I wish I could do a post on how to improve your grades, or successfully write an essay, or boost productivity but unfortunately those are all things I’m (so far, unsuccessfully) figuring out myself.
However, I’m currently at the point where I’m about to start smashing out those essays I started writing this post a while back while this was true. In a recent post I explained that things got hectic, and I found that when I wasn’t writing essays I wasn’t really in the mood to do more writing. Consequently, my blog suffered.
I stress easily, (honestly, I spent so much time feeling nauseous and headache-y whilst writing these essays… not fun), so finding ways to make the process at least a tiny bit more pleasant is a necessity. These tips are going to be a bit more essay-orientated since my uni work consists entirely of essays (my doing, I avoided taking modules with exams), but I’m going to try and include a few pointers that can also apply to revision too.
So, here are a few things that made the essay writing process a bit less painful:
I spent almost as much time planning my essays as I did writing them. I suppose it’s unnecessary stress, but I find that it’s pretty reassuring as you have a good idea of what you’re going to write about- it reduces the stress of the actual writing process. Aside from planning essays, it can also help to plan your day (i.e. by writing down the most important and tasks and planning what to do when… hopefully you catch my drift!). I have to admit, I’m actually kinda awful at doing this, but what I did do was pretty helpful- it meant my mind wasn’t overwhelmed with an infinite amount of work, I’d be able to limit what I did and stop myself from going wayyyy overboard.
Switch up studying styles
Now this is one that really applies more for revision. There are so many possibilities when it comes to trying to cram all that information into your head, and not all of them have to be as painful as spending hours staring at your textbook. Things like flashcards, posters, powerpoints, online quizzes etc. are all great ways of switching things up. They’re also pretty obvious, and I’m sure you already know and use most of them! Something I personally like is drawing pictures that represent whatever it is I’m trying to learn- not only does it help stick in my head better but I enjoy drawing so it feels like I’m not really studying. I also like switching up my handwriting styles when making posers and flashcards, just for the hell of it. It’s pretty fun! Discussing whatever it is you’ve been studying with a ‘willing volunteer’ is also pretty effective and feels more easy than sitting changed to your desk trying to cram a load on info into your brain. What you choose is really down to you and your own preferences (for some people, the idea of drawing might sound like the worst thing ever), so it’s just a case of what feels less stressful for you.
In terms of essay writing, since they’re typically word processed there’s less room to play around with different styles. However, I would recommend hand writing things, such as your plan or re-wording some of your paragraphs- it’s a good break from staring at a computer all day!
Switch up environments
I’m prone to sticking to my bed as much as I can and, comfy as it is… that’s exactly why I need to get the hell out of it. It’s too comfy, and sometimes you need an environment in which you won’t risk falling asleep (because that’s not exactly great for productivity). I’d often move myself down to the living room and set myself up there. I could still be comfy but I also felt it helped me get in the mindset to work better. Ok, I did still spend a lot of time in bed, it’s too comfy to resist! But I also regulated this time, which I totally recommend.
Yes question mark, because I don’t want to be responsible for you taking my advice then getting distracted and not doing as well as you could. If it works for you, definitely include it though! Personally, it works for me- it’s the only ray of sunshine in the bleak essay writing period. I also know that it’s not for everyone, and can really affect people’s concentration.
Ok, this one goes without saying but I honestly feel that my list would be invalid without it. Hot, comforting, smells amazing, and it has CAFFEINE. An essential energy boost, in my opinion. If you don’t like coffee then just have tea or hot chocolate, you still get the comforting warmth! (And if it’s a hot day just make it an iced coffee or a milkshake).
Studying is hard and tiring and you need energy, so snacks are an essential. I generally tried to keep it healthy, but I did also allow myself to have a packet of sweets next to me in case I ended up seriously flagging and needing a bit of an energy boost. Somehow I managed to exercise some self control and not polish of the packet in the space of a day.
Keep work accessible
I had a window open on my laptop with all the relevant tabs I was using, my word docs all lined up on my home screen, and I’d also keep notes and stationary on my desk, where they could be easily grabbed as and when needed. It made the thought of getting stuck in with work a little less intimidating as it was much less effort to access (sometimes the whole ordeal of getting to the work was off-putting in itself) and also meant work was available whenever I had a burst of motivation (even if this was at midnight haha).
Work when you have energy
I’m guilty of pushing myself into working even when I don’t have energy, but I’m definitely more productive and motivated when I have more energy. I mean, duh. Your brain is sharper, you can focus better, you’ll probably produce your best work (I mean, no guarantee, I might be bullshitting here slightly but it sounds right??).
Accept that sometimes you’re too tired or don’t have enough energy and take the necessary time to rest
As mentioned above, I’m often guilty of not doing this, but it has its consequences. I’m still suffering with chest pains from pushing myself to get all my work done, even when I wasn’t feeling it. I’d often wind up feeling super nauseous and headachey after a long period of work, having not taken a decent break when I should have. I reckon this will have an impact on my grades too, which is, y’know, great. So yeah, rest when you’re flagging!
Give yourself plenty of time
Following on from my previous two points, you will better be able to do this if you give yourself as much time as you can to complete the assignment. Start as soon as you can, so that you can take all the breaks you need.
Get essay plans checked
I’d never realised how useful this could be but I showed one seminar tutor for one of my modules the plan for that essay and he gave me a lot of good feedback. It was reassuring as I knew I was on the right track and hadn’t wildly misinterpreted things so I felt a bit more confident when writing that essay.
Take regular yoga breaks
Essay writing and/or revision is exhausting. It’s (apparently) good to do exercise when studying, it boosts your brain power or something. I don’t know, I don’t really know much about science. I personally found yoga to be especially good in that respect as it allows you to combine relaxation so it makes for a good, quick 5-10 minute relaxation break to effectively clear your head, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired or you’re losing focus. I just find cardio etc. too tiring at the best of times, it’s like adding extra stress on top of existing stress. Yoga, however, makes me feel free. I can stretch my body out (the stretch is so satisfying) and take nice, deep, steady breaths that help me centre mind. Not that it’s perfect fix- it certainly wasn’t for me- but it might help a bit and surely anything that helps is worth a shot, right?
And I’m going to finish up with the more cliche points:
Water, wake up early, try to maintain a semi healthy diet, exercise (yes, I did already sort of cover this point above). These are generally recommended (I’m sure you’re so used to hearing all of this year in and out every time you have some sort of exam coming up, even the non-important ones). I tried all of these, I don’t know if they helped massively but I think they were at least somewhat effective. Or maybe I just believed they were since that’s what I’ve been constantly told throughout my many years in education.
I’m gonna wrap it up there, I’ve banged on enough. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found something useful to take away from it! Do you have exams or coursework right now? How are you finding the work? What methods have helped you study most effectively? And to everyone who has recently completed coursework or exams, or is in the process of doing so, I want to say a massive GOOD LUCK, I hope it all goes swimmingly!