I’ve moaned about it enough, so you’ll all know by know that despite having graduated last summer I’m still studying. I’ve chosen a career path which pretty much needs a professional qualification, so for the foreseeable future I’ll be entering an exam hall every six months.
Not only does this mean I’m an absolute delight to live with (sorry W!) I’ve also become quite the expert in productive procrastination. A.K.A getting shit done whilst avoiding the mountain of studying sitting there on my desk. Here’s just a few of my favourite ways to procrastinate, whilst being productive about it.
“Organise” Your Notes
I doubt it’s only me that simply can’t revise without neat notes, organised folders and a fully-stocked stationery drawer?! This year I spent far longer than necessary printing labels for my notes and making sure they were perfectly lined up when sticking them on…
NGL, my flat is never cleaner when I’m approaching exams. The phrase ‘tidy home, tidy mind’ springs to mind, though in reality I’m not quite sure that scrubbing at an already sparkling oven is an excuse to put off revision!
This is generally something I do right when I realise I need to knuckle down and do some work. Having a freezer full of easy to reheat meals makes me feel so much calmer going into the exam period, as I don’t need to think about having healthy dinners to cook. My tomato-free bolognese is perfect for this, but I also love freezing stews and casseroles. Anything I can just reheat and throw together with veggies or a salad!
Walk The Dog
Yep, the dog I don’t even have! When I still lived at home, even when I went home during university Easter holidays, I found walking the dog one of the best ways to procrastinate. It got me out of the house and away from my desk, blew away the cobwebs and generally just cleared my mind. If only I could find a dog to walk now!
Sometimes you’ve just got to improve your mood. I hit a rock-solid brick wall about five days before my exam, right before the Easter Bank Holiday gave me 4 solid days of revision. After a few tears and choice words I took an hour or two off. I filed my nails down, shaved my legs and did a triple mask facial. Midway through one of the face masks I had a bit of a ‘eureka’ moment – and cracked the discounted dividend model for valuing equity investments!
The ‘Motivating’ Spotify Playlist
This is double the procrastination for me, as I don’t generally listen to music. However it’s definitely something I’ve spent far too long doing – in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve spent longer perfecting the playlist than I have actually listening to it. I either go for silence (or as close as it gets living under the Heathrow flightpath!) or pop Heart FM.
I’ve already mentioned that baking bread is my number-one procrastination method, although I remain firm in my stance that this is mainly because it goes a good way to reliving my writing-induced RSI. That said, I also love to snack on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g whilst studying, so baking means I generally keep things a little healthier. Homemade hobnobs have *got* to be better than shop-bought ones right?!
Now in my final term of lectures (sob) I can finally say I’ve worked out what works for me in terms of organisation. And also what really, really doesn’t. It’s taken years of trial and error but I think I’ve cracked it – a combination of organisation that keeps me on track, but doesn’t eat into precious study time. I’m pretty sure, given how my pre-Christmas assessments went, that my revision technique is working out pretty well too. Though I’ll never agree with negative marking…
I seriously don’t think I could live without a good to-do list! I like to list out big things – such as examinable content for a module. This is something I started doing wayyyy back in AS levels, going through the specification and ticking bits off as I went – it’s an exam technique that could work for all stages (so to those doing your GCSE’s, get on it!) and it’s super useful. I also like to write daily to-do lists. Seeing what I want to achieve each day really motivates me to get on and do it. And yes, I’m that person who puts ‘clean teeth’ on my lists. We gotta start somewhere!
I don’t know about you, but I get seriously distracted the minute I open up my laptop. I just absolutely cannot practise exam questions by just having the paper open on screen. Before I know it I’ll have 4 Facebook conversations going, I’ll be debating on Twitter and scrolling through my Bloglovin’ feed at an alarming rate. For me it’s all about making sure I’ve got hard copies to hand.
All this printing can get expensive (and annoying – how many times have you been halfway through printing an important bit of coursework when your ink dries up?!) – but luckily Epsom is on hand to (hopefully) change all that. I have to admit I was skeptical when they sent me a cartridge-less printer*, where you should only have to top up the ink once during your degree. Obviously I can’t test the latter claim as that would be a very long review process (plus, y’know, I’m almost finished my degree!) but I have noticed that the ink seems to be lasting better than previous printers. I managed to print a good 20 exam papers and genuinely can’t tell whether the ink level has dropped (should have drawn a line on!). That’s almost the biggest bonus of this printer; you can see the ink levels as you go. No more getting halfway through a document and realising you have zilch! It’s also quiet (no waking up housemates when you’re the one who likes to get up early) and it’s no horrendously bulky or unattractive. I mean, it’s a printer, but as far as they go it doesn’t look tooooo bad. I’d be fine with not hiding it away in a cupboard (the same cannot be said for W’s 3D printer…).
Like with the lists, I just like having my time planned out. This is where I’ve changed though! Before I would make pretty revision timetables, with every hour accounted for. Now I’m a bit less prescriptive. I give myself a day where I concentrate on each module – which works now at degree level because each has enough different topics and ‘bits’ so I don’t get bored. Perhaps not the best idea for A-Levels but for me, it works.
I like to take a few hours around this time of year to work out what stationery I need to get me through the rest of the year. Flashcards always tend to sell out everywhere come May, I always run out of black pens and paper, so I bulk-buy them now. Keen? Definitely. But it makes me feel much more prepared!
Take Time Out
Trust me, when I’ve got a list with a hundred different bits on, I know that the last thing I want to do is give myself a break. I’m actually really bad at taking time out to relax but when I do I definitely notice the difference. I come back more energised and motivated, and often looking at things with a clearer head makes them seem so much simpler. In the run up to my final year exams I’ll definitely be making a little more time for myself…
Look After Yourself
And that brings me onto my next point: it’s really important to take care of yourself. Whether it’s making sure you get enough sleep, three good meals or plenty of water, it all makes a difference. You will never do your best in exams if you aren’t well, so these little things can really boost your performance.
And so that’s it, the little bits I’m already doing in my prep for exams. Yes, they might be many months away, but by getting this out of the way now I’ll be all set to start serious revision come Easter.
How do you prep for exams? Do you start early or are you a crammer?
It’s all too easy to let your health take the backseat when you are sidetracked with revision. Trust me, I’ve been there and done exactly that – to the point of giving myself RSI so badly I couldn’t hold a pen three days before my second year exams. Bad idea…
Here’s a few tips to to keep yourself ticking over whilst revising, after all if you aren’t feeling your best you’ll never perform to your full potential!
Eat Well and Often
It’s easy to me to say (cooking is my favourite form of procrastination!) but making sure you eat well during the exam period is key to sucess. It doesn’t have to take long, my favourite meals are stir frys and salads, but a good meal will keep your concentrating and improve your mood. Revision snacks are also important – I recommend flapjacks!
This is where I went wrong. Doing maths means reading is difficult, so I relied on taking notes and practising questions – completely over-working my hand. If I could have second year again my notes would all be complete, leaving me time to read through and just focus on exam questions.
Optical Express are promoting their top tips for the exam period, and here’s some words from Senior Optometrist Mesha Tanna;
Ensure Your Work Station is Comfortable
“It may sound obvious but it’s best to sit at a proper desk so that you are not crouched,” advises Mesha.” Your screen should be a little below eye level and at least half a metre away. It is also important to have suitable lighting to reduce glare.”
“Students who focus intensely on screens and text books for a significant period of time are at risk of pseudomyopia – a temporary form of short-sightedness which causes blurry distance vision and can last for several days,” says Mesha. To prevent the condition, caused by spasm of the ciliary muscle in the eye, Mesha recommends the 20-20-20 rule; looking away every 20 minutes at something at least 20ft away for at 20 seconds.
Be Aware of Harmful Light
“Exposure to the blue light emitted by computer screens and other digital devices including smartphones and tablets can damage the retinal cells and is linked to a greater risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness,” says Mesha. She recommends regular breaks and trying specialist glasses, such as Neva Max Blue UV, stocked by Optical Express, that filter the harmful component in blue light. Mesha also warns that viewing digital devices before bedtime can upset your sleeping pattern and take you longer to fall asleep as the melatonin hormone, which prompts tiredness, is reduced.
Mesha says: “People blink less frequently when using computers so stick a Post-it to your screen to remind yourself if need be. If your eyes feel dry and gritty lubricating eye drops can provide relief and if you’re working from home consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. If you naturally suffer from dry eyes, it is worth consulting an optician as an underlying condition may be to blame.”
Use Correct Eyewear If Necessary
“Long-sighted people may be able to see adequately close up if the strength of the prescription is low and not require prescribed glasses but they may require a small prescription to undertake close work for long periods,” says Mesha. “Contact lens wearers should also bear in mind that some lenses have a time limit to the number of hours they can work. If you plan to study into the evening and there is a chance you could become too tired and forgetful to remove your lenses, consider switching to contact lenses with increased oxygen permeability for the duration of the exam season.”
Have an Eye Test
“If you experience headaches, discomfort or are in any way worried about your eyesight consult an optician,” Mesha advises. “It is recommended that most people have an eye test every two years but recent research suggests that about 40% of young people are not going for regular eye tests.”
Post sponsored by Optical Express who sent over the eye-health tips and a voucher for me to use against their products. All opinions are my own.
I’ve also found that using Optrex eyedrops* mid-way through a study period really helps – I get quite itchy eyes so this refreshes them and makes me feel way more focussed! What are you top tips for staying healthy during the exam period?
Probably a little bit late in the year for this, as I’m guessing most students will be coming up to their exams (and some lucky people will have finished theirs!) but I thought I’d tell you all how I study best…I’m currently revising like a mad woman for my second year exams, so this post is rather apt!
I will spread out my work around me, either on the floor, or on a large table (I used to have an L-shaped desk at home which was perfect, but sadly that went when my room was redecorated). I’ll work on a module at a time (usually spending a whole day on it) so I’ll have any related text-books or university material (for my Actuarial exams we are given notes from the Profession’s study support – they are amazingly useful, so make the most of any resources you have provided) out, along with my notes, print outs of questions, and enough stationery to stock WHSmiths…
A little note on textbooks – my thrifty self likes to try and avoid buying books (or stick to related ones for 1p on Amazon) but I bought a recommended book for the first time this year and its definitely helped. If you’re struggling with a module I’d recommend it! My top top is to make notes on post-it notes rather than in the book, then you can sell it on for more at the end of the year (I got £75 Amazon credit for my A-level and first year books a few months ago!).
I try to keep complete neat notes throughout the year, then can spend my revision time doing exercise sheets and past exams – for maths students there is nothing better that practice! When doing questions I try to stick to a left-hand ‘column’ on the page so I can write notes down the side, including a model answer when I get things wrong. If the question involves a theorem or definition I’ll also write it in a different colour to try and reinforce the point. I’ll always try to write out questions too, as then I have a clearer idea of why I’m doing what I’m doing…
One of my biggest problems is staying organised, so I use my Filofax to help me with that. I also find that I quite often head out to the library without a pencil case (sooo annoying…I had to pay £4 for a pen on campus once…), so I’d been on the lookout for a thin one to keep in the tiny pen loop in my Filofax. I was kindly sent this stunning Pink Gold Parker Pen* (£59.00, Pen Heaven) a few weeks ago, and I adore it. Its the perfect colour, and nicely weighted (not heavy, but not light like your basic biro either!), and writes amazingly smoothly. There’s no chance of this being left behind, I love it! I don’t use it for everyday notes as I love erasable ink far too much, but for just about everything else I’m using it. I’m really looking forward to using it at work next year – its so professional looking, but still feminine. Can’t you tell I’m in love with this pen?! Revision is sending me mad…
So, my top tips for revision?
Stay organised throughout the year, so its not a mad rush at the end to work out what you should have learnt!
Have a clear plan of what you want to do each day, but make sure it is achievable. Nothing worse than feeling bad because you couldn’t do the 20 past papers you wanted too…
Take regular breaks, and eat healthily, snacking as you go (remember to keep an eye out for the Healthy Snack post as part of my Blogger Link Up!)
Turn off distractions. I turn my wifi/data off on my phone (it also means I don’t need to remember to charge it every night), and have deleted social media apps from my tablet as I still use it for solutions.
Don’t feel bad about saying no. You need to revise, and going out shopping/partying/etc won’t help that – be proud that you are trying to do your best, and don’t be pressured into giving up your time.
Don’t do all-nighters. It’ll muck up your sleeping pattern, and your exams aren’t at night!
But my absolute top tip…?
Don’t give yourself repetitive strain injury (in the wrist of your writing hand) the week before your seven exams start! I’ve managed to either over-do writing (not sure how, as I definitely used to write more when I did essay-subjects for A-Levels) or damage my wrist some other way, and am now struggling to write comfortable for more than 20 minutes at a time. Lets just say I’m a little worried about a three-hour stretch… However, stock up on painkillers and tea (hey, a girl needs restoration fluid!) and invest in a wrist support. Take vitamins regularly before the exam period to keep your immune system running, and generally just take care of yourself – I’ll be sure to the next time I have exams!
Good luck to all readers who have exams, and (if you have time) – how do you revise?
Happy New Year everyone, I hope your celebrations seeing in 2014 were lovely! Mine were spent doing some of the catering for a dinner party which has inspired a post or two, but for now I’m going to share with you all my New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve split these into a few categories, and I hope to keep you updated throughout the year, in a bid to keep me on track!
Weirdly, I’ll only be studying for around 5 months of 2014 as I’ll be on a placement from July, so I’m kinda struggling to this of academic based resolutions. However I have a few broad things I want to work on:
Take better notes for all subjects. I’m not a bad notetaker, I’m just inconsistent. And guilty of spending boring lectures on Bloglovin’. My main aim is to work on my notetaking for my more written modules – numerically I’m fine, but I find keeping up with theoretical financial lectures more difficult.
Come up with a better revision plan. Basically, I want to make sure I’m not learning content when I should be revising! I guess my main aim is to do more past questions.
Make full use of my Filofax. It was a little neglected last term, and my organisation suffered, so I definitely want to improve this.
Self-teach Excel. A little add-on which I think best fits in this category. I use Excel for budgeting, but I’d really like to be able to do more of it before I’m required to use it in a professional setting. I just don’t want to look like an idiot for not understanding it!
The important one! 2013 was the year I really started to blog properly and this year I want to go on developing and improving this site.
Comment on a blog a day. I’m a massive blog reader, but I always seem to just read rather than participate. I definitely want to start showing other bloggers that I appreciate their work!
Keep to a blog schedule. I ideally want to post around three times a week, plus the regular weekly posts such as the What’s Cooking Wednesday series.
Improve my photography. I was debating whether to invest in a Nikon bridge camera over the past few weeks, but have ultimately decided against it, instead focussing on my own technique before upgrading my equipment.
Continue developing the blog. This is a broad one! I’m considering going self-hosted, I want to alter the design I currently have, and I also want to branch out into other areas – for instance I have a lot of beauty related reviews coming soon.
My main aim is to really tighten up my budget (I’ll need to find the money for a deposit on a new rented property around May time, so money is going to be tight!) and expand my repertoire.
Save money. Ideally I want to spend around £10 a week over the next term, with a big shop at the start bringing it up to an average of £15 weekly. I’m also aiming to post a few money-saving tips in the future, including one that saved me a whopping £50 last term!
Continue experimenting with tomato-free recipes. I think I’ve cracked the Tomato Free Slow-Cooker Bolognese, but I want to work on a faster version, and also play about with curries.
Buy joints of meat. I received Save with Jamie for Christmas, and have been inspired by the leftover recipes. I’m definitely going to be trying a few! Linked with this, I also want to learn how to joint a chicken, as I think this will be a lot cheaper than buying the parts separately.
Expand my baking knowledge. Yes, I can cook muffins, but I want to expand into traybakes, and maybe even more impressive cakes. My main aim? Tobake my own bread. Hopefully as good as this loaf my boyfriend made a few weeks back.
My blog is going to become a littleee more beauty orientated as I’ve become a lot more interested in it. My aims are;
To find the perfect foundation for me. I thought I had found this recently, but its not quite blendable enough for me.
Clean and maintain my make-up brushes. I recently invested in a whole new set, and am determined to keep them in the best possible condition.
Try Pixi Glow Tonic. I just think that, from what I’ve read, this would be perfect for my skin.
Take my make-up off every night. Without fail. I’ve gotten my skin to what is pretty much the best it’s been since pre-teenage years, and now I want to maintain it. Unfortunately I’m kinda lazy, but I’m determined to combat that this year.
And finally a mish-mash of things that don’t really come under any category;
Exercise more. The standard resolution. For many years my aim has been to begin running, but its slowly beginning to dawn that my ankles are too weak to run without proper supporting trainers, the cost of which I can’t justify right now. So I plan to walk more, be more active, and use online exercise classes to improve my fitness.
Learn to knit. Properly. I’ve been trying for over a year, and its probably one of the most difficult and frustrating things I’ve ever tried to do. But I’m determined that by next winter I’ll have knitted myself a scarf.
But really, all of my goals amount to one thing – be a better person in everything I do. A lot of self-improvement is on the cards for me this year!
This post has been in my drafts for a long, long time. I kept meaning to come back and add how things have lasted over time, but just didn’t have the motivation. So now, when I should be revising for my exams next week, I’m doing it. Perfect procrastination!
I’m going to concentrate here on the organisation of the learning part of being a student – how I take lecture notes, work independently, stay on track of things and all little bits like that. What I’m not going to take about is the format of my notes, and how I revise. I think that’s something that is very individual to the subject being studied, and I’m not sure many of you will want to read all about how I learn maths – maybe that’s a post for another day!
Organisation is something very important to me – many will call me obsessively organised, and yes, if something is out of place, it will stress me out. One of my key priorities is to have subjects/tasks/stuff differentiated and separated into sections.
The way I do this within my university work is through (lots of) folders and (even more) dividers. For my first year, I have gone with a colour scheme of pink and green – this goes for my whole room (and I was very happy to arrive at university and find I’d been allocated a green room, completely by fluke). So I have pink folders, and green folders. All of these I actually saved after condensing my notes down at the end of sixth form, but if any of you are interested they are all from WHSmiths. Cheap(ish) and readily available. They get based quite easily, but mine generally stay in my room so I’m not too worried about that.
Pink and green folders. Because of the way my course is split, I do Pure Maths modules, and Applied Maths modules (the interesting ones!). Because of this, I’ve split my folders up – pink for the applied, green for the pure. Some of my folders are not ringbinders, but lever arch, and these bigger ones hold bigger modules, ie the 30 credit ones.
I then use dividers to split modules into topics. Usually this is quite easy, in that at the start lecturers told us what topics were coming up. Its not so easy when they just present you with a stream of knowledge, and I’m expected to organise it myself. Potential lecturers/teachers, take note of that! Because I put a lot of things into plastic wallets, normal dividers don’t come out wide enough. You can buy extra-wide ones, but they are expensive. Instead I cut slots in plastic wallets, and put dividers in those. Works just as well.
So, that’s my main folders discussed.
I then have another ringbinder – a more expensive plastic one this time, again with my widened dividers in. I carry this around with me, with each division devoted to a module. I aim to keep at least one spare plastic wallet per module in there at all times, and some extra paper. This keeps my ‘current’ lecture notes organised, and allows me to slot new things in whenever.
I usually file the stuff in this folder away into the main folders either at the end of each topic, or when it is getting very full and heavy. I confess I usually leave it too late, so it tends to take much longer than it should!
I also keep in this folder two of an item that has become incredibly useful over this last year. It’s going to be difficult for me to explain these, without sounding like a total idiot, so have a look here. I find them invaluable for throwing in things I will need quickly (I don’t need to take the folder out of my bag to retrieve things from these), and for keeping things in when I inevitably run out of plastic pockets. I actually bought mine from the university’s stationary shop, and paid considerably more than on Amazon, I know I’ll be ordering from there next time!
I then carry around the usual pens, pencils, rulers, rubbers, calculator etc. I actually use a make-up bag as I couldn’t find a pencil case I liked in September, however I do now I have a smaller case from Wilkinsons for days my bag is really heavy. Such is my obsessiveness about being organised, I also have an exam pencil case – an extra large clear plastic one, in which a spare calculator lives, and some never used before pencils. Sad I know!
A quick notes about the pens I use. I have been using Pilot Frixion erasable pens since the start of university, and I really do love them. They erase reasonably well (not perfectly, particularly on low quality paper), are quick drying (a huge necessity for a leftie!) and last a while considering a write a lot! A box of 12 pens lasts me just over a 12 week term, at £17 a box. So they are pricey, but for me they are worth it.
For paper, I buy refill packs from Rymans – they’re cheaper (with student discount) than WHSmiths, a better quality paper and they always seem to have narrow-ruled in stock. I have to use narrow ruled!
That is my absolutely essentials, for carrying around a normal day at university. Now if only I could find a bag that would comfortably fit those (and lunch and a textbook) in I’d be happy!
For keeping track of timings of lectures, deadlines, exams, and all other activities, I use a combination of things that work for me. Everyone is different, so don’t assume this works for you!
I obviously make use of my smartphone, a Samsung. In my case, my university timetable has synced to my calendar, with all information about lectures. I keep an alarm on set for an hour before the beginning of each to give me enough warning. I also put exams and deadlines on here. I try to keep my work schedule on here too, particularly as I work flexible and so difficult-to-remember hours.
I then have an A3 wall planner. I bought mine from Rymans, as it was the only A3 one I could fine – other sizes were just too big! I record on here term dates, exams and deadlines, visits to/from my boyfriend, and important financial dates such as payday and rent day. I cross of days with a big black marker – this helps me easily see when I need to do what, and how long it is before I get hugs!
The most important part of my organisation is, however, something any older readers may recognise from the eighties. Yes, I have a beloved Filofax. This was not bought on a student budget (although some models are more easily affordable) and was in fact a treat for my A-level results. I chose a Vintage Pink Personal Malden, which retailed at around £75. I paid £41 for it on Amazon, and got a bargain, especially as second hand versions of this model are currently selling still for it’s retail price. My Filofax contains everything about my life – important medical information, diary (which EVERYTHING goes into, including minor to-do’s such as exercises from lectures), shopping lists, timetables, careers notes, finance recording, cards (credit, store, etc) that I don’t use too often, spare money (I advise to always keep a spare £10 somewhere!), university passwords, shopping vouchers, year planner. Literally everything. It’s currently stuffed to the brim and in need of a sort out. I’m definitely glad I paid a little bit extra for a leather filofax, it lies flat (a problem I have heard about affecting some of the cheaper brands), is lovely and soft, smells wonderful, and will last a long, long time! I am also still in love with the colour. It’s a lovely, romantic, dusky pink – girly, but professional too. Definitely something that will last in terms of style.
(I’ve recently noticed that Filofax have been producing a new range, called the original, which is produced by the Leather Satchel Company, who I talked about in a previous post. I could get a bag matching a (new) Filofax! Ah, if money were no object…)
At some point in the near future I plan to publish (another half-written) article fully reviewing my Filofax, or at least a more in depth discussion of how I use it. Until then, look at Philofaxy for inspiration about how others use them!
I believe that I have discussed the main points about my organisation, for now at least. I aim to blog more (i.e. procrastinate more) over the next few months, particularly as those a year younger than me will be preparing to head to university and I want to help them as much as possible. Bye for now!