if you made it through all of that – I didn’t realise how much stuff I have learned over these two years but I hope that at least some of it is beneficial for any university students currently struggling. We’ll get through this together! Until next time! x