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!

Essential study tools

by Ruth (Student Blogger: BA Hons History)

‘Essentials’- it’s a tricky place to start, as everyone has different tools, tricks and tips that they use for studying. But if you’re reading this hopelessly, scrambling for some sort of list to follow, in order to know at least a little of what to get, I hope this helps.

Paper and Notebooks (specifically A4 spiral bound ones)

Now, this may seem obvious but bring paper to uni. Many students underestimate the amount of notes you will make at university. While, you may be dead set on making your notes solidly only using your laptop, don’t underestimate the power of the pen and paper. I find it easier to make notes and follow lectures by physically writing it down. The words flow better and it is quicker to correct. This is why, the first essential has to be a serious amount of paper. Either in notebooks or folders, whatever you prefer. And of course, a bucket of pens to go alongside.

Coloured paper/pens/whiteboards

These are a lifesaver. Having something colourful to write on or write with is so helpful and brightens up revision and lecture notes. I personally suffer from dyslexia and this can result in a degree of sensitivity to a black and white page. Hence coloured paper, especially muted colours such as pastel blue, green or purple are a brilliant backdrop for planning essays, mind maps and writing key notes. Coloured paper is so helpful that, during revision last year, I bought coloured whiteboards. These muted coloured boards were so useful to study off as they not only lessen the glare that white paper and boards often have, but small whiteboards are endlessly helpful for revision. They are now something that I, and now after using mine, my friends, recommend massively. Although at the start of the year revision might not be something to focus on particularly, it is still important to have it at the back of your mind. Especially as some courses do regular tests, which can be intimidating without the right tools. Having a whiteboard enables you to go over key pieces of information again and again in different ways. And it also helps limit the destruction of the rainforest by not using endless amounts of paper.

Laptop- with all the software

Use this blogpost as your reminder. Take advantage of all the software you are offered by the University. One of the main software options they offer is global autocorrect, which spell checks any word you type on any application used on your laptop. This is so useful for emails and anything typed on the internet. There is also Read & Write Gold, which reads word documents and chunks of text out loud to you. I like to use this specifically for essays as getting the programme to read it out load is a way of checking sentence length, punctuation and grammar. There are so many different types of software that are on offer. Check what is out there and what caters to your particular needs.

These are the things, I only managed to get together a few months after university had started, that I wished I’d got organised before. As a result, I hope this list helps you be more organised, ready for the start of university….