Once again we find ourselves in lockdown which means for many of us we won’t be going back to university until at least mid-February. Of course this can make many things a lot harder; living situations, accessing course materials, online learning. To help you get through it I’m going to be doing a series of posts on these different topics to hopefully help you be a bit more productive and a bit less stressed. Of course these are things that work for me, they won’t work for everyone, but if you’re feeling a bit lost you might as well give them a try.
At the moment I am living at home after returning for the Christmas break and attempting to get my work done. I’ve been trying to put little things in place to help myself stay productive but it’s always important to remember that these are very strange times. It’s important to remember that you may not feel as encouraged at the moment, don’t beat yourself up about this because it’s only natural to feel a bit of a strain on your work at the moment.
With working on my dissertation, assignments, seminars and reading there’s a lot to be doing and it can be nice to have something to focus on at the moment. However, the importance of taking a break is a big as ever. Go for a walk, watch a bit of Netflix, call a friend, make sure you’re doing things to relax yourself so that you can feel that bit more fresh and ready to go.
I know I’ve definitely spoken on here about how much I love my planner in keeping me organised. Since I got one for Christmas last year I’ve used it so much and already put one on my list for this year. But being in third year I’ve found the need to keep organised so much more important; there always seems to be so much to do and it’s almost difficult to keep up. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ve probably noticed I haven’t been posting as much lately but hopefully over the coming weeks I can begin to become more organised so that I can get more things done.
Now that I’ve started third year there seems to be so much to think about. To think that I used to think that third year was just the dissertation, I also have to focus on my other modules and meet those deadlines. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about after university, applying for grad schemes in the hope I’ll have something secure when I graduate. With all these things to think about even before taking time to relax and getting involved with extra-curricular activities, it’s vital to stay organised.
The important thing is to realise is that it’s important to prioritise the upcoming deadlines without neglecting further deadlines. While it’s necessary to complete essays due in before Christmas I’ve still been working on my dissertation without bringing that forward as the priority at the moment.
With that in mind I like to ensure that I have all my deadlines written down with little reminders in the few weeks before. By working out how long things will take I can ensure that I factor enough time for each thing into my plans so as to not fall behind.
Thankfully I’ve lately had enough time to do everything I need to but hopefully I can work on being more organised so I have more time for the things I enjoy.
As reading week draws to a close, I must say I’ve been glad for the break. For me this marks half way through the first term and has given me the chance to catch up on work but also to have a relax which is always important. Especially with the second lockdown stress levels are high and so it’s vital to make sure you look after yourself
Of course university work is important but so is your mental health, in fact the latter is more important. Understanding what you need to ensure you feel good is something you should explore. Working yourself out to find that balance between getting work done and looking after yourself is always a good idea. Maybe you work a certain amount of hours in the day and give yourself a break in the evening or you focus strongly on work in the week to give yourself time at the weekend for yourself. It’s all about finding what’s best for you.
You should never feel guilty for having a break. Even if you feel you haven’t been working at your best lately don’t punish yourself by pushing your mind and body to breaking point. It can be difficult when you have so many things on and so many deadlines looming to just take a step back and give yourself the space you need to get back on track. The way I see it if I allow myself a break I will be more productive when I get back to working as I have refreshed myself and my mind is not running at a million miles an hour.
The perfect way to give yourself this time away from your studies would be to do something away from your work space. Even if you just move to a different room to watch some Netflix or read a book you’re resetting yourself to get back into work. A good way to relieve stress is through exercise, whether that’s at home or outside, do what feels right for you. Maybe go on a walk and get some fresh air, let your mind wonder, ask those you live with to join you and just have a nice chat. Call or message a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while for a catch up. These things not only give you that break you need but give you something else that hopefully will add to your happiness. But also if you just feel like doing absolutely nothing for a little while that’s fine too, find what feels good for you.
My biggest piece of advice is not to wait until you feel desperate for a break, give yourself time off so you don’t get to a point of burnout. Make sure to look after yourself especially in this pandemic and now that England has gone into a second lockdown. Remember there are people there for you if you need them, treat yourself right and remember whatever you are feeling you’re not alone.
Using a planner can be so beneficial when you are trying to organise your life. Especially as a university student, it can be useful to make sure you meet all your deadlines and are able to keep to your commitments. I’m going to talk through how I use mine but just remember this may not work for you. Just experiment with it all until you find what works for you.
The first thing you need to do is purchase a planner. I got a Papier planner from my parent for Christmas so that is the one I use. It is on the pricey side, though I do see it as an investment as I use mine everyday. You can however get them a lot cheaper so look out for one at you local stationary store or super market.
Once I have my planner I go through and insert any solid plans or deadlines I have. These are things that can’t be changed and so I need to plan around those things. This could be lectures, assignment deadlines or meeting friends.
It is a good idea to put in reminders for upcoming deadlines a week or two in advance so if you haven’t looked ahead it doesn’t jump up on you if you’ve forgotten.
If I want to add anything to my to-do list at this point then I do. This would be things like a few days before a deadline I’ll add check it over and submit it to my list.
Otherwise, I plan each of my weeks on the Sunday before. I go through and write a to-do list for each day. For Sundays it’s always the same, I plan for the next week and do any tasks not done earlier in the week, this means if I need a rest day I can catch up on Sunday and if not I have Sunday off. Do be aware when making to-do lists not to over exert yourself, I’d rather add things later in the week than have incomplete tasks as this makes me feel unmotivated that I was unable to complete them.
I also put in my exercise days so I know when to have rest days and I can work this around my other commitments. At present I don’t plan my meals but this is something I might try when I’m back at uni.
University can be a very overwhelming place and you may feel pressure to be socialising or working every moment of every day. I want you to think to yourself, when was the last time you had a day off? On top of that, when was the last time you took a day for yourself with no worry or guilt?
I often find myself allowing myself time off but I have to get back to it the next day or I can have the afternoon off if I work in the morning. You shouldn’t need to have this sense of ‘deserving’ a break, if you feel you need one, have one. Personally, I’ve been really enjoying taking time for myself lately. Yes, I love meeting up with people and I’ve been doing uni work to prepare myself for third year but I want to get into a habit of enjoying my own company. It doesn’t have to be anything big, I read about people ‘taking themselves on a date’ and just sitting alone in a restaurant with no phone or laptop but I feel that’s a very daunting prospect for me. Maybe I’ll get there one day. For now, I like to take myself on a walk or just go shopping alone (I’m loving charity shops at the moment as they’re both sustainable and cheap which is helpful on a student budget). It’s so good to just be with yourself, it gives you a chance to think things through while getting some fresh air. I find that if I try to reflect on things before bed, which I often find is the only real chance I give myself, it’s not the best time to do so. Just going and doing something more randomly, I feel calms me. Plus, if I ever have a day where I wake up feeling like I really don’t want to do anything, going for a walk can set me up nicely for the rest of the day.
As with so many things, it’s all about finding the right balance for you. Maybe you prefer to plan when you’ll take a rest day so you can get all your work done around it. You may however, like me, prefer to just take them when you feel like you need one on the day. You can just move any work you had planned that day to another. Uni can be a stressful place so you need to look after yourself. Of course, if you feel like you are really suffering with mental health it’s a good idea to reach out for professional help which you should be able to get advice on through your uni. I am no expert on this and I’m not saying taking alone time will make everything better, its just something I find helps me. Remember, while people may make it seem you need to be constantly doing something productive at uni, it’s okay to take time for yourself.
With it being three months into lockdown, it can seem like this is never ending. For some people this is the new normal and they have completely taken to the situation, others not so much. I personally have found myself lacking in motivation recently. At the start of lockdown, I was being so productive; working out six times a week, focusing on uni work and trying new recipes. Over time however, I realised staying at home was not my thing but knew it was important and so I worked on finding things to motivate me and keep me busy at home. Read my top tips of what you can do to stay productive during the remainder of the lockdown period.
Have a routine – keeping to a routine will help you feel put together, I try to wake up at the same time every day, eat at the same time and then go to sleep at the same time. I’ve found this makes me feel a lot more productive than if I have a lie in as then I feel I’ve lost a large part of the day. Also having that routine will give a sense of normality!
Set goals – a to-do list works perfectly as once you’ve done tasks you can tick them off and you get that satisfaction of seeing them complete especially when you’ve finished all your tasks for the day. Be sensible and don’t bite off more than you can chew as this can have the opposite effect if you don’t complete all your goals because you don’t have the time. Having a set plan of things you want to do will allow for you to be productive rather than just procrastinating all day and then realising you actually got nothing done.
Exercise – the most difficult thing about exercise for me is actually motivating myself to do it but once I’ve started, I find it to be really enjoyable. The best way I find to motivate myself to work out is to think about how good I will feel afterwards. With all the gyms closed, I have been doing at home workouts. If you go on YouTube there are so many to choose from, they’re great because they tell you what to do and often help you focus on particular areas; whether that’s cardio, HIIT or weight training.
Get fresh air – there’s nothing worse than being stuck inside all day and at a time like this it’s important to go out and safely get some fresh air. Most days I like to go for a little walk; whether that’s to the shop or just a walk around the block. Not only does it make me feel refreshed, but I find it breaks up my day, when I get back, I feel ready to be productive again.
Use the time you have – remember that this is a time unlike any others, many people will be at home without a job, if this is you, you now have time that you would never have had before. This means you finally have the time to do things that you’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I found time to do a clear out of my bedroom, really get into reading and start up a blog. These are things that now I’ve got into them I will be able to implement into my everyday life so if you’ve got a hobby you’ve wanted to start for a while now, why not take the plunge.
Keep in touch with friends – this is such an important one, lockdown can begin to feel very lonely even if you are living with people. You are constantly surrounded by the same people which might make you feel you need a break and to see new faces. Me and my friends have done facetimes and quizzes to keep ourselves occupied during lockdown and with the new rules you can now have a lovely social distance picnic in the park (provided the rain holds off). Also, try to check in on your friends and be there for them if they are struggling to adjust to this new way of living.
Remember this is an unusual time – all these tips are great ways to improve your productivity during lockdown but remember we are living in unprecedented times and so things aren’t normal. If that means you feel less motivated then that’s okay, you need to do what’s best for you. It can be difficult seeing everyone else appearing to be very productive but remember, especially with social media, they only show you what they want you to see, don’t feel the need to compete with other people. This is a great time to just take some me time! If you want a break from your busy, productive life, relax and do what feels right.