Student perspective: Study Skills – Your Studying Companion

Photo of Iskandar, the author of the postby Iskandar Bin Suhaimi, Bristol Futures Advocate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t panic. Even if your winter break was naff and you didn’t get much studying done, there’s still time. Perhaps you just barely managed to pull through the assessment period, and now you have a massive backlog of revision to handle while also juggling term-time work. Why don’t you head on to the Study Skills website on Blackboard and you may find some tricks at your disposal.

Cartoon character Hey Arnold performing a magic trick
Credits: @nicksplat.com / Giphy

Managing your time

First, a schedule. You would likely want to identify your tasks and plan out how you are going to get back on track. Head on over to the Study Skills tab on Blackboard and click on ‘Time management’ under Online Resources. From time management apps to schedule analyses, I’m positive you’ll find something handy.

Talking it out

You know what you want to do, now to actually go about it. If you’re unsure how to proceed, I suggest booking onto a Drop-In with a friendly student advocate. Once you book in, you can relay any questions or concerns you have about your studies and they can direct you to various useful resources such as subject librarians, the Centre for Academic Language and Development, and the Student Wellbeing Service – all tailored to your needs. Besides being specifically trained to signpost you to the University’s services, they can also be equally fun to chat with as well (just don’t ask us to work on your essays please)!

Getting things done

A few essays here, a coursework there, and a research project to finally give attention to. The Study Skills’ online resources tab is jam-packed with useful tips from critical writing to exam tips – all at your fingertips (excuse the bad joke)! For some writing practice, you can also book on to a weekly Wordsmiths workshop where you can hone your academic writing with zero judgement! Once you’re done with a draft, it might also be prudent to book a slot with one of our specially trained tutors who can assist in reviewing your work.

Naturally as a law student I may a bit biased towards essay-based resources, but Study Skills also run a Maths and Statistics club, Coding club and other ad hoc workshops you may find useful; so keep an eye out for them!

A conducive ecosystem

You’ve got your tools, you’re cracking on, and everything is going great isn’t it? Until you realise that studying alone can be isolating at times. What’s more, you may find that the new blended learning approach may not provide as many contact hours as you were used to. The library could be an option, but not if you’re studying remotely and even then you can’t communicate with people.

Under these circumstances, might I suggest booking onto an Online Study Lounge? This Study Skills initiative provides a space to study with other people with a scattering of interesting conversations and activities throughout, including an opportunity to have some structure to your day which if you’re like me, is much needed.

All best

As a fellow student trying to stay on top of things, I hope this article has proved useful! Study Skills is part of a larger framework called Bristol Futures that also includes the Bristol Plus Award, the PDProject, and a lot more. While I encourage you to explore what’s on offer, remember that your friends and/or family are always just within reach if you ever need extra support 😊

Goodluck!

 

 

 

Student perspective: Maintaining an asynchronous routine for synchronous students

Note: This post was written during the covid-19 pandemic. While university teaching is no longer 100% online, online learning is here to stay… whether in the form of online lectures or simply a quick Teams/ Zoom/ Skype call with your project group. So we think this blog post is just as relevant as ever! Now read on…

Photo of Claudia, the author of the post

 

by 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: Overcoming the trials and tribulations of the group Zoom call

Note: This post was written during the covid-19 pandemic. While university teaching is no longer 100% online, online learning is here to stay… whether in the form of online lectures or simply a quick Teams/ Zoom/ Skype call with your project group. So we think this blog post is just as relevant as ever! Now read on…

by Beth Robinson, Bristol Futures Advocate

‘Group work’ gets mixed reviews at the best of times, let alone when everyone’s internet connection keeps dropping and the speakers aren’t working properlyFor the most part, I’m really enjoying online meetings. But whether it be with a project supervisor, as part of a study group or yet another virtual quiz, something’s bound to go wrong at some point. In an academic sense, I’ve noticed that it can be hard to make online calls as productive as they could be. These are solutions others and I have found to the trials and tribulations of group Zoom (/Skype) calls.

When meetings are unproductive 

We’ve all been there. The calls where you speak for an hour or two without actually getting anywhere. So, ahead of group study or even 1:1 calls, make sure you set a clear agenda. Perhaps working on setting goals and/or time slots of exactly what you want to cover and when may work. Or, if you are not able to do this (or indeed don’t feel comfortable doing so), work out what it is you personally want to get out of the meeting. Because, no matter how unproductive a meeting may feel, it’s likely you’ll be able to find something valuable in it. For example, being able to empathise with what someone else is experiencing or thinking about any next steps you can take with respect to your personal development.  (One useful tool to help with PDP can be found here)

When the WiFi/video/microphones are being temperamental 

If quitting and rejoining doesn’t work, the student laptop and phone clinic at the University of Bristol is still running, so if you are having tech or connectivity problems then be sure to reach out to them. If you have very limited access to internet more generally, don’t be afraid to contact a unit or programme director – in such difficult times I doubt they’d want to see you experience an unfair disadvantage. 

When it’s hard to find the right space  

It can be difficult to find the right environment to be on a group call, especially if you’re somewhere with no desk and/or a house full of people. That being said, I’ve seen some great creative solutions out there! Pinterest has lots of cool ideas – for example ways to get creative with tabletop spaces if you don’t have a desk, and interesting lighting and sound solutions. Depending on the nature of the call, adding a green-screen background on Zoom or going around the group and sharing a ‘unique item’ from where you are living can be a nice icebreaker! 

Hope you’re all keeping safe and well, especially as we move forwards into exams! What have been your biggest annoyances and solutions to group video calls? 

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: 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!