Lifestyle: Studying Whilst Working

I’ve moaned enough about it lately – the early-morning studying, the late-night revision, the spoiled Bank Holidays. I’ve had a lot of questions both on here and on social media about what I’m actually studying for (and even one memorable accusation of me lying about studying as I graduated last year – the dark-side of blogging cliques right there!). And I’ve had even more questions about how I’m balancing working, studying, blogging and (kind of) having a social life…

 photo Working Whilst Studying_zpshvfkalig.jpgWell my personal feeling is that I’m not balancing it. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed. I’ll sit down to study and think about all those unread emails in my blog inbox. I’ll be blogging and think about all the studying I need to do. I’ll feel guilty having some free time. I love my job, yet I’ll want to leave on time so I can do something in the evenings – either study or blog. I struggle to make time to exercise, there’s always something else that needs to be done.

The exams I’m doing are tough. I’m studying to qualify as an actuary – eventually I’ll be a Fellow of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries with some shiny new letters after my name. The exams intensive in terms of both time and content – and only around 45% of candidates tend to pass each exam. The exam I took in April has a recommended study time of 400 hours, with my notes filling 5 level-arch folders. Squeezing in 400 hours to a 6 month period, whilst working full-time, has actually turned out to be quite tough. I am lucky enough to get around a day off a week from work to study, though the response of many of my non-work friends is that I use them for lie-ins and lazy days – I wish! Most of them I’m at the kitchen table by 8am, and generally spend longer working than an average day. Though I guess doing all that in my PJs is rather nice…

Finding The Time

Whilst it is depressing, I find looking at my average day and seeing where I could fit in some study is the easiest way – doing a little bit as often as possible means (1) I’m in the habit of it and (2) I feel more productive and thus feel a lot more prepared and confident. My commute is generally spent reading material – or revising using a study card app nearer to exams. Lunch breaks I like using to do a couple of questions – I’ve found picking a particularly difficult topic and spending 20 minutes working through it is a great way to power through it (plus I’d put off the difficult bits otherwise!). I also like to spend an hour or two in the office after work. I’ll book a meeting room and put my head down – though obviously I tend to only do these for a couple of months before an exam. All year round would probably exhaust me!

If all else fails, I find physically slotting some study time, some blog time, even exercise will make me do it. If it’s in the diary, I’m committed.
 photo Workwear Outfits 5_zpsh6xj6p3x.jpg

Little Hints to Keep Motivated

  • Focus on the end goal. Thinking about when I’m fully qualified, with those extra letters after my name, just helps keep me focused
  • Ignore the pass rates and stats – as they’re quite low for my exam, I find them quite demotivating.
  • Set days for certain things. I like to have Wednesdays as my study leave from work, I like to study Tuesday and Thursday evenings, on Mondays and Wednesday evenings I blog and exercise. And Friday night is fun night – until the fortnight before exams of course!
  • Make sure you have some down time. Treating myself to a magazine and face-mask, or a nice bar of chocolate will always boost my spirits.

And if all else fails, productive procrastination helps!

How do you balance everything in your life?

Beauty: Work Appropriate Reds

I’m not a huge fan of nude lips, my skin tone just isn’t right for it. I’ve yet to find my perfect nude lipstick shade (I got close, but the lustre finish is just a little frosty for my liking), I much prefer to go down the bolder route. Yet sometimes red just doesn’t feel quite appropriate for a busy day at the office – I feel as though I stand out too much. I still adore my Matte Balm in Standout but it’s a little too bold for everyday wear. These alternatives are slightly muted, adding confidence without feeling too out there.

Work Appropriate Red Lipstick and Nail Polish photo 832aea16-1820-4704-8bcc-9af29793092d_zpsdi08roxg.jpgI adore red nails, but find they can look a little cheap. For my perfect look, a bright pillarbox red nail has to be short, square and perfectly manicured. My hands are never in that state, so I’m never happy with a red nail. This Barry M offering in Paprika has a slight burnt-orange tone which means it looks a little softer. I just wish these polishes wouldn’t chip so easily – I seem to be an aggressive typist and lose the edges virtually immediately!

MAC Hot Tahiti - Work Appropriate Red photo 78b362fe-b801-468b-a219-0beb826f0a65_zpswhckyfv5.jpgFrom tips to lips, and I’m in love with this MAC lipstick. Hot Tahiti is a glaze finish which I don’t hear that much about, but I can honestly say I’d look for more of them. Hydrating and extremely comfortable to wear, they are sheer without lacking pigment and (if this shade is anything to go by) leave a slight stain when they wear off. This shade is a darker toned red, warm and I find it looks wonderful against my paleness. It can easily be vamped up with a lip liner too (Max Factor are my choice), or blotted down to stay put for hours. I go through phases as to which shades are my favourite, but for a red lipstick, I don’t think this can be beaten!

Do you prefer bold or neutral makeup for work? Would you rock a red lip everyday?

Beauty: Monday Morning Makeup

I find I need a bit of extra help from my makeup on Monday mornings. I don’t tend to sleep well on Sunday nights, after the boyfriend-goodbyes, the travelling, the unpacking, my mind simply won’t relax. So when my alarm goes off it definitely shows. My skin looks dull, under-eye cirles more grey, and I just look tired. Even a relaxing weekend makes me look as though I’ve been burning the candle at both ends!

 photo 5332d970-d7bb-4bd7-96f3-d84dc01f9c66_zpsbqasbzzs.jpgI’ve manage to get into a good makeup routine that is super-quick and super easy, that polishes me up to a work-appropriate look. Yet whilst it makes me look awake, look an awful lot better, it doesn’t look too “done.” I don’t look like I’ve made a huge effort, like I’m trying to hide the weekend damage. It all looks pretty natural, which is perfect for work. And I don’t need to worry about it sliding off my face mid-morning; all of these products will stick around for the entire day.

 photo 96fb4b47-c6c5-4b09-a736-200e68216cfe_zpsr6iyhamk.jpgFirst up, the eyes. This is where tiredness shows on me the most. I take down puffy eyes immediately with this roll-on eye ‘cream’ from Botanics. It’s amazingly refreshing and awakening, but I wouldn’t use it as my only eye-cream as it isn’t hugely moisturising. Every night (and immediately after I wake up) my under-eye area is moisturised with a teeny dot of Boots Vit E eyecream, which is the best I’ve found so far. A pat of 17’s Stay Time Concealer (the only liquid one I’ve found pale enough for me), finished with a swipe of MUA’s Pro-base Concealer Pencil hides my under-eye circles without showing up any dryness or wrinkles (at 21 I already have wrinkles thanks to last year’s operation!). I find that applies carefully in light layers this combination never looks cakey, but is pretty much full-coverage. Blending in a small amount of Rimmel foundation (again, the only shade pale enough – even Nars is too dark!) out from the centre of my face evens out my skin tone, without piling too much on. On top of an illuminating moisturising (Garnier is my top choice, and has been for nearly two years) this will keep my skin looking glowing and awake, but again not piled in product.

 photo 59a63f53-bd2b-4430-a545-3262aa811358_zpsd6edwg3q.jpgOnto more “makeup-y” bits now, and I recently discovered a shade of matte eyeshadow from Max Factor that is a perfect match to my skin tone. A wash of this over the lid evens out any unevenness, and adds a teeny bit of definitely. The formulation is pretty good too, I’ll be checking more of the range out soon before bringing a full review! Decent mascara is a must for me, and I’ve loved Bourjois’s One Seconde offering since it was realised. I previously just relied on Natural Collection (cheap and very cheerful!) but the brush and flake-free formula means this is a winner. A final sweep of a nude eyeliner neutralises any redness on my waterline, and I look as awake as is possible for pre-7am!

 photo 48603381-67fc-43ba-9007-744efa36ecd5_zpsk7np0s1m.jpgAdding a bit of colour back to my face is crucial, but on Monday’s I tend to avoid adding too much. I don’t want to appear like I am trying to hard to look awake, so go with slightly more neutral colours than I do for the rest of the week. A well-blended sweep of Nars Douceur (love the colour, not overly convinced the formula is anything special) adds definitely to my cheekbones, whilst MAC Plumful offers some subtle colour to my lips. Whilst not the longest lasting lipstick, this will definitely hang around until a lunch-time top up. A splash of fragrance and I’m ready to head out of the door and face the day.

At least I look more awake, even if I’m not exactly feeling it! How do you make yourself seem more awake on a Monday morning? What are your everyday staples?

Lifestyle: What’s on my Desk (Office Edition)

I love reading other student blogs about how they study, what stationery they use (I’m a stationery addict!) and I’ve been itching to update you all on my own. Thing is, I’m technically a student this year, but not really – out on my placement year I’m working in a fancy office, with massive desk and two (sometimes three) computer screens. Pretty sure what’s on my desk isn’t as exciting as most students, though I’ve tried to make it as ‘me’ as possible.

 photo f50ac2a4-1d99-42ab-954e-7b04ce7634e6_zpsb0gkadx4.jpg photo 2846c901-b355-49f1-8973-5798b328c73f_zps9rnmwass.jpgI’ve found a good stapler and hole punch an absolute must in the office. Anything printed has to be filed away immediately, and definitely not left unattended on your desk (confidentiality and all that)…and whilst the printer generally at least handles the stapling side (but not for my fancy Adobe software that took four months for IT to give me permission to have) hole-punching is definitely beyond its capabilities. I prefer to keep these items as small as possible, and I’ve found Leitz to offer some great ones. The hole-punch* might be small, but it can still go through at least 25 sheets. The stapler* is pretty damn strong, and it also comes with a 5-year guarantee…though I’m finding it pretty difficult to find Leitz branded staples!

As I’m on placement, I have a mountain of paperwork I need to keep up to date with from university. Monthly blogs, quarterly reviews, a report, plus gradings from my supervisor and the standard H&S rubbish. This all gets thrown into the Leitz magazine rack* – not only functional and sturdy, the lovely pink colour really brightens up my desk!

 photo 2014-09-24175026_zps64eef189.jpg photo 13bb4b5a-0572-4b23-93d0-fc022f362a89_zpsdefa7e5f.jpgRegular readers will know I can’t live without my Filofax, and this has become even more true for this year. Keeping track of meetings when I’m not in the office would be impossible without it, as I don’t have a laptop (reason: I requested not to have one as I’d never switch off). I also use it to keep note of what I’ve been doing, meal planning, calorie counting, and blog organisation. You could say my entire life is in there!

 photo 2de67eb9-89f8-4edb-a0ad-a4fd471cacff_zpsxuimufpd.jpgSome beauty treats also feature in my desk – my top drawer is actually dedicated to them! I couldn’t live without a decent handcream or lipbalm – air conditioning is a killer! My current handcream is from Yes Nurse*, and is one of the better ones I’ve used. Lightly and subtly fragranced (I loved one from Orla Kiely, but the smell made it impossible to take to work), quick to absorb and it comes with an adorable cover. It also raises funds for Breast Cancer Care, to which I donated on receiving this to review. I’m unfussy about lipbalms, and tend to switch between Bodyshop offerings, or Burts Bees. I’ll always have the lipstick I started the day wearing in my handbag too!

 photo 74f2d434-3c32-4551-90e0-047e3dec8a76_zpspedgkr5j.jpgPens are one of the banes of my life (along with my hair). Being left-handed everything seems to smudge. I get covered in ink and my work is illegible. For rough notes I’ve taken to using BIC biros*, as they are cheap, cheerful and come in pretty colours. I can’t use these for proper notes though, as they do smudge if I write properly. So I’m still resorting to my Pental Frixon erasable ones – and yep, they still cost a small fortune.

 photo 04f3618d-67f6-4753-aa1f-f9f6161a75d4_zpsmdmboahr.jpg photo 04765d23-91d3-402e-b297-a1bd49b12ede_zpsy26jda6s.jpgOther less exciting things – a stock of fruit (apples and oranges seem to last best at work), and some emergency biscuits and chocolates. The lovely mug W got me for Christmas. My Logitech mouse, it’s so much easier on my RSI strained hand. A stash of Yorkshire teabags (the company provide PG Tips…), and a pair of black ballet flats (so if it rains I can walk to work in wellies and change).

It’s a wonder there’s any space left on my desk to work! What are your desktop essentials? 

Student Summer: What to Take to University #4

I really hope these posts have been useful to you! I know I’d have loved blog posts like this when I started university, but for some reason I only really started reading blogs well after starting this one. Strange I know! Today I’m going to witter on about stationery to take to university. So grab a pen and paper (aha!) and we’ll begin…

 photo 2014-09-11174233_zpse91a20d3.jpgPaper and pens. I have to say this is quite important to me. I’m a leftie so a decent pen is a must or I will smudge everything to an illegible smear. It’s happened before, even with biro. Pilot Frixion erasable pens are my weapons of choice, being able to rub out makes my lecture notes so much neater too. I’m also not a huge fan of colour until I revise, so I stick to black. But it’s up to you. I also like doing rough work in pencil, so I always have a handful of those on the go. As for paper I go for Ryman’s giant refill pads, bought on 3 for 2 with student discount they are the best value I’ve found, and the quality is high enough so you don’t get that dreadful scratchy sound when you writ.

Now, I’d just go with the organisational basics until you get started and learn what the module layout etc is going to be like. Pick up a single folder and some plastic wallets; buy more as you go. I have a system now (as an actuarial student) of one folder per module, with that upgraded to a lever-arch it the module is a thirty-credit one. My original plan of one lever arch per year is far from achievable; sometimes I fill a lever arch with a module!

 photo 2014-09-11174312_zpsbf6cbb15.jpgNext up is a diary. This is so, so, so important – you will absolutely have deadlines to write down. By all means use your phone if it works for you, but most people I know have to write it down physically. Me? I couldn’t live without my Filofax. I was bought a Pink Personal Malden for my A-Level results (over two years ago!) and I’m virtually never without it. Not only does it look pretty (and matches my satchel) it’s also so, so functional. I’ll be doing a post specifically on how I use it for university soon, if you like, but I do highly recommend a Filofax if you’re a stationery geek like me. With only the inserts to buy (or make) after the initial purchase you have a full customisable diary for a relatively decent price. Mine is always by my side or in my bag, it genuinely keeps my life on track!

Stapler, hole punch, ruler, rubber, pencil sharpener, scissors. Basics that are just handy to have around – you’ll probably need to secure coursework together at some point so a stapler is a must.

Now, a printer is something I’m unsure about. I had one in my first year, then sold it in the carpark whilst packing up as it was that one thing that didn’t quite fit. In my second year we shared one. I *think* I’ll pick up a cheap one for my final year as it’s just so much easier to have one. Printing on campus is extortionate in my opinion, and I can rarely bring myself to do it. I’ll admit though, most of my printing is saved up til I’m at home and then someone else foots the ink bill!

 photo 2014-05-09174211_zpsc2453d48.jpgBooks. No doubt you’ll have a long list of ‘recommended’ books that you ‘have’ to purchase at the ‘reasonable’ price of 10 billion pounds…sarcasm is a strong point here. I’d leave off ordering any until you get there and work out what’s in the library, and whether you actually need them. In terms of recommended books, I’ve only bought one in two years (and it was worth it), and borrowed one from the library. My tip is to google your module name and find other books on Amazon (quite often just older editions of what you need) – you’ll find similar books, and quite often you’ll get used copies for a fraction of the price. I bought loads and loads of books for second year this way, I paid around £40 for 10 books including delivery. Great for when I was recovering from my operation that summer as it gave me something to do! Even though the books can be quite old, they are normally fine though I’d avoid if you’re doing a degree with changing information..I was quite amused when one book came not with a CD, but a floppy disk…

 photo 2014-09-11174422_zps284c6e51.jpgIn terms of revision gear, I’d recommend buying it when you need it. But I use erasable highlighters, erasable colour pens (sensing a theme here?), post-it notes, record cards and lots and lots of paper.

What stationery do you use at university/college/school/work?

What’s Occurring Wednesday: New Lifestyle Series

Remember my What’s Cooking Wednesday series? I really enjoyed doing that over my second year, but I’m not sure it’s too feasible in my third year – I’m working full-time on placement, and quite often will finish later or more exhausted than expected so planned meals can go out of the window. But I do want a place to show you what I’ve been up to, things that don’t need a whole post but would otherwise go unmentioned. And of course I’m sure food will feature heavily too!

 photo 2014-09-06123644_zps9069005d.jpgSo, I’ve mentioned my placement. Since the end of July I’ve been working as an Actuarial Assistant in a large insurance firm. Can’t say too much about my job as it’s quite confidential, but I can say I despite the job title of Actuarial Assistant – it seems to be widely used across the industry, but it sounds so basic. Trust me its not, I’m far from an assistant! I’ve learnt so much in time I’ve been there, my mind swims with Excel shortcuts and VBA code each day, but it’s so worth stretching myself knowing this is definitely where I want to be after graduation. If you’re at university and have the chance of a placement or internship, then go for it – it’s an amazing opportunity! My placement has meant yet another move to a different part of the country, and I’m now based in Surrey. I’ll be doing a post about my new place soon, but I have to say I’m liking Surrey so far. I can get to London in under half an hour, and the train is ridiculously cheap too compared to what I was used to.

 photo 2014-09-06135756_zpse4b36183.jpg photo adcfcdd9-724b-45b0-98ed-63e33ac88890_zps35f545d6.jpgWhen I’ve not been sleeping (full time work is exhausting!) weekends have mainly been spent getting to know my area, usually with my man. Last weekend we were lucky enough to be invited to review a local Indian, so expect a post on that tomorrow. We also came across a local street food festival, which will be featured soon enough.

 photo 2014-09-06123920_zps521cee13.jpg2014-08-30 14.13.28You may have noticed an improvement in pictures – meet my new baby! I turn 21 in December and asked for a camera for my parents. Whilst they were in Turkey the Canon EOS M was discontinued and heavily reduced in most places, I’d set my heart on this one so I ordered away. I then decided that as they haven’t paid me back yet I’d keep it! I got it for a really good price, though I think I’ve already spent far too much on a pretty case, and a lens adapter for it. I’ll be putting a 50mm lens on my list now too! I’m under no illusions than a camera will automatically improve my photos, but I think I’d outgrown my HTC phone camera, and my pictures just weren’t doing it for me. Getting a camera has also encouraged me to learn more about photography basics, and I’m slowly but surely seeing improvement. Not overnight, but it is getting there and I’m finally feeling a little more proud of my blog because of this!

 photo 2014-09-01191654_zpsc5e6aa72.jpgAnd finally, to the food. Having a job = more money = more food. I’ve definitely been treating myself on the food front, no way would I have spent £3.50 on a packet of pastrami as a student. It was delicious though! I’ve also been doing plenty of baking – my Peanut-aires shortbread were spectacularly well received. Amazingly yummy, and surprisingly quick and cheap. I’m still technically a student after all!

That was a longer post than expected! What have you been up to lately?