How to be Fitter, Happier and More Productive while Studying at University
At university, your life has a lot less of the externally-imposed structure you probably grew used to at school. There’s no morning registration, no lunch hour, and no lectures most of the time. This is especially hard in term 3 when (at least in Computer Science) there are no regularly scheduled contact hours at all, except the occasional revision lecture. As a result, it’s easy to spend the days wasting away, then look up from that really cool and important program you were writing only to realise it’s the day before your first exam and you’ve still got a massive heap of revision to do.
Even, or perhaps especially in situations like this, it’s important that you’re able to take a step back, relax, and make sure you’re meeting your basic needs, so you can spend your revision time as effectively as possible.
Food and Meal Times
One of the things that can slip when you aren’t looking after yourself is meal times. Your body and brain need food to keep working, and having set times for breakfast, lunch and dinner is a nice easy way to give yourself the most basic structure for your day, if only to force you out of bed before 9:00. There are lots of options for this. My metabolism is like a furnace so I need a big breakfast, but you could try having something light like a piece of fruit if you’re struggling to find the time and/or motivation to prepare something in the morning. Getting lunch from a café can be a good way to get filling food quickly, if expensive; a slightly more budget-friendly option I’ve found for getting hot food it buying something like a pasty from Rootes, then warming it up in the microwave in the DCS student common room. For dinner, I recommend learning a few easy, filling recipes, which can ideally be cooked in bulk, as I discussed in a previous post.
It doesn’t have to be anything crazy!!
Seriously, a 5-minute run or 10 push-ups would still be a better exercise regime than nothing at all. As a somewhat non-athletic person, I find 20-30 minutes of body-weight exercises sufficiently strenuous. I like to work out in the morning, and my body feels worse on days when I don’t get round to it. Start small; having a consistent routine will be more beneficial than working as hard as you can once a month and feeling like you’re going to be sick afterwards.
Here’s the advice you’ve probably heard a thousand times: Having a regular sleep schedule is more important than getting a lot of sleep. I find that I always wake up at the same time, regardless of when I go to sleep (at the moment it’s 6am because that’s when it gets light outside, not that I do anything productive in the following 3 hours). The second universal piece of advice is to not look at any screens and minimise artificial light in your environment for an hour before you intend to go to sleep. Getting some exercise can actually help improve your sleep, since your body will actually need the rest. My current theory is that most people aren’t doing useful work after 10pm, even if they’re night owls: either move your sleep time an hour earlier to get time to do cool stuff in the morning, or make sure you’re making good (not necessarily productive) use of your late evening time.