February has rolled around again – so it’s back to the books for many of us. Let’s explore what you, as a planner, could do to manage this busy period of your life and kick some life and learning goals!
You will need a personal system that keeps you organised and feeling in control.
First, decide what sort of planner will suit you best and set it up. You may decide to add study information into your existing planner (e.g. using A5 study inserts or personal size study inserts like these), or to have a separate study planner (such as our A5 study planner bundle).
Once you have organised your set up, start scheduling and recording information – preferably before the study year begins. Add in any details as soon as you receive them so that your planner becomes your one-stop-shop for all current study information. Once you have key dates schedule backwards from them e.g. schedule reminders for tests or assignments one week prior to the due date. You could consider using colour coding for blocks of activity so that you can easily review them at a glance or use flags to mark key dates.
Fill in your weekly commitments (class timetable, tutorials, home reading, work, family activities) as much as you are able to. Then add in regular time slots for working towards longer-term activities e.g. a weekly study slot for reviewing materials, writing assignments or studying for upcoming tests/exams. You will also need to note key information such as your study contacts, term and exam dates. Finally, remember to schedule time for social activities and exercise to balance and complement your study and work activities.
Watch the walk-through video of our Huge A5 Study Bundle for an idea of how different study trackers and a yearly diary can be used to record all of this information.
Why are you studying? Are you moving towards a particular career, upskilling or changing direction, or studying for life enrichment? Write up your goals and keep them somewhere where you can see them!
Once you’ve done this, try not to lose sight of the bigger picture, especially at times when life gets more stressful. Don’t sweat the small hurdles you come across. Disappointing results are not the end of the path towards your desired career. You will not be asked in a job interview about your marks in a specific subject in your second year of study. Keep your eye on the final prize.
Everything seems easier when you are not under pressure. You have already scheduled and recorded key information so that you can get organised early – take advantage of that. Get started on assignments early. It is so much easier to edit a piece of work than to start from scratch with the pressure of a deadline looming. Undertake required reading throughout the term and not just before exams. It will help with your general knowledge and understanding in classes and the material will not be completely new to you when revising for any tests or exams. You will certainly thank yourself for it later!
We are all very different and learning when you are at your most productive will help you gain the most from limited study time available. When do you feel your most energetic and clear-headed? Whether you’re an early morning person or more of a night owl, try to schedule your uninterrupted study for these times when you are ‘in the zone’.
But remember to apply the ‘law of diminishing returns’ as well! Once you have completed a piece of work, consider whether any additional hours spent on improving it are worth the time and energy expended – ask yourself whether ‘the gain is worth the pain’? Try to let go of perfectionism and remember that you are aiming to pass and complete your course. You might be better off starting another piece of work or scheduling sleep, exercise or social time instead.
Don’t underestimate the importance or looking after yourself. Eat well, exercise regularly and get as much sleep as you need. Life is so much easier when you are not tired and your brain will be able to absorb and retain information so much more effectively.
If preparing food becomes difficult, try making bulk meals and freezing them for busy periods. Swap meals with a friend for some variety. Use meal planner sections in your planner to schedule what dish to have every day to encourage you to eat well.
Schedule exercise into your planner, and don’t be tempted to skip it. You may even be able to find a way to combine the exercise and your study e.g. listening to a podcast or lecture recording while walking. Consider a break timer to force you to give your eyes and your body a break. You might also use wellness habit trackers like these to remind you to look after yourself.
Finally, make sure that you schedule some down time to relax, and to spend time with family or friends. Experiment with meditation and relaxation exercises.
Maintain connections that keep your study life in perspective. Discuss with others around you how you are feeling and share your thoughts and concerns with them. Organisations such as Headspace or Lifeline also have great resources available to support anyone who is struggling.
You may be lucky enough to be undertaking a course with people you know. If not it can feel quite isolating and there can be moments of real uncertainty. Try to engage with others taking your course, through making connections in face-to-face classes, or by joining and participating in any relevant online student forums. You might approach members of the teaching staff to help you connect with others in a similar situation e.g. young mothers, students from other countries or mature aged students.
You've chosen this study path for a reason - so try to stop every now and then and enjoy learning about your subject matter. You're improving the way your brain works and travelling an exciting new path. As Dr Seuss said, 'The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go.'