Student perspective: Maintaining an asynchronous routine for synchronous students

Photo of Claudia, the author of the postby Claudia Raymond-Hayling, Second year Theatre and English (BA) student and Bristol Futures Advocate.

During this very strange year, working from home or university accommodation is something we all are adjusting to. Since starting the first teaching block, I have learnt a few things about staying organised and keeping that daily routine in check.

 

1. Regularity with your timings of the day

Make sure you get up at a good time (before 10am). This will allow you to spread out your tasks across the day, so you use your time efficiently and effectively. Also, having a rough idea of the timings you eat your meals will make it easier to schedule your work around the break you might want to have at mealtimes. Exercise is a great way to help your mental and physical wellbeing, so you may also find it helpful to schedule this at regular times during the week.

2. Make a list of the work you need to do at the start of the week.

Writing down the things you need to get done can help so much in terms of visualising your goals. It can make tasks feel much more manageable and accomplishable. Even things that aren’t university-related, put them onto your list.

3. At the start of each day, choose things from your to-do list and make a schedule.

Making a daily schedule might seem excessive, but it allows you to organise your day and prioritise the things that need to be completed more urgently. It also can help you to feel motivated by having a smaller, more manageable list each day, rather than being daunted by your weekly to-do list. If you make a daily schedule, it will also mean that you can organise your tasks around other plans you might have – as unexpected things often come up!

4. Make your daily goals realistic.

It’s easy to overestimate the work you can achieve in a day, and how much time each task will take you. Sometimes 30-minute lectures can take up to 2 hours, simply because of the difficulty of the concepts being taught. Make sure your daily goals are realistic, as it can really help with your time management, but also your mindset and attitude towards a day’s work.

5. Vary the environment you’re working in.

Try working in a different room – ask your flatmate to swap rooms for the afternoon or maybe go to the library. You’d be surprised how much a change of scene can alter your approach and attitude towards your work.

6. Take breaks! Do things you enjoy.

Allow yourself to have breaks, don’t burn yourself out. Go for a walk with a friend, watch Netflix for an hour or do any hobby that you really enjoy. Breaks allow you to work more effectively, and if you schedule them, you’ll have a cut-off time. Sometimes, you might need to take a longer break, or have a day not working, which is also okay. It’s important to prioritise your own wellbeing during this time at home too – don’t be harsh on yourself if you need a breather. And remember, if you’re struggling to meet deadlines for this reason, extension requests are always available to you.

I’ve gradually been implementing these steps into my life and my work schedule, and my routine has felt much more structured. Different techniques work for different people, but these are what have made a profound difference to my life during lockdown. Since many aspects of life can feel so unstructured right now, taking steps to help yourself have more of a routine can be hugely beneficial in terms of wellbeing and completing those daily things that we need to do.

If you need any support in study skills, you are always welcome at the drop-in sessions run by the student advocates within each faculty. These sessions can help with the general skills that facilitate your learning in a way that can be really helpful to your academic progress, specifically through speaking to other members of your faculty – which can be very insightful! The university Study Skills also have many online resources that can be invaluable to many specific aspects of working effectively.

Wishing you all lots of luck, and perhaps have a think about the things that have helped you stay in a good routine during this time and post in the comments below!

Student perspective: Making lockdown happy, healthy and productive

Photo of Alby, author of the blogby Alby Stevens, Bristol Futures Advocate

The biggest threat to our studies during the next few weeks is that posed by feeling isolated and unmotivated, so I wanted this blog post to focus on staying healthy through the rest of TB1 in spite of the national lockdown that has just begun. When the pandemic hit back in March I found that despite all the time I had available to study it was so much harder to be productive. I know I wasn’t alone in feeling like this. As lockdown begins again I believe it’s worth taking some time to reflect about how you can cultivate a positive working environment over the next month or so in spite of the unnatural circumstances.

The 5 tips below are proven ways to look after both mental wellbeing and your studies, particularly over lockdown, and would be a great place for you to start from in reflecting upon what works best for you. It would be fantastic if you posted what works for you in the comments below so that we can all get ideas from each other:

  • Get ahead – Whilst it may feel a little cliché to get into a routine right from the start it is a really healthy way for you to stay in control. With so much time in isolation ahead of us, the temptation is to push everything back: work, physical health, mental wellbeing. By staying on top of things while you feel fresh you should be able take some stress off of yourself when the novelty of lockdown wears off.

It’s worth taking a look at the Study Skills time management resources to help you with this one or you could procrastinate by watching this video about how to not procrastinate!

  • Don’t wear yourself out – Do things sustainably and tend to all the little parts of your life that are important to your happiness from cooking healthy meals to getting enough exercise. Trying new things is a great way to stimulate the mind but equally the next 28 days doesn’t have to be some sort of language learning, baking or early morning yoga boot camp! I’m always tempted to start off too fast and wear myself out within a week so this time around I’m focusing on doing what I can and doing the amount that makes me feel good.
  • Get outside – Humans are not designed to spend their lives indoors and so if you are able, make sure to get outside daily. It doesn’t have to be a 12 mile hike – I prefer wrapping up warm and taking a coffee to a new street in Bristol – but the benefits of fresh air, sunlight and new surroundings are so important. Take the time to notice the trees changing colour, the days getting shorter or the people wandering around doing the same as you!
  • Engage with online society events – Even if it’s not really your thing, keeping communities together whilst we’re apart could be so valuable to someone else. There is never a bad time to join a new society and you can always try something out in the knowledge that it doesn’t have to be forever if it turns out to not be for you.

Here is the link to the SU societies page.

  • Connect with people – This one is the most important but the easiest to forget. More than ever we must make the effort to make sure that the people around us are okay and to ask for help if we are struggling. In my opinion, no piece of university work is more important than a 10 minute chat in the kitchen with a housemate that might need it. Looking out for others is scientifically proven to make us feel good too.

I’ve taken some ideas for this from a website called Action for Happiness which is well worth taking a look at. Their ‘10 Keys to Happier Living’ are really easy to understand and are always a great reminder to me that often the things that make us happy are different to what we imagine them to be.

Here is the link to Bristol University’s wellbeing services for anyone that is struggling and would like to look through some resources or talk to someone. The right kind of help is there for everyone.

 

Student perspective: Finding the motivation to study whilst in isolation

by Beth Robinson, Bristol Futures Advocate

Hey, I’m Beth. I’m studying Neuroscience at the University of Bristol and I’ve been unapologetically living in my pj’s for the last 2 weeks. My once (sort of…) motivation to study has been shattered and honestly, it felt like a huge set back. Initially, I thought I’d swiftly slip into a new routine, but this hasn’t happened. Therefore, after an hour or so of searching, I thought I’d share my 3 favourite tips on finding new motivations to study when your old ones have been lost to a global pandemic. (Well that’s a sentence I never thought I’d never use…):

1) Try bullet journaling. This is a great tool for those who like planning, but are often met with the barrier of stress-induced procrastination. It’s a fantastic and personable goal setting tool & there’s a bunch of creative things you can do with it – the basics can be found here:  https://bulletjournal.com/


2)  Get someone to hold you accountable. Is it just me who feels like getting up and leaving the ASSL after an hour ​is a sign of defeat in the eyes of those around you? Something which has worked well for me is setting up a ‘Journal Club’ within my course, where each course mate involved will read the same paper, and then discuss it on a Zoom call. Other suggestions include asking a friend or family member to help you to revise for an hour, or signing up to an online dissertation retreat or study lounge day with the UoB Study Skills service. Utilise the collective motivations of others, because I’m sure you’re not the only one who feels like this.

3) Find some internal motivation. Being held accountable for studying is great, but what about on the days where there’s no online groups running? Think about what genuinely motivates you to study. Graduating with a good grade? Being able to apply for the PhD position you’ve always wanted? For the love of your subject? Write down three things which motivate you to study on a post it note, and stick it on your wall as a reminder. Working out why you want to do something is a surprisingly effective tool to get you started.

What are your motivations to study whilst in isolation? Leave a comment and see what everyone else has to say!

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!