Student perspective: On mindful studying

by Beth Robinson, Bristol Futures Advocate

Mindfulness doesn’t have to comprise of sitting in a dark room for 15 minutes each morning listening to a playlist which professes to make you feel more alert for the day. In fact, it’s about just noticing things – being in the moment, and it can take whichever form you’d like. The sensation of your lips pressing against a glass of water; the temperature of the room you’re in; the texture of the fur of a pet. You get the idea – it’s not ‘all or nothing’, and it can take a completely different form for everyone. I often feel like I’m ‘too busy to be mindful’, although I do find it to be a useful tool when studying. So, these are just three of the things which have worked well for me to be mindful whilst studying, shared in the hope they might be useful to others! 

1) Breathe. Just breathe. Need I say more? I’m not an expert on mindful breathing, but I found this website useful: https://www.mindful.org/a-five-minute-breathing-meditation/

2) Notice the feeling of your fingertips as you type on a keyboard. Notice how much pressure it takes you to push them down; the temperature of the keys; the soft clicking sounds and the texture of the surface when you move your hands over it. The same goes for if you’re writing on paper – noticing the slight indentations the words create and any slight tinge to the paper can really help your mind to focus on the task. How many tabs are open on your computer? How many sheets of paper are on your desk? When you feel distracted, try to stay within that same environment, even if it’s not thinking directly about the task you’re trying to complete.

3) Download Forest’. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an app that awards you credits for staying off social media – then these credits are used to plant trees all around the world. Not only is it a great tool for staying off your phone, it’s also a way to be mindful of the environment around you and how your presence can contribute to making something fantastic happen. 

These are my three favourite ways to be mindful whilst studying, which I also find to increase my productivity and make me feel more content with the work I am doing. Whilst it can take some effort, it really is worth it in the long run.

More on mindfulness can be found here:  https://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness/

How do you practice mindfulness and which strategies do you use to stay focused whilst studying? Leave a note in the comments and see if anyone else has any top tips.

Student perspective: Productivity – what does it mean to you?

by Beth Robinson, Bristol Futures Advocate

My Facebook feed over the past couple of months has been bombarded with two types of posts:

  1. The ‘Fun things to do in quarantine!’ style posts – Largely comprising of how to learn a new language and/or all the various online courses you can now take for free.
  2. The ‘Don’t worry if all you did today was get up’ posts – Making the highly relevant point that your worth isn’t determined by your productivity, especially in such trying times.

Both are good points. And of course, it’s not as black and white as ‘doing everything at once’ or ‘never doing anything.’

So, what about when it comes to studying? Recently I’ve seen people getting down about their lack of productivity – so I’d like to pose a question: What does productivity mean to you? For example, it could mean ‘working for 3 hours a day’, or ‘practicing yoga and writing 500 words of an essay every day’, or ‘taking at least one day a week off to allow for better productivity throughout the week. Because there’s no ‘gold standard’; it’s different for everyone.

Your worth isn’t dependent on your productivity, but in equal measure there are active steps you can take towards being more productive if that is something you’d like to do.

Personally, I experience 3 different types of productivity, captured nicely in the three TED talks below:

1)    Inside the mind of a master procrastinator (relatable content): https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator

2)    The happy secret to better work (on working smarter): https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work

3)    How to make stress your friend (on finding a healthy relationship with stress when trying to be productive): https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

Give them a watch and leave your answer in the comments: What does productivity mean to you?

Student perspective: Staying focused in a new environment

by Iskandar Bin Suhaimi, Bristol Futures Advocate

Gone are the café mornings, Beacon afternoons and ASSL all-nighters. Staying at home is now the new norm as we work together to stop Covid-19 from spreading further. But be it your room, living room or lush frontier-style patio, it is definitely not easy to get productive in spaces you associate with rest and relaxation. Regardless, the grind must go on so here are a few tips to help you make the best of your new surroundings:

  1. Designate a specific working space

Establish a mental connection with your workplace by studying and only studying there. In time, your brain will be automatically switch to study mode whenever you sit down.

  1. Dress for work

Whether you’re going for Elle Wood’s Harvard look or your trusty sports fleece, dressing up can help you transition into your productivity mindset. Save the pyjamas for bedtime.

  1. Spring clean your room

For those who have nowhere to study except your bedroom, there can be no better time to Kondo-up your crib. Make your bed (I see you), dust that bookshelf and for Pete’s sake take your 6th grade assignment off your desktop. Reducing clutter will minimize distractions, allowing for a clear head to focus on the task at hand.

  1. Get the ambiance right

Some people prefer silence. Some people are fun and need a little ambiance music to get in the zone. RainyMood is great for rain sounds, but you’re also bound to find something you like on YouTube or Spotify.

  1. Establish a routine

An effective routine ensures you optimize your time, attend to essential tasks and get plenty of downtime as well. The keyword is balance.

Go ahead and give any of these tips a try. Comment your thoughts below and maybe share some tips of your own!