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Organising life (somewhat) at university
Find the right apps and the right way to use them.
I always wondered how people can struggle with apps. Calendar, reminders, alarms, Notes and many other apps come in iPhones and surely Android as well? I don’t know but I have recently realised the benefits of being more creative and personalising the process even more. Rather than using the default apps, try out different ones and see which ones suit you best! I find it super helpful to add my events on my email rather than my phone because then all my calendars get updated. Also, I am going to town with the Google Keep app. It is so colourful and therefore keeps me engaged. For my emails, I am using separate apps like Google, Outlook and then the Apple Mail app for my Warwick email. I am also trying to teach myself that there is something called a Snooze option that can prevent you from going back to sleep for another 1.5 hours after turning the alarm off.
Find the right stationary
Most people I have met on my course have their favourite stationary products that they like. In my case, they tend to be big paper clips, foldback clips, expanding folder, printer paper (for taking notes!), a small stapler, and a large pencil case. Of course, consider different coloured pens and other pencil case stuff but I find that when I use the right stationary to organise my endless sheets of paper, it helps me to keep calm and I can easily find what I am looking for without having to worry thinking about what I binned two nights ago when I was binning 20 sheets of paper under the influence of immense exasperation. Other people might like to use folders with hole punch etc or plastic wallets? Whatever works for you, you should do. It does take a lot of time to stay organised in terms of keeping notes tidy but it is worth it and helps you with your revision a lot!
Find the right time for sleeping.
I do occasionally pull all-nighters but not strict ones though. I mean, in my last one I slept for 75 minutes. It feels awful when it comes to preparing for the busy day ahead after an all-nighter but my walk from Canley to campus is energising enough for me to forget the tiredness and look forward to the day. I am sleeping from 10 to 7 this (academic) year which is a decent amount of sleep for me to be able to make it to my 9AMs that I don’t have in chemistry but my economics module that I’m doing imposes that torturous requirement but I love my lectures so I don’t miss them.
Find the right place (then the right floor?)
There are so many places on campus where you can study. Recently, I have been trying out the Rootes Learning Grid as well as the library and it is so good. With the library, just stick to the floor that works for you. No point wasting time trying to get into the zone when you are not where you like to be. I stick to the second floor because I like talking to myself when I’m studying which you cannot really do on the quiet floors. Although it is probably something one might argue should not be done in public at all but, mate, I have a degree to pass. The second floor is also where the science books are kept which is a bonus. Having said that, thanks to my economics module, I am having to pay a lot of visits to the fifth floor these days!
Find the right food
I used to think that I eat a lot until I came to university and met some people…..I enjoy eating (when I’m hungry) but I wouldn’t say I am a massive lover of trying out new things. I have the same Bhaji sandwich from the library for lunch. It is healthy, a nice vegetarian option this year, and has no tomatoes! The perfect lunch for me and whilst there are many other sandwiches I could try and see if I like them better, seriously, I don’t risk it at all. This is not about how willing I am to take risks but I don’t take unnecessary risks – it might be a waste of my money and even more importantly my time because imagine purchasing a sandwich from the cafe on the first floor, going to second floor, finding a seat, eating the sandwich, not liking it and then having to go back on the first floor and repeating the whole process! That is a lot of waste of my time.
Find the ongoing goals of your life; big and small
My GCSE maths teacher used to say to us as a joke that there is limited space in your brain; use it wisely. Clearly, there is a lot of wisdom in that thought. I am beginning to get into the habit of writing down literally everything ranging from academic deadlines to personal deadlines and careers-related stuff. For first years, these could be to do with personal development. This year they have all been to do with internships/placements and I have been very involved with the careers team this term. For final year students, again graduate recruitment and so on. Whatever it is, keep it on a piece of paper or, as I said earlier, Google Keep so you gain better perspective of where you’re heading in life.
Find the hours in your diary for friends; not just academics
Sometimes I can spend a whole hour sitting and talking with friends (this happens very rarely). Other days, I wouldn’t even know where my (course-mates) friends are. But my main point is this: if you are the sort of person who can chat your way from dawn to dusk (not me!), perhaps arrange meeting times? This sounds hilarious but I have been doing this with a friend from Sprint where we decided to meet up for an hour and it worked perfectly. I think I might have to start doing this with some of my friends from chemistry because I have not seen them in lectures for a while and I don’t quite leave the library very often. But what this means is that you are able to benefit from the friendships you’ve built and develop them whilst also ensuring that all the hours in-between your lectures are not spent just chatting away on the same sacred second floor of the library. Having an hour’s break in between two lectures is the most annoying thing because you cannot get much out of it until you try! It has been working this year – for me, anyway.
Find the right and personal way to use social media
This is probably the hardest thing for me to write about and possibly the thing you might find hardest to implement in life. I have really cut down on my use due to the fact that this month has been madly busy where I have been trying to manage course requirements with my economics module that feels like is in a foreign language because of all the jargon. This objective perhaps requires serious self-reflection in terms of how you want to best handle the situation depending on how bad social media usage is in your case. I only have Twitter and Messenger on my phone and yes LinkedIn but it is more like a news app to me and therefore I find it quite productive although trust me, you can get addicted to news as well so be careful! I’ll leave you with this TED Talk that I genuinely hope you find the time to watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_alter_why_our_screens_make_us_less_happy
Find the right way to make yourself do your reading
As I have written in some of my previous blogs, there is a lot of reading in chemistry. On top of that, I have a long reading list for my Economics module. But I love the reading! This term I am literally printing out all the papers that my academics recommend us to read. I know this is not the most environmentally friendly thing to do but I am printing double sided with two pages on a single side. I mean, that’s good enough! And remember my economics module is on environmental economics and has taught me that it is both being environmentally friendly but also getting value out of the goods. I cannot sit in front of a screen for long hours reading long papers and then I am a lover of annotations. I love to scribble on paper, write down my thoughts and discuss the paper with myself. Printing works for me. You need to find a way to get yourself to do the reading. It is easy to think that everything covered in lectures provides you the knowledge but not until you do your reading do you realise how great a difference reading can make to your fundamental understanding of the topic.
Find the right way to take out time for family.
There is often lots of advice on managing friendships but what about family? This year I have been making huge use of WhatsApp and Facetime to stay in touch with my little brother and the rest of the family discussing technical stuff about life with dad, cracking sad jokes with mama and listening to my sister moan about GCSE life. It might feel like you don’t want to spend too long talking and have lots of work but it is only after the conversations do you realise how much your family can energise you and make you more hopeful about life (which is always a good feeling at university). Family gives you that sense of belonging and whilst sometimes I feel the pressure of growing up and the big things about life like career and jobs overwhelm me, family can make you feel super secure about life and a simple conversation can remind you that you have loved ones who are always there for you and this really helps me to see my university experience as more of an independent journey to personal growth and development rather than a battlefield as it can sometimes seem with deadlines looming and goals crushing. University seriously tests you on so many levels and remaining connected to your roots helps you to remain strong and upright like a plant 🙂
Yes I have missed out some key things like society commitments and social life but I just wanted to talk about things that have been dominating my mind lately so I am able to better connect with this post and write it well. I wrote a blog on managing time for the Careers blog. If you want to check it out, here is the link: https://careersblog.warwick.ac.uk/2017/10/04/managing-your-time-effectively-at-university/.
Finally, I hope this has been somewhat helpful otherwise I only want to say that yes I share my approach to managing time in my blogs but I am not perfect. Some things work, others don’t. Some days go to plan, others don’t. Don’t worry about it. I think it is the feeling that you are working hard and putting your 100% in that is most important in keeping yourself motivated. The day your desire to work hard declines is the day when you should really be worried!