Structuring your Academic Life

Structure Blog Picture

By Azizan (Student Blogger: BSc Hons Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics)

After a long period of lockdown full of restrictive measures, most of us are excited to finally have in-person classes and activities as we enter the new 2021/22 Academic Year. Other than your classes, you might be inclined to join some of the societies and public events scheduled over the academic year. This is a great time to finally reconnect and make new connections within the University’s population. However as more and more activities are being introduced each day, it is normal for us to struggle to balance our limited time given the various attractive activities being offered, on top of our classes and given assignments/coursework. Here are some tips that might be useful in structuring your academic life.

Make full use of a Calendar/Planner

Most of us find the Timetable feature on the iLancaster App to be convenient as it allows us to check when our classes are and where the venue is. Consider using your phone’s inbuilt calendar/planner App to write down all your leisure/meetings/meet-up/social plans along with their time and venue. Some Apps allow you to synchronise all your calendars, allowing you to have a better overview of your classes and your recreational plans through a ‘centralised’ calendar. Through this way, you will be able to plan out your day more efficiently and, hopefully, you won’t miss out on your classes or meet-ups!

Break your day into ‘time blocs’

Once in a while, it is tempting for us to overwork ourselves until late at night. This however restricts us from enjoying our leisure time, which can affect our productivity and performance in the near future if done repeatedly. Consider dividing your days into time blocs, let say 8.05 – 8.30 am, 9.35 – 11 am and so on. For each time bloc, assign it to categories: academic, leisure, personal, etc. By doing so, you have set up a boundary for what and when you will be doing your work or when is your rest. It is also a good way to track whether you’re meeting your personal needs or not.

Focus only on a Main Task each day

Many times, when we have too many works assigned to us, we tend to try to complete them all at once by multitasking. However, this is not a good practice, as our concentration is not at its optimum as our mind struggles to divide between the various tasks. By setting a main task at one time and sticking to it, you’re more likely to be productive and able to contribute considerable progress rather than splitting it into small progress for various tasks. In a sense, it will help to complete your task much quicker compared to the alternative.

Stay Grounded

As days progress, we tend to lose touch with time and reality – we’re so ‘invested’ in our work/responsibilities that we fail to notice what’s happening around us. It is important for us to step back once in a while and be present in the moment to appreciate the blessings surrounding us. This helps to prevent us from overstretching on our work beyond our allocated time, allowing us to rest and recover both physically and mentally. A good way to stay grounded is to utilise all of our 5 senses – touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste. This will have a positive impact on your wellbeing.

Integrating a well-refined structure into your everyday life has plentiful benefits. It gives you certainty, and restores a sense of order in your life. Most importantly, having a structure allows you to navigate your day with ease!

It’s Okay

By Becky (Student blogger: BA Hons History)

University is a big step up for everyone, the first time away from home for many and a step up in workload and responsibility. Even going from first into second into third year and even onto postgraduate study can be very overwhelming, especially for the first few weeks back. Everyone’s university experiences are very different, and it is important to know that having a different experience to your friends, housemates, course mates or family is completely normal. Every experience is unique and important.


It’s okay to… change course and degree. You may join the university and find the difference between it and your expectations a bit too much, but switching modules or courses is possible and an option taken by many to help shape their degree into what you really want it to be. Seeking help from your lecturers and college is a great start to help you settle into the academic side of university.

It’s okay to… not join societies. They aren’t for everyone! Creating your own society is a great idea if you can’t find your interests in one that already exists, but you can still find people who share the same aspirations and hobbies outside of societies. It is always worth trying out taster sessions on offer as you meet some amazing people and do amazing things, but these are not your only options, so put yourself out there!!

It’s okay to… feel homesick. It’s natural. Even as a third year, I still get homesick, sometimes all I want is to talk to my mum. Fresher’s/Welcome week suddenly disappears and the pressure of work and living independently gets to everyone, but you are certainly not alone in this.

It’s okay to… not get on with everyone. It’s impossible to get on with everyone, that’s just a fact. Bridges can be burnt if people make you uncomfortable. Its worth reaching out to societies and your course and flatmates to find people, chances are you’ll meet some friends for life, but don’t be downhearted if this doesn’t happen straight away. You may not meet some of your closest friends until much later on than fresher’s week. There is still plenty of time.

It’s okay to… take a break!!! University is tough, a huge step up with huge responsibility and it’s overwhelming for the vast majority of people. If this happens, just take a step back and remember how far you’ve come to make it to university and how well you are already doing! Watch that series, go for drinks, have a weekend at home, you deserve it!


Your university experience is unique, and can be a difficult way of living to grow into. But just being able to say that you are a student here at Lancaster shows how far you have come, even if the first few weeks are tough.

It’s okay to feel like you don’t fit in with everyone’s expectations and feel different, chances are the people around you feel just the same!


Forget Your Promises

By Deji (Student blogger: BSc Marketing)

I don’t have it in me to count how many times I’ve scripted and pledged to some plan of attack that fills the entirety of a holiday with revision and yet, reached the last hours of that holiday having done nothing of the sort. It’s easier than it has the right to be, and happens whenever a university or school term has all but had me concussed.

In battles between me and almighty terms, I’ve had to choose between myself and my grades. Grades have won each time, but the cost has always (eventually) been worth it. Nothing drastic – only the simple sacrifices of sleep and a proper human diet. After “winning” these battles, my MO has been to swear to myself and anyone within earshot, that the next term would be different. You know, that I would allow myself none of the pleasures of holidays. Read, revise, and repeat, so far ahead that when the time came, I could afford to maintain my grades as well as my sanity.

Not sure why, but this hasn’t been the reality. I’d open my lecture notes once or twice during the break, and that would be it. Pride? Procrastination? Perhaps some measure of the two? You decide. Here’s how it goes:

I’ve run myself ragged. I deserve this break. Days pass, and my notes summon me. They do a poor job of it, though. Oh, look – holiday’s over. There’s been no reading, no revising, and certainly no repeating. I use my lack of terrible grades to convince myself that all is well.

A few weeks into the term, I learn that all might not be well. The anxiety is bad, but the guilt is worse. The sabotaged master plan, the great many hours spent on YouTube. Like that, we’re back to a rough Me Vs. Term.

Last session though, it was different. Here’s my take: Forget your promises. Toss them. Into the infinite afar. And beyond, still. Seriously.

Hear me out. You’ve just completed an aggressive term. Probably not in the best space to be making big promises to yourself. Whenever you’re able to appreciate the approaching holiday for what it is (a holiday), plan out your revision. In doing this however, recognise that you’re not trying to fool anyone. You can only promise one day of each week to revise? One week and nothing else? An hour every day? Do that, then. Decide if you can effectively work your revision around your holiday. Might sound counterintuitive, but I figure that this way, no part of you feels cheated out of well-deserved vacation time. If in fact, it isn’t quite well-deserved, try committing to additional time.

In recognising that vacations exist for us to regroup, you don’t fault yourself for enjoying them. In resisting the urge to overwhelm your vacationing mind to the point where it just says ‘No’, you’re much better prepared for the next You Vs. Term. You and your grades can make it out alive, you know?

How to get yourself organised for the rest of Lent Term

By Sophia (Student Blogger: BA Hons Religious Studies)

Already feeling like Uni is getting the best of you? Don’t panic, lots of us feel the same way this time of year, so here’s some helpful tips to get you on your way to nailing second term.

Time management:

This is probably the area where students struggle most, it can often feel that one minute you have all the time in the world and the next minute you barely have chance for a break. To nail time management, try to factor into your budget this week purchasing a large wall-mounted academic year planner, a list book, and potentially a diary, unless you find using your phone calendar more useful.

A full term can feel like a long time when in reality the weeks fly by, and you can often be overly optimistic about how much time you have left until the deadlines hit. Mark each deadline on your wall-mounted planner as well as in your diary or phone calendar. This allows you to maintain a healthy-work life balance by scheduling activities in, such as having lunch with your parents, any society commitments such as netball games or socials, and even just nights in to relax on your own or with housemates.

Your list book is where the real magic happens, even when you’re fully aware of what you need to do, it’s often highly intimidating when you have a huge pile of seemingly never-ending reading, researching and writing to get done. Take a two page spread, mark the date in the top left hand corner and write each day of the upcoming week vertically down the first page. Under each day, write down what you have to have done by that day. For example, if you have a seminar on Tuesday for which you need to have read two articles. This allows you to plan your workload chronologically and clearly lays out exactly what needs to be done and by when.

On the second page write down any other tasks you need to do, these can be extracurricular or careers-related tasks, anywhere from updating your CV,  to ordering a food shop. This ensures you don’t forget any of the niggling administrative things you need to get done, and makes sure everything else in your life is ticking along nicely. If you do this for every week, factoring in some time for deadline work alongside work for seminars, workshops or labs, you’ll certainly be busy, but hopefully not blindsided by what you need to get done.


Just like with your list book and diary, everything feels much easier when you have it planned out. If your notes from lectures and seminars are all over the place, it becomes a tremendous task at the end of Lent term to get them in order ready for revision. Take a leaf out of the book of Marie Kondo and get organised! Whether you take notes in paper of electronic form, if your filing system is a mess, you’ll thank yourself later for getting it sorted now.

Paper form: Organise your work into separate wallets for each module, and place them all in one larger folder. Having everything separated into modules will make studying during exam season a breeze. Make sure to put any essays or marked pieces of work for each module in there too, they can be a great revision resource.

Electronic form: Much the same as with paper notes, you need to organise your files into folders. It’s slightly more fun this way, as you can create folders for each module, and then create folders within these folders to separate notes from lectures, seminars and for essay preparation. Also make sure to save electronic versions of submitted coursework in each module folder too. Don’t forget to colour code for extra satisfaction!

Having everything in order, planning well, and keeping a good balance between work and play makes everything seem just that bit more manageable. Try using some of these tips to see how they improve your work ethic this term.

Dreaded deadlines…or are they?

by Sophia (Student Blogger: BA Hons Religious Studies) 

Ah, deadlines. One minute you’re on top of everything, the next minute you’ve got 15 essays, a presentation and 600 pages of reading to do. This may be a slight exaggeration, but assignments certainly can feel like they are impossible to complete when they start mounting up. So how can you spread your time wisely, and make sure your workload doesn’t become a nightmare?

1. Attitude:

We’re going to skip the clichés and start with something a little bit different. If you start by looking at your assignments with an attitude of ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m not going to get it done in time’, this mentality overwhelms you every time you sit down to work. Doing essay work becomes arduous, distressing and seemingly undoable.

So, before you even begin. Rather than panicking about how difficult it’s all going to be, visualise how good you’re going to feel once it’s all finished. Then, bring that closer, visualise how good you’re going to feel when you finish assignment x out of assignments x, y and z.

2) Planning:
As much as we may all wish to have our essays done 8 weeks before they’re due, we’re human and we aren’t perfect. Many advice articles tell you to start early, which yes, in an ideal world you would have done. However, if you’re reading this and your essay is due in two weeks, a week or less than that, that guidance is of no use to you right now.

So, how do you balance multiple assignments in a relatively short period of time? You can start in two ways, I would advise starting with the work that is due first. Working in chronological order avoids the nightmare of having an essay that’s due next Thursday completed to an impeccable standard, without having even looked at the one due on Monday. Your other option, which is slightly more risky, is to start with the assignment you perceive to be easiest. This may enable you to get this one out of the way quickly, and get you on a roll for your other assignments. Use this method with caution, perhaps only if you have quite a bit of time before your work needs to be submitted, or as I will now discuss, when all your assignments are due at the same time.

3) Multitasking:
The problem may be that, while you feel you can start your assignments, you just can’t cope with the sheer number you’re being expected to complete. Say you’ve been assigned 4 essays of 2500 words, all due for the same day. You can’t decide which one to start, and it’s terrifying that such a large amount of work is due at the same time. Starting with the two most difficult assignments may be too overwhelming. So, pick one slightly easier one, and one more difficult one. Only focus on these two essays to start off with, as flitting between four large essays during the space of a day may be too much for you to deal with, and limit the amount of progress you can make on each. For those first two essays, break down exactly what you are intending to do per day in a ‘to do list’, for example:

To do lists:
PPR 252 Seminar reading (10 pages)
Essay 1 (PPR 225) Complete reading A and B for essay, write 100- 200 words on this. (Easy)
Essay 2 (PPR 253) Complete reading A for essay. (Hard)

You can of course ramp up or reduce how much reading and how many words of your assignment you wish to complete, but by breaking it down in this way you have goals for each day that you can tick off. Remember not to overload yourself, if you set unrealistic goals, you’re bound not to reach them, which can be even more disheartening. Also, remember to take regular breaks and don’t expect to be able to work 7 days a week!

4) Avoid distraction, turn off your phone!

5) Staying positive:
You’re likely going to have a few off days here or there, or feel like no matter how perfectly planned out your work is, you just don’t have the energy or the patience to do it. So many students get to this point near deadline week. You have two options, if this is the first wobble you’ve had, drop your work and walk away for 10 minutes. Ring or message a friend, talk it through with them. Have you been overworking? Is your current method ineffective? If you can realistically afford to take a more extended break, perhaps an afternoon off, then do so and start afresh the next day. If you can’t, or maybe if this has been one of many highly stressful outbursts over a short period, it may well be that you are working as best as you can, but it is just taking its toll on you. This is when it is time to approach your department, lecturers, seminar tutors, TA’s or the welfare team. They may be able to help you better manage your workload or clarify something you’re having an issue with.

Final thoughts: Your department is there to help you if you are struggling, but remember that it is entirely possible for you to meet your deadlines. You are allowed to have off days or wobbles, it doesn’t mean you aren’t going to reach your goals, so try not to be too hard on yourself and good luck!

Planning coursework effectively

by Catherine (Student Blogger: MSc Electrical Engineering)

When you have coursework or an assignment due, it it is important to take a step back and plan your work to get the most out of your time.

Creating a Timetable

Let’s say you have an essay due in a week. The piece is worth 20% of the module, but you have classes this week and are concerned you won’t have the time. The table below shows an example week plan for completing the work:

Day  Planned Work
Friday (assignment set) • Read and annotate the coursework assignment
• Highlight key points to research
Saturday • Research key points, collecting references
• Plan structure, listing appropriate references for each section
Sunday • Write introductory section
Monday • Day off – reflect on assignment so far
Tuesday • Write the bulk of the coursework, using references and structure from Saturday
Wednesday • Finish writing the bulk of the coursework
• Note key points for the conclusion
Thursday • Write the conclusion sections, using notes from Thursday
• Proof read, and note any improvements
Friday (assignment due) • Execute improvements from Thursday
• Submit assignment

The key point of this plan is to not begin writing until a day or two after the work has been set, to give you the time to plan and prepare. Annotating the assignment is an important step to ensure you don’t miss any key points and can maximise your grade.

Coping with Stress

You have two pieces due, both significant to your grade, and you work weekends. Breath, everything is going to be okay.

Some stress levels can be beneficial and motivate you to work. Too much stress is distracting, effects your mental wellbeing, and worrying consumes your time.

My advice?

Try to Schedule a Day off
If time allows, take a day for yourself. You could attend a society meeting, spend time with friends, or catch up on a series. This gives you a motivating incentive to work towards.

Get Enough Sleep
Sometimes, you may not have a choice and you may find yourself trading sleep for time in order to meet that deadline. However, consistently losing sleep will affect your mood and productivity so it is best to take care of yourself, so you can work harder for less time.

Allow Yourself Time to Worry
If things become too much, set aside an hour to allow yourself to be stressed. If you can, use this time to create a mind map of how to solve the problems that are concerning you and refer to this the next time you become stressed.