With the festive season come and gone, we are now entering the second term of university in a new lockdown and a new year. Despite the challenges that we are all facing now, it is important to not lose sight of our goals for this academic year whilst taking extra care of ourselves in the process. Below are some tips and tricks to help you get back on track after the winter break!
1. Set yourself realistic expectations
Though this tip is very often recommended, it is probably the most crucial thing to get right. It is very easy to fall into the trap of over-subscribing yourself to projects, assessments and career goals if you feel like you have fallen off after a long break. However, a good strategy to implement that will be sustainable for you in the long term is to only take on what you can handle. If catching up on a few weeks from last term is a source of anxiety for you, prioritise this over brainstorming a new project idea. This doesn’t mean that you should minimise your aspirations or that you should aim low to avoid disappointment. Rather, you should really get to the bottom of what you want to achieve this term and give yourself enough time and flexibility to get there without adding extra pressure on yourself. This is definitely easier said than done, especially when deadlines get involved, but setting these boundaries with yourself will pay off immensely.
2. Plan with the week ahead in mind
Another thing I have found particularly useful when trying to get organised this term is trying to complete as many tasks as possible for the week ahead. This has really reduced the feeling of being behind on a module and the panic that arises when you realise how much reading needs to be done in a short period of time. Writing down what needs to be done in a planner or a calendar should help you in the process. If you haven’t fully caught up from a week or two last term, allocating yourself some time to catch up on that will help get you back on track.
Taking time to switch off and take a break from your work is a cliché that deserves its popularity. We sometimes start to feel guilty if we’re not constantly working towards a deadline or an application, almost as if we lose all our progress by simply taking the time to make ourselves a proper meal or to have a chat with our housemates! In my view, this is a clear example of toxic productivity, something that is so frequently applauded on social media through things like hustle culture. If you are constantly losing sleep, regularly forgetting to eat and find your relationships suffering because of your need to work 24/7, taking a step back and reassessing what a healthy balance is for you will help to avoid a burnout. To make matters worse, we are living in unprecedented times: no goal should ever be placed above your physical and mental wellbeing.
4. Get curious about your modules
Lastly, try and get as much out of your modules as you can. We all have topics that we find more interesting than others, but in my experience, taking time to read more into key areas of debate has actually shifted my perspective on how much I enjoy a topic. Having a better contextual knowledge of the module by doing extra reading when possible can make studying more enjoyable as well as improving your grades. If there is a subject you truly find irredeemable, researching the ones you really like more in depth instead can have the same effect.
Written by Diana Ciurezu, Academic & Careers Officer of EILS