Friday 4 October 2013

Settling Into University Part Three: Managing Your Workload

Even my puppy has off days when he just doesn't feel like doing anything...


Sometimes managing your workload can feel like a bit of a slog, especially if you don't have much contact time. So here are some tips on how to make work feel a bit more manageable, and hopefully a bit more enjoyable!

1. Get into a routine

  • When you’ve just moved city and are surrounded by a whole new group of people, it might help to establish a routine so that university life starts to feel a little more settled. This sounds kind of boring, but it really needn’t be… think about what things cheer you up, or what makes for a good morning. You might like heading out for a morning walk, going to the canteen with your friends for breakfast or reading the paper with your morning coffee. Rather than being an occasional treat, why not try to work these things into your everyday routine?

  • Make the most of your evenings – try to have one or two regular commitments that you’ll make time for every week (sports clubs, debating societies etc.) Having something pre-arranged is a really good way to avoid the temptation to stop taking breaks when you get busy.

  • Weekend routines can be good too – you might cook brunch with your friends every Sunday morning, or have a flat dinner & film night every Friday evening.

2. Study effectively

  • Make organising your work a little more fun using colour-coded files, folders and notebooks.

  • Find out how you work best. If you don’t like the library then it’s not compulsory to work there – it may be that you work better at home with music and slippers and blankets and a mug of tea, and that’s completely fine.

  • It’s often worth changing things up and exploring different places to work (coffee shops & the public library were my favourites). Working at home in the morning and then heading off to the library for the afternoon can also be a good way to avoid cabin fever!

3. Don’t stress! Sometimes easier said than done, but there are definitely things you can do to help:

  • Try to escape from the university bubble every now and again! Calling home or going away for the weekend can be a great way to get a sense of perspective on the things you’re worrying about.

  • Planning out your work and making a schedule can help you to feel more in control. Break down big tasks into small manageable steps and add one or two of these to your daily to do list, so that instead of worrying about having to write a whole essay, you know that you just need to spend an hour or two this morning writing a plan.

  • Take proper breaks and make the most of your time off.

    • Get some fresh air: go for a walk or bike ride. Explore somewhere new, or just head out to the supermarket to do your weekly food shop… no matter what you’re doing, getting outside is always calming and lends a sense of perspective to any work-related panic that’s been brewing!

    • Take a proper break at lunchtime (and just to clarify: eating a sandwich at your desk whilst casually flicking through Facebook doesn’t count). Go to the canteen with a friend or pack your own lunch and find a good spot to eat it - head off to the local park in summer or hang out in the common room in the winter. If you’re stuck for what to make for lunch, take a look at Sarah’s easy on-the-go lunches on our recipe blog, The Kitchen.

    • Read a chapter or two of a good book – I always used to find that the best books to read were the ones I used to read when I was younger (think Harry Potter…) Somehow it’s so much easier to get lost in the story and really take your mind off everything else.

    • Watch a comedy sketch or an episode of your favourite TV series.

And if you’re anything like me, you might well make lovely long lists of all the fabulous things you’ll do on your study breaks and then never quite get round to it. So before you start studying, it can be good to pick the one thing you want to do and make it really specific e.g. at 11am I’ll sit down with a mug of coffee and watch the next episode of Gossip Girl. Even better, arrange for a friend to come round and watch it with you :) Knowing exactly what you’ll be doing in your next break also gives you something to look forward to and is great motivation to have a really productive study session in the meantime.

Any study tips of your own? Or any other questions on how to settle in at university? Comment below or drop me an email at

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