Once you’ve settled in and spent a bit of time getting used to university life, you’ll realise it’s all about getting the balance right. Between your studies and social life, attending lectures and getting involved with your uni’s societies, finding that harmony between hitting the books and enjoying your downtime is important – but how do you get it right?
With the help of experienced life coaches, we’ll show how you can get the best of both worlds during your studies by using a collection of tried and tested approaches to organising your schedule. From using physical planners to the art of saying no, keep these helpful hints in mind during term time when you need to prioritise your productivity.
Organise your life
“One of the biggest differences between life as a sixth former and life as a student is how much you’re responsible for managing your time and making choices about what you do and when,” says personal and executive coach Dr Sally Ann Law. For many students, this is the first time they’ll be living away from home, faced with entirely new situations it might be difficult to deal with at first.
Sally continues: “It can be quite overwhelming to get the balance right between keeping on top of uni work, making new friends, joining clubs and societies, figuring out a new city, and getting some sleep! It’s a very good idea, therefore, to come up with a framework to help you get that balance right.”
Sally suggests using an electronic calendar: “Get used to putting literally everything into it that you must do and want to do – both the ‘rocks’ and the ‘pebbles’. First, enter everything in that you really need to do, i.e. the rocks: your classes, any seminars/study groups you have, and time for reading and doing assignments. Then work out what your extra-curricular priorities – the pebbles – are and enter them into the calendar.”
Doing this allows you to see any clashes firsthand. From here, you can decide what to do about them; maybe you choose another night to go out or maybe you choose another club to join.
“The bottom line is,” Sally says, “the more organised you are, the more you will feel in control of your life.”
Get to know dates and deadlines
Throughout uni, there’ll be a whole host of dates and deadlines to keep track of, so it’s essential you have these in mind at all times.
When it comes to completing assignments, life coach Nicky Raby has a great tip: “Make a note of all-important dates; deadlines, submission dates, exams, and seminars, then reverse engineer the process. For example, if your deadline is 8 weeks from now, consider how long will you need to complete the work and what the process will look like.”
Similarly, career coach and consultant Hannah Salton notes the importance of knowing when things are due: “Decide how you are going to track your deadlines – be it a physical diary, your phone calendar, or something else – and make sure all your deadlines and important dates are listed there. It’s well worth getting this done as soon as possible at the start of term, so you can get the lay of the land. Be sure to look ahead across the whole term to ensure there aren’t any last-minute surprises.”
The art of declining
As a student, you’ll get all sorts of requests and invites throughout the term. We know that students can end up getting some serious FOMO if they don’t attend everything that comes their way, but keeping on top of your studies and filling up your social calendar isn’t always possible.
“Learn how to say no to things,” says Hannah. “While there are so many exciting opportunities at university, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your friends about your commitments, so you don’t end up saying yes to too many things and stressing about what you’re falling behind with.”
Nicky shares the same sentiments: “Be discerning about what you say yes to. It’s important to remember that you control your schedule.”
Work to your strengths
After a while, you’ll get to know your preferred time and environment for completing work in. Create a frame of mind for getting tasks and assignments done by knowing your strengths.
Nicky advises working with your own rhythm: “If you are alert and motivated in the morning, schedule your intense work for then. If you don’t wake up until after dark, clear some time and find a quiet spot.”
Don’t forget about downtime
“Schedule in downtime, as well as socialising time. You want to do your best at university but it’s important you enjoy some you time too,” says Hannah. “Work out what activities you find relaxing, be it sport, reading, or meditating, and try to stick to them even during busy times.”
Similarly, Nicky advises: “Do activities that make you feel good. While academic commitments are obviously important, it’s good to balance things out with a holistic approach.”
Use momentum as motivation
As each term progresses, you’ll have found the methods that work for you. Maintaining the schedule you’ve created is key to consistent academic performance as well as keeping an enriching social schedule. As Nicky says, it’s a good idea to “celebrate your wins and notice the progress you are making.”
When they happen, acknowledge your achievements, Nicky notes: “This will increase your momentum so you will do more and remain motivated and excited about what you are gaining.”
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