University: What It Can And Can’t Teach You

I’m a firm believer in that university is not the right path for every person (see more of my thoughts here). I’m also not convinced that degrees are really worth £9000 per year.

I’ve heard all of the explanations regarding the lab equipment for science students, the software for design students, but I’m still not convinced. I love university, don’t get me wrong, and I’m dreading the thought of leaving. But realistically? If there was another way to get into the career I want without saddling myself with loads debt I would never have gone.

 photo 3d3b4f41-87eb-4b9c-8279-eaf3ca86e377_zps5e960d34.jpgYes, it’s taught me how to survive nightmare housemates, and it’s brought me some of the best friends I’ve ever had (who made wonderful housemates!). I’ve learnt more about integration, root two, and Pi than I ever thought possible. I’ve made a massive start on my professional exams, I’ve learnt properly how to cook and budget. But what does university fail to teach you?

This infographic I found really interesting, and although I reckon a lot of the skills you have to seek out for yourself no matter what path you take, its a good guide to see what skills you might want to develop to make yourself more employable!

What University Can And Can

What University Can And Can’t Teach You [Infographic] by the team at TTR PT LIMITED

 What do you think? Do you think that degrees need to focus a little more on soft skills rather than academic theory? Is there anything you feel you missed out on at university? Are degrees worth it?

University: Beating Procrastination

Ah, procrastination! The skill of virtually all students, though I’ve discovered this year that it doesn’t stop upon graduation. Even in work there is a task I will put off until the last moment possible. It’s like folding laundry. I love clean towels, bedding, etc. But having to fold it once it’s nicely dried is the worst chore. I’ve hoovered, dusted, washed makeup brushes and sorted my wardrobe this afternoon. The laundry is still on my bed waiting to be folded…

 photo 752aab2f-38b8-48ec-b1a4-4ea766f2f691_zpsa76d96f2.jpgI found this infographic on how to beat procrastination and thought it gave some really useful tips. Sure, it hasn’t helped with the washing-folding-problem, but that task at work is far less of a problem now.

15 Ways To Beat Procrastination

15 Ways To Beat Procrastination [Infographic] by the team at Essay.Expert

My own top tip for beating procrastination? Have a variety of tasks! I can’t sit and do the same thing day after day after day. When I’m studying I like to spend an hour or two reading, then note taking. After midday I’m all about past questions. Then right before the end of my day I’ll summarise what I’ve done. I also like to have a variety of resources. The internet is all very well and good, but if I’m researching on the internet, there’s a huge chance my Bloglovin feed will accidentally open. I love books (bigger and heavier = better!), and one of my favourite places to physically buy books is Blackwell Books stores on university campuses. Why? Because they often have exactly the book I want, but pre-owned and therefore cheaper. Variety is definitely the key for myself to beat procrastination, if I know I have different things to do I’ll crack on and get started!

How do you beat procrastination? What tasks do you avoid?

Student Summer: Logitech Wireless Mouse Review*

I find that a laptop is pretty much essential for university, even for a maths-related degree. Yes, I hardly use it, it gets more use for blogging, but when I do need it for coursework I’m pretty much glued to it for a few weeks. A desktop for me wouldn’t cut it as I know there are occasions where I need access to it on campus, so laptop it is.

However a laptop isn’t ideal for someone, like me, who has Repetitive Strain Injury tendencies. Since suffering badly over exam period I’ve been prone to really painful twinges (in my other hand) if I use my laptop too often, so I started looking for a decent wireless mouse. Imagine my delight when Logitech contact me wondering if I’d want to review some products – the answer to my problems!
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After a great deal of discussion they sent out the mouse they felt would suit me most, the T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse*. I have to say, I love it!

 photo 0173c082-ed07-4c07-94e1-8c03bde0f1e9_zps995d0527.jpgIts small and lightweight; I can take this to work and pack in my pocket if I need to. It doesn’t aggravate any pain in my wrist, hand or fingers, and best of all its incredible easy to set up. I did have to order a Bluetooth Adapter as for some reason my laptop seems to have forgotten it’s got one built in, but other than that getting this mouse good to go was painfree. Quite literally!

 photo 1ed69b5c-3422-4edc-aff9-fdef090ac401_zps470ae2a0.jpgIt is pricy for a mouse, but the quality is so, so high. If you do a lot of tedious work using a touchpad I’d highly recommend investing in a mouse. And if you are going to be using it often, I’d go for the best you can afford; I’ve actually gone through several cheaper ones throughout university so you’ll be getting your monies worth. Maybe not a university essential, but it’s an item that’s pretty damn important to me! So whilst it is a luxury item, its also something thats necessary for me!

Disclaimer: The mouse was sent to me for the purpose of this review. I received no monetary compensation, and all opinions are my own – I genuinely loved this product!

What necessary ‘luxuries’ do you use?

Lifestyle: 2014 Resolutions Update

In one of my university interviews I was asked to give an immediate answer as to what the exact mid-point of the year is, and explain it. Not as easy as it sounds (and made harder by suffering from the flu at the time), but it means that, if I remember correctly, today is the right day to be posting this! Way back in January I wrote a post about my New Year’s Resolutions, and now here I am updating you all on my progress. Here goes…

Academic
 photo 2014-05-09174242_zps78c4f233.jpgRevision photo 2014-05-09174200_zpse9b3f7a5.jpg photo 2014-05-09174218_zpsa5e264ed.jpg

Take better notes.
Come up with a better revision plan.
Use my Filofax.
Self-teach Excel.

My notes definitely improved after setting myself the goal – especially ones in the subjects I was less enamoured with! In fact I was really proud of some of my notes, and I definitely found myself remembering more in my exams…maybe I am more of a visual learner than I thought.

I can’t say I came up with a brilliant revision plan, but I did find a few ways of revising that really worked for me. The first was keeping better notes throughout the year, so I just needed to read what was there instead of rewrite. Quite glad of this as even with reduced writing I somehow ended up with quite severe repetitive strain injury which I’m worried affect my exams (I actually find out my results today, so fingers crossed!). At home during my Easter break, I used to go to the local library for 9am. I’d have roughly an hour’s break for lunch at a nearby park, then I’d work until closing time (6pm) before doing another hour in Costa going over what I’d learnt. I stuck to a module a day rather than having to carry a ridiculous amount around, and found this really productive. On a general day I’d go through two or three more difficult topics, and do at least one exam paper, marking and making model solutions. As I say, soon we’ll be able to see whether it worked!

Using my Filofax more is a resolution that so far I have failed miserably at! Neither of my Filofaxes have received much use at all this year, but I’m determined that’s going to change. I’m currently sorting out the best combination of inserts etc for my Industrial Placement, so I shall be using it more in a few weeks.

Finally my last academic resolution was to self-teach Excel. I can’t say I feel I have done this as I’m not at all confident on it, but I have got better and did actually achieve 88% on the piece of coursework using it – so clearly I can do it! I’d like to polish up my skills a little more before starting work though…

Blogging
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Commenting daily.
Keeping to a schedule.
Improve photography.
Developing the blog.

I’m proud to say that commenting on other blogs daily is something I’ve managed to achieve and keep up! Apart from when I was on holiday or stuck revising for exams I know I’ve definitely left a couple of comments each day. As well as it benefitting my own page views, I’d discovered some amazing blogs through reading other’s comments, and also enjoyed getting to know more bloggers!

I’ve also definitely kept to more of a schedule. My What’s Cooking Wednesday post carried on for a while, it did disappear during revision time though – I’ll definitely look to revive it when I’m out on placement but it may be in a slightly different form. In case you haven’t noticed, I try to blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays, and my posts are almost always scheduled to go live first thing in the morning.

Photography is something of an ongoing improvement – though I can definitely see that my photos are getting better. I’m also really proud of a couple (yet to be published) so its getting there! I’m asking for a decent (possibly SLR) camera for my twenty-first, so I’d love any recommendations you have!

Developing the blog is something I can say I’ve done – I’m now the owner of ninegrandstudent.co.uk, and between me and my boyfriend we’re working on a custom design. No idea when that will be live, but I’m pleased with the tweaks I’ve made to this new theme at the moment – my blog definitely looks better than it did at the start of the year!

Cooking/Baking
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Save money.
Experiment with tomato-free recipes.
Buy joints of meat.
Expand baking knowledge.

I definitely saved a bit of money in my later weeks at university. I didn’t quite get my weekly budget down to what I wanted (including my start-of-term shops it averaged at £12.72, which was slightly above my £10 target!) but it definitely started going down significantly so I plan to continue this next year even though I’ll be earning. I’m hoping to save a significant amount over my Year in Industry – my rent/bills/travel is so far only working out at £25 a month more, I’ll be earning a monthly salary, have a small amount of student loan coming in and I’ll still be receiving my academic scholarship so fingers crossed!

My experimentation of tomato-free recipes has really kicked off this year, though admittedly only a few have made it to the blog. My Vegetarian Chilli went down very well, as did my Chicken Khari Curry. I want to experiment with a few more curry recipes, and also work on a meaty chilli. By biggest aim – a tomato free BBQ sauce!

The next two resolutions haven’t gone so well. I confess I haven’t bought any joints of meat – although I have been working with cheaper chicken thighs lately and have a fabulous recipe scheduled! I’ve also not done that much baking, certainly no bread making (check out my always crispy Pizza Dough though!). I’m freeing up a little money over my Industrial Placement to do more baking so fingers crossed this will be achieved by the end of the year!

Beauty
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Find the perfect foundation.
Clean makeup brushes.
Try Pixi Glow Tonic
Remove makeup every night.

I’m keeping silent on the foundation front – I’ve recently been trialling a couple of new foundations and there will be a post soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Makeup brushes are getting cleaned slightly more often, although not as often as they should. My main aim for the next few months is to clean my foundation brush every week – although I do wipe it with micellar water after ever use!

You may have noticed from my recent Holiday Makeup post that there is a (half empty) bottle of Pixi Glow Tonic in my possession. I’ve been using this since Valentine’s Day, so it seriously lasts for ages, and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my skin. Blemishes heal quicker and don’t scar, my skin is brighter, and my moisturisers seem to work an awful lot better. Plus the smell is so relaxing at night!

As for removing makeup, generally this is done every night. Apart from the odd night where I was absolutely exhausted or ill (and then I’d hardly be wearing makeup anyway!) my face has been washed with these products. I’ve recently invested in the Camomile Oil from The Bodyshop to do a pre-cleanse with (I plan to be wearing makeup more often when working – air conditioned offices do not agree with my skin!) so I’ll update with my progress on that soon.

Personal

Exercise more.
Learn to knit.

Both of these I can’t say I’ve achieved. I’d like to think I’m slightly fitter than I was in January – I did manage to climb Arthur’s Seat two weeks ago! I’m planning on relearning how to ride a bike over the next month, and soon I will be a year post-op and so able to start swimming again. I can’t explain how excited I am to get back in the pool! As for knitting, I just can’t seem to get the hang of it – if anyone knows of any good books or teachers please do recommend them!

Before I wrote this post I was rather disappointed in myself, but having gone through things I’ve actually achieved quite a lot, considering I’m studying a demanding degree full-time, and travelling to see my boyfriend every other weekend. There’s still quite a bit I want to achieve before the end of the year, but I reckon I’ll get there!

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?

University: Revision Tips

 photo 2014-05-09174242_zps78c4f233.jpgProbably 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!

 photo 2014-05-09174306_zpsdfc56335.jpgI 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…

 photo 2014-05-09174211_zpsc2453d48.jpgA 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!).

Revision photo 2014-05-09174200_zpse9b3f7a5.jpgI 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…

 photo 2014-05-09174218_zpsa5e264ed.jpgOne 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…?

 photo 2014-05-14162350_zps075d47b7.jpgDon’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?

Year 2 Term 2: Aims & Ideals

Today marks the beginning of the Spring term of my second year at university, so today I thought I’d go with a more studenty post – what do I want to achieve this term, and how am I going to go about achieving it?

 

First, I want to improve on last term’s results. I finished my first year with a high 1st and I definitely want to continue with that this year. I felt my first term went okay (although with much room for improvement!) – we covered a lot of completely new and more applied material than before, so I have a lot of revising to do to make sure it’s up to scratch to prevent falling behind!

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I also want to work on my study skills, or at least at not wasting time! I really struggle to work at university when I have a single hour’s break and last term those hour’s turned into a little bit of a gossip session. This term I really want to make the time a little more productive! The type of work I generally have to do isn’t really suitable for an hour’s work (short of reading over notes, I find an hour is too little for settling down and getting a really good grip on a maths problem of this level!) so instead of studying I’m thinking of making those hours into time for me to work on this blog. I even bought a mini keyboard for my tablet, which is an old one of my boyfriend’s kindly gifted to me over the holidays, which will make this a whole lot easier. Does anyone have an recommendation of blogging-related apps which could be useful?

Also in terms of study skills, I want to continue to improve on my technique when I’m actually studying. I want to share some of these tips with you guys, if its something you’d be interested in reading about?

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In terms of my cooking and diet I want to become a little more adventurous. I really enjoyed experimenting with some new ingredients when making my Chicken Massaman Curry, and I want that to continue. Following on from reader feedback (I love getting it, so please get in touch if you have a suggestion!) I want to work on more vegetarian/meat-free recipes so will be doing that!

Looking at my timetable, I’m due to be doing a lot more full days at university this term (I had a strange timetable last term – full on mornings, but finished by 1 three days a week, which was lovely as I got a decent lunch at home!) so I really need to work on making up a decent packed lunch. Currently toying between salad filled wraps, or rice/pasta combinations, but I’m sure I’ll rotate these ideas over the term!

2013-11-20 15.58.25Budgeting wise – I need to, and I need to save money! I may need to shell out for a deposit on a new rented place in a few months, and invest in some workwear so the pennies need to be saved. I managed to save a huge amount of money using a ‘piggy bank’ last term, and I’m hoping this method along with experimenting with cheaper ingredients will help my savings mount up.

And whilst I am budgeting, I’m also experimenting with my make-up and beauty regime. In the spirit of things, however, I’m trying to keep everything as low cost as possible. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming ‘budget buys’ post as I’ve nabbed some great sale bargains (including the aforementioned workwear!)

So that’s a broad outline of what I want to achieve over the next term. Now for the important bit! What do you want to see on my blog over the next twelve weeks? All and any suggestions are welcome!

REBLOGGED: Diary of an (Actuarial) Undergrad – Trials and Tribulations of a Good CV

I was recently asked to do a couple of guest posts for my university’s careers service blog, which can be found here. I must say, the support I have already received from the University of Kent in terms of careers has been outstanding. I reccomend a look on their website even if you aren’t a student, as there is some amazing advice. Definitely check out their blog too, and here’s my original post.

 

I’ve just finished my first year in Actuarial Science (which is, to put it very simply, a mixture of mathematics, applied statistics, economics and finance) and will be beginning a yearlong placement in the summer of 2014 as part of my degree. As of yet applications are only just starting to open, so I’ve been concentrating on getting my CV up to scratch.

 

The simple fact is you will be asked to produce a CV for potential employers at some point in your life.

I’ve held two part-time jobs whilst studying, and both of these were obtained by handing my CV to a prospective manager, so I know firsthand how crucial these ‘little bits of paper’ are. I also know that having to quickly produce one to hand over is probably one of the most stressful things in existence. So even if you ignore everything else I write in this post, at least do one thing; prepare your CV now, when you have a spare minute, and then update it as and when needed.

 

So, the perfect CV. What’s in it? What definitely shouldn’t be in it? How long should it be? What font should I use?

There’s a list of endless questions you could ask, and I’m not going to pretend I have all of the answers. But I have been told my CV is strong, and I’ve also had some fabulous advice from Nikki Ellis (the industrial placement adviser in the Schools of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science) so I hope I can guide you to the right direction.

The general consensus is that a CV for industrial placements (and indeed graduate roles) should be 2 pages in length. That should be a full 2 pages. Not 1.5 with hugeeee writing. And not squished-up-with-tiny-margins-and-tiny-font 2 pages. You shouldn’t be altering the layout of your paper and the size of your font to compensate for too short/long CVs. On that note, go for a standard font (something like Calibri or Arial) – none of the fancy swirly stuff! Keep the size between 10 and 12, any smaller and it will be difficult to read, any larger and you run the risk of it looking a little child-like.

The layout used is a bit more personal. I went for a tabular style CV, with section headings down the left. I also made important details (sub-headings such as educational results and job titles) stand out by putting them in a bold type face. One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to  break up large chunks of text, either through bullet points or some other means. A hunk of text will be off-putting, you want something easy to scan, something that will easily highlight how wonderful you are.

Content is a bit easier for me to advise on. I’ve been told that the order of the section in a CV should be as follows; contact details and profile; education; experience; skills; interests; and references. This is the order in which I will discuss the sections, just to make it a little easier for both me and you…

  • You want to start with your name and contact details. Make sure you include a phone number, email address and postal address.
  • Then go with a short paragraph (or maybe two even shorter ones) called a profile. This should briefly introduce yourself, summarise your experience and education, and state your current career goals. This section should be brief and to the point, and no more than a few sentences. Now is not the time to waffle (actually, at no point should a CV contain waffle!).
  • Then comes the education section. This should be in reverse chronological order, i.e. the most recent first. A good piece of advice, particularly if you find yourself short of space, is that the most recent qualifications should be talked about more, and the ones you took years ago the least. Hence I have just two lines devoted to my GCSE’s on my CV; the institution I sat them at, and the grades received. I haven’t mentioned specific subjects (although it is a good idea to clarify that they do include Mathematics and English), but I did mention the subjects I studied at A-level and devoted a little more space to these qualifications.
  • University modules and grades are often far more important. If your degree is directly relevant to the roles you are applying for, I’ve been told to detail the modules you have taken. I was also advised that, if ALL of your module grades are of a high standard, to include them in your CV. However, I really wouldn’t advise doing this if one is significantly lower than the others, or if they should any kind of inconsistencies in your academics. Best to use your own judgment to make that call!
  • Again in reverse chronological order comes your work experience. This can be anything from volunteering roles to employment. My personal advice would be to head each section with the place of work and the timescale, then briefly evaluate which skills you have gained from the role.
  • Following this section should be where you detail your key skills. My opinion is that bullet points are best for this, but at the same time make sure you write in full coherent sentences. Steer clear of clichés, and make sure you don’t repeat yourself. I know when I first got my CV reviewed by Nikki Ellis she counted a ridiculous 21 “I am”s in mine! Keep things clear, to the point, and relevant to the kind of roles you are applying for.
  • Next is the interests section. I’ll admit my CV actually lacks this, as I was short on space and it the thing that should be compromised on as opposed to nixing part of your education or employment history. This section is more important to some companies than others (do your research when applying!) and remember that any hobby or interest you list will give an impression about you as a person so think carefully about any potential implications.
  • Finally references. Here you have a choice; include full contact details of your chosen referees (make sure they are happy to provide references prior to submitting your CV if you chose to do this!) or state that you have references available on request. At university I’ve been told I need to include on academic referee (check with your department who the appropriate person is) and one employment referee; I have stated these two referees, and also mentioned that I am able to provide further employment references on request (as I have held done more than one job in the past).

 

And so that’s it, my not-so-brief guide as to what a CV should look like and include. I hope it helps at least one of you to create an excellent CV and hopefully gain a job! I’ll hopefully be back in a few weeks with a post on application processes, and those lovely online logical and numerical reasoning tests that a lot of companies implement into applications. Until then, have fun updating your CV…

I Should Have Been A Student In The Eighties

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m obsessively and unhelpfully organised. I say unhelpfully; when plans change for reasons beyond my control, it kind-of upsets me, and definitely stresses me out! Tonight I’m going to blog all about one of the ways I stay organised – my Filofax.

Filofax’s were really popular way before I was born, in the Eighties. I love the Eighties, I wish I was my age (too close to 20 for my liking!) in that decade. Everything just seems so much simpler, the music was better (I’ve been addicted to Bon Jovi for many years now) and it wasn’t seen as odd to carry a Filofax. I get a few funny looks when I full out my Filofax, and I think that’s a shame. Just imagine how many less people would miss deadlines if they actually wrote them down! That said, I think they are beginning to become more popular. I’ve seen a few around and about, particularly on trains, and I even see a girl on Loughborough University campus jogging with one a few days back…

Back in the “good old days” a sign of popularity was whether your Filofax was stuffed full or not. Nowadays, people are being a lot more creative. If you look on any of Philofaxy’s ‘Web Finds’ post you’ll find many links to other blogs showing their Filofax set ups, complete with bright colours, stickers, washi tape etc. They’re not limited to diaries and business-card-holds – you can buy and make so many different types of inserts, and they’re completely versatile.  I currently use mine as a complete organiser, and here it is…

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I have a Personal sized Vintage Pink Malden. I agonised for weeks about which Filofax I wanted (it was a gift from my parents in reward for my A-level results). I knew I wanted a Personal sized one (for those who are wondering about sizes, have a look here). Basically, these are roughly the same size as the academic diaries given out yearly by many schools, they aren’t too bulky, but nor are they too small (being a very awkward left-hander, I was conscious I’d struggle to write in anything smaller).

After going and touching them up in Paperchase, Rymans, and pretty much anywhere I could get my hands on them, much to the embarrassment of my other half, I finally decided that I definitely wanted a leather organiser. They’re just softer, and more luxurious. Because lets face it, if you’re a student being offered luxury, grab it with both hands and make the most of it! If you’re just starting out on the ‘getting organised’ route and are not sure you’d use a Filofax, I’d suggest getting a non-leather one, or even an alternative brand, as they are very pricey. After much more stroking and leather smelling, I fell in love with the softness, floppiness and luxury feel of the Maldens. It is such a strokeable (yes I sit and stroke my Filofax…) leather, and it smells so lovely too! I then had to decide about colour. I was deeply tempted by the Ochre colour, but in the end the girliness inside me won. Vintage Pink it was. The colour is ridiculously hard to photograph, I’ve seen nothing which has managed it, but I’m hoping the following photo shows it off reasonably well:

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I apologise for the quality of all of these photographs – my university accommodation attracts a lot of sunlight in the evening, and I also wanted to use as much natural light as possible as I often find colours distort under artificial light.

Inside my Malden there is a lot of pockets and card slots – perfect for someone who likes to stay as organised as me. I keep all of my bank, and loyalty cards inside, as well as ID and stamps. Anything I might need in fact! The zipped pocket holds spare change, and emergency £5, and a memory stick.

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Although you can’t really tell from my photos, the fifth ring down is misaligned. Not hugely, but enough to make my pages catch and be annoying. I’m not too sure what to do about it though!

Skipping to the back of my Filofax now. Built in there are two large pockets, and a pen loop at the back. The top (horizontal opening) pocket is one that is used a lot. It is the perfect size for my passport, and also houses a pen and usually a Filofax holepunch. It is very significant that the pocket houses the pen – the pen loop on my Malden is actually fully closed up – if you push a pen through it can’t go through as there is an ‘end’ to the loop. This is clearly a fault, but as you can’t get hold of these Filofaxes anymore, its a problem I again don’t know how to address! The pen I use is a black Pilot Frixion – one of those erasable ones. I use these all the time, apart from for coursework and exams. I love them, they don’t smudge from my (dodgy leftie) handwriting, don’t bleed through, and last a reasonably long time. Well about a week, but I do use them a lot. Next year I hope to use some of the coloured ones to make my Filofax a little bit more organised, but I couldn’t fit them in the budget for this year. The holepunch I have is a WHSmiths branded one. Its fiddly and difficult to use  –  I’m definitely in the market for a more sturdy one, preferably one that punches A5 filofaxes too. Any ideas?

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To up the storage in my Filofax, I make good use of the card holder inserts that came included, and I also bought two zip pocket inserts from Paperchase. I use the extra card holders for business cards, and cards I don’t use as often as the ones in the front. Inside the zip-pockets goes receipts, and vouchers. You can see a Golden Ticket in the following picture – this is the voucher I received from my other half for Christmas, and entitled us to an afternoon of Chocolate making at a shop in Loughborough (review to follow I think!). I also keep some painkillers in my Filofax, just for sudden migraines.

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So, now you’ve explored the actual physical features of my Filofax, it’s time to take you inside and show you how I use it.

I use it mainly as a diary/organiser. For this, at the moment, I am still using the original inserts that came with the Filofax – week to view. This doesn’t work particularly well for me. At the start of the academic year, I was really organised and colour-coded everything. As is very clear from the photos, I got bored of this, and instead it now contains a lot of scribbles, and a lot less writing. I’ll definitely aim to use it a little more next year – hopefully with some more suitable inserts. The best I’ve seen are on Philofaxy, but I don’t have a good enough printer so I’d be looking for someone to print and send them to me for a bit of payment – not sure who to approach about that, definitely something to look into over the summer! I ideally want  something a little like the undated planners, but with only half a page per day, and less note-taking space.

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As you can see, my Filofax definitely got more bare as the year went on, and I think the main reason for that is the setup just wasn’t right for me – definitely need to change my planner style!

Next is an insert which does get a lot of use – a horizontal year planner. I got mine from WHSmiths, as I prefer the layout and font. Plus its cheaper, particularly as there’s no shipping costs. I use this to record term dates, deadlines, exams, breaks, boyfriend visits, holidays, rent payments, pay-days, work commitments. I have to be intelligent in how I note things in, as the space is very small. I also use the back (note spaces separated by month) to jot down train times relating to that month.

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I then also have a ‘weekly’ section in my Filofax. This is homemade, using a Philofaxy template, and involves a physical copy of my university timetable. This year I used a bright pink paper, I’m going to tone it down a bit next year!

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I love this layout, as it shows when my free periods are, when I’m busy at the weekend, work commitments (which change weekly due to my wonderfully flexible job), visits to the boyfriend, lecture venues, and just about everything. I don’t include deadlines though. I’m not sure whether I will continue this for next year, though, as my lecture timings get more complicated (so there’s won’t be enough timeslots), and my university does have a very good system and so my timetable is synced seamlessly onto my phone calender. I will look for another type of weekly planner though. Or maybe a monthly one. I just feel something a bit more detailed than my yearly one would be a good idea.

A quick note about dividers. I still use the ones that came with the Filofax (the lovely cotton cream ones), although the A-Z ones are currently hiding in a drawer somewhere. I don’t use them in any particular way – their headings don’t match up to the contents, but I know where things are. I may cover them with a nice cream or plain-ish pattern over summer, and just use them unlabelled.

I then have a Finance section. At the beginning of the year, I used Filofax’s standard finance inserts, but it got very confusing. Plus to look at my sorry empty balance was getting a little depressing. So I gave up and just relied on my internet banking. I do however keep a note of what I’m spending any physical cash on, as I find otherwise I’d spend it here, there and everywhere.

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I keep a section full of To Do List inserts. These are from Paperchase, and I really, really, really dislike the border – I’ll definitely splash out on nicer ones for next year as they really annoy me, and the paper feels so cheap and scratchy. But they do the job I suppose. (the following shows a typical fortnightly shop for me).

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Finally, I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite things about the Filofax brand. If you register your Filofax, and put it’s unique code on a sheet which comes with every Filofax, then if you lose it, and if someone finds it, they can contact Filofax with this code, it will be returned to you and they will receive a free gift. I recommend every Filofax owner registers theirs, as I know I’d be devastated if I lost mine!

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I’ve had my Filofax for around 9 months now, and its hardly worn at all. There’s the few issues (rings and pen loop) that I have pointed out, and it also arrived with a dent on the front. But you can rarely get hold of these now, so I’m prepared to put up with it. I really do love it – the perfect way to look smart, but a little pretty, unique and slightly vintage-y, and stay organised.

And so that’s my Filofax. And one of the reasons why I should have been a student in the eighties. That and my hair would have fitted in a little bit better than it does now!

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