For university students, this time of year means one thing… DEADLINES. Whether you’re in your first year, or your final, you will no doubt be cramming, revising, and researching. And this is where it can be hard to get organised. It’s one of the biggest issues of going to university, and let’s face it, organising your life and managing your time is not easy. So here are my tips to avoid those deadlines turning into dread-lines.
1, Plan, Plan, Plan
Ideally, you need one place where you keep the details of any upcoming deadlines together. Some people like to use the calendar on their smartphone, but personally, I prefer to have a hard copy in my diary and I always keep this in my bag. Paperchase and W H Smith have some really cool diaries and organisers. I tend to have the A5 size, as I find them easier to carry with me.
If you are using your smart phone, see if there’s a way to sync it between your devices, that way, each device will be up to date. If you have a Google account, their calendar can be used on most devices and apps.
2, Look at the bigger picture
I find it helpful to be able to look at all my upcoming events at a glance. On the back of my bedroom door, I have this wall calendar from Ryman. It also comes with round sticky dots, which can be used to mark dates and events. I have a different colour for deadlines, social events, and birthdays. Being able to look at the whole year helps me plan my time, and also reminds me of any fun things I have to look forward to around all my deadlines!
3, Reward yourself
The best way to optimise your study time is to break things down into manageable chunks. I find the best way is to plan your deadlines on a calendar, and then work backwards to decide mini-deadlines to set for yourself. These will help to keep you on track, reduce stress, and you’ll get satisfaction from knowing you’re on plan! Most importantly, make sure you reward yourself when you do meet the mini deadlines!
4, Don’t be afraid to ask for help
A lot of students aren’t aware of all of the services their university offers. It’s worth having a look on your university’s website and seeing what academic support is available. There might be lectures on how to improve your essays, crash courses in correcting your grammar, or advice on referencing, which are all ways of making sure you don’t lose out on marks.
5, Speak to your lecturers
It’s daunting, but at the end of the day, lecturers are the ones who will be marking your assignments. If you can, go and discuss the ideas you have for your assignments and essays, that way, if you’re way off topic they can point you in the right direction and ultimately help you to become an effective student through their guidance. They will also be able to tell you about helpful resources for revision and exam preparation.
6, Make the most of your peers
As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. So why not join forces with your friends? If you have people on your course you can talk to, buddy up to help each other revise and share notes. There’s nothing wrong with sharing notes from lectures, but try to keep ideas for essays and assignments to yourself, you want your piece to be original! If you have friends on different courses, use them as motivation by arranging study dates. This will make sure you are setting aside time to do your work, just make sure you don’t end up distracting each other!
7, Allocate time for drafting and proof-reading
One on the most detrimental things you can do to your assignment is neglect proof-reading. We’ve all been there, you spend time on research, make a plan, and get the words on the page. But when you’re writing and you get on a roll, you’re thinking so fast that the words that are in your head don’t all necessarily make it onto the page, and that’s when bad grammar, spelling errors, and even missing words happen. These are common mistakes which can easily lower your marks. So make sure you give yourself a few days before the deadline to re-read your work, and check for any errors. I also find that Grammarly is really helpful for proof-reading my assignments, although like spell check, it isn’t fool proof.
8, Avoid plagiarism
It’s all too easy when researching and taking notes to forget which are your own thoughts and which you have taken from other sources. Plagiarism, where you don’t acknowledge these sources, and pass them off as your own work (whether accidentally or not) is taken extremely seriously by universities. The easiest way to avoid this, is by noting down where you find this information from, and to reference it in your work. It may seem time consuming, but it will save you time and hassle in the long run if you decide to use another person’s work in your assignment and can’t remember where it came from. It’s also worth checking what referencing system you’re expected to use (if applicable).
9, Don’t neglect your health (including your social life!)
We all find it difficult to get the balance right between our study life, and our social life, but it’s important to make time for both. If you completely neglect your social life, you will feel unhappy, become resentful of your studies, and feel even more reluctant to work. So make sure you give yourself some down time too! However, it can’t be all play and no work! It’s also important to take regular breaks to give yourself time to recharge. As countless studies have shown, concentration begins to decline after around 40 minutes, so there’s no point staring at your laptop for hours on end. Taking regular, short breaks, will help to improve your concentration, and stop you burning out.
10, Speak to someone if you’re not coping
University is stressful, especially at this time of year. So if you’re struggling with your work, or have other health or personal circumstances which are affecting your studies, make sure you speak to someone. Lecturers can’t help you with issues that they don’t know about, and in some cases, you might be entitled to extensions or special circumstances, but don’t leave it until it’s too late!