It is a well known saying in business that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. There is some truth in this. Arriving at the end of your course with only hours to spare to start your dissertation is a fairly certain way to fail. At the other extreme, planning your life inflexibly and in detail, and then beating yourself up for not sticking to your rigid timetable is equally self-defeating. Forget charts of precisely what you will do when, simply work out how long at a minimum that you intend to spend on everything, map this out, allow a little leeway, and then focus on what you need to do first. Don’t waste time choosing, pick something urgent and start!
Have clear short-term goals and sprint towards them. Try to beat your own deadlines. Check that you are still on track, that you are answering the assignment question and not what you would like it to have asked, and then get your head down and sprint some more. You will work best in short, exciting, focused sprints than idling away at projects in the comfortable twilight of procrastination.
Try achieving something over 25 minutes, then change what you are doing and thinking about completely for five minutes, and then resettle. That five minute break is a great opportunity to go to the toilet, refill your water bottle, get up and stretch, fetch the next book you need, catch up on text messages – anything really. It is the change of pace that will reset your concentration and help you make it through the next bout of intense concentration.
Everyone needs to eat well, and regularly. Balanced meals including wholegrains, fruit and vegetables to fuel your brain and lean protein to keep you feeling full and support your muscles, are even more important at those times when it feels like you don’t have time to look after yourself. There are a selection of quite healthy foods available from the Library Cafe, the Co-Op is next door, and the University has several other restaurants dotted across the campus, all of which sell (fairly) healthy food to keep you going. Cafe Coco next to the Students Union sells jacket potatoes and has a fresh salad bar, which is about as healthy as eating out gets.
Eating regularly, taking the time to chew and enjoy your food, and sipping plenty of water while you eat all help you digest your food more easily and get the benefit from it. “Eating is meditation” as a wise man once put it. Be in the moment with your lunch, enjoy every mouthful, engage your senses and sink your mind into your body. Be one with your meal while it lasts.
Work will wait. It must. Eating is also important.
Mealtimes and snack breaks are also a great opportunity to chat to your friends, share your worries and talk about things totally different from what you have been thinking about. This is also important. We are all social beings and not talking to others for long periods makes us feel bad. Take any excuse between work sessions to make contact with your friends.
Listening to the different problems other people have without trying to solve them for them, just showing them you are listening and understand, often takes a huge weight off them while showing you that you are not alone in facing challenges. It’s good to talk, even better to listen and understand what others are saying. We should all do it more often. It would make us all feel a lot better.
And if you ever feel unable to share your problems with others, there are counsellors in Wellbeing who are here to listen and support you.
Do you do music? If so, you should check out Music Online
for audio examples of music from all over the World, as well as encyclopedic information relating to places, cultural groups, instruments, including the voice and electronic, and genre, including choral and dance, and musical subjects.
Music Online has great coverage of musical theatre as well as music and sound technologies.
By the time you start to feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Thirst is your body’s emergency alarm bell ringing to tell you that you are already stiffening up in all the wrong places, feeling worse and thinking less clearly than you would if you were sipping water. The usual response is to upend a can of energy drink into yourself and carry on. The minor drawback of drinking a lot in a short time, particularly a lot of a chilled drink, is that it then tends to rushy through the body without touching the sides, prompting an urgent trip to the toilet. The body absorbs drinks best that are sipped regularly over time and are close to body temperature. That means that the best hydration you can get is from a bottle of luke warm water, or failing that water at room temperature.
Culturally, most of us have learned an aversion to room temperature drinks – either hot drinks that are almost cold or cold drinks that have warmed up. It’s a preference that’s easily changed when you just want to focus on your work. Let your hot drinks cool a little, and choose water from the tap or from the non-chilled tap at the water fountain ahead of when you need it so it can warm up on your desktop and then sip it gradually over time.
While water is best, all watery drinks are good. Only alcohol actively dehydrates you, which is one of the reasons those who drink alcohol wake with a dry mouth, headache, stiffness and a hangover the morning after the night before. Best avoided during times of stress – there are less debilitating ways of keeping calm and carrying on. Check out other tips and tricks in this blog or pop along to the Wellbeing Café.
It is easy to imagine that it is only you that is experiencing problems with your referencing, has just realised the work won’t comfortably fit into the time remaining before hand-in time, or is getting stressed about something else entirely or as well.
You are not alone.
Just in the Library we are frequently inundated with online chats, phone calls and people rushing in to ask about finding quality academic information, how to cite and reference things and other far more random questions. No-one is an island entire of themselves – we all need a little help but the question is who to ask when.
MyPort are an excellent place to start because they are experts in directing people to the best service for them but this quick checklist might also be helpful. Your personal tutor might also be able to help point you in the right direction. Choose which of the following describe most closely how you are feeling and read on to find how they can help you. Read more ›
Spending much more than about 20 minutes sitting still leads to postural collapse and is generally bad for you. You begin to stiffen up, feel lousy and your concentration wanders. Yet every time you think about wandering off for a quick walk or a trip to the gym, you feel hungry eyes fixed on your study space and you find yourself settling back down for another seated stint.
Happily, there are things you can do to reawaken body and mind without sacrificing your study space:
There are few things simultaneously as relaxing and gently stimulating and reinvigorating as a walk through nature. The varied smells and shades of green, breeze, sunshine or drizzle, the feeling of soft yet supportive ground underfoot and the pleasure of feeling the act of walking shake loose stiffness hidden in the body and allow the mind perspective as it comes to refocus on things outside of the self.
We are lucky to have Ravelin Park on our doorstep in the Library as well as Victoria Park in the town centre and Southsea Esplanade, so green and happy scenes are always close at hand. This post from the Mindful blog describes a simple method for most quickly letting go and getting the most from your ten minute amble. Not that there is any wrong way to wander aimlessly in the park. Having fun is by far the most important thing!
Starting with the emergency remedies because they are always good to have to hand, breathing is easily carried out anywhere (you are probably breathing even as you read this, or at least I hope you are because it is kind of important!) and it has a profound impact on mind and body.
Simple relaxed breathing technique
Breathing is natural but breathing to relax takes a little more conscious effort. Stand comfortably with weight centrally distributed, knees soft and tailbone very gently tucked under to relax your lower back, feel the top of your head suspended lightly or sit in a chair with your back supported, your head gently suspended, and your hands resting in your lap.
- Breath in for 5 seconds – feel the sides and back of your ribs expand and stretch as the air gently spreads to the top of your chest and bottom of your abdomen,
- hold for 2 seconds,
- then blow the away very gently through pursed lips for 7 seconds, and repeat.
Notice your thoughts as you breathe, then return to counting your breaths. Thoughts are your friends, they just don’t get to take you away from your breathing. Don’t push them away, just Let them be.
Next, why not try…