The festive celebrations have begun, the German Market is open, and Birmingham’s streets are lit up ever so pretty, which can only mean it’s that time of year…Assignment season is well and truly here!
Yes, that dreaded five week period leading up to Christmas is probably one of the most exhausting times of the academic year. A few weeks back, I wrote a post about dealing with anxiety, including advice on what to do should you feel anxious, low self-esteem or any other mental health issues (if you’d like to read it, here is the link). I briefly mentioned some of the stressful situations that students can find themselves in, including assignment worries, so here’s some tips that should hopefully make you feel more at ease during this “festive period”…
1: Break it down
Imagine this is the ‘help I’ve got lots of assignments to do, where do I even start!?!’ part of your brain …
Knuckling down, trying to focus all your energy into your report or essay, when you’ve got all THAT going on in your head, is not beneficial for your concentration levels. Instead, a good idea is to break down the assignment into smaller, more manageable goals that you can tick off one by one, for example:
1: spend a few hours doing research for the 1st point, 2: write the introduction, 3: link research to what you’re writing about, 4: find relevant sources to back up points made.
You also definitely want to…
2: Switch off the notifications
Nothing is more distracting than having WhatsApp/ Instagram/Facebook notifications constantly going off, when you just about begin to concentrate. I’m one of those people who are on their phone religiously, but when you’ve got a matter of weeks to get 6 assignments done, it’s essential to avoid these distractions! You’ll thank yourself later.
It’s amazing how refreshing you feel after a decent night’s sleep! Staying up for an entire night to get work done might be the only option if you leave things to the last minute, but it’s also not very healthy and will only make stress levels worse. Even if you take a 30 minute nap, at least try and rest those eyes!
4: Don’t take on too much
For me personally, staying motivated on assignments this semester has been quite hard. As well as attending classes, I have a part-time job, blog, look after my little nephew one day in the week, and work in the resource centre as a student ambassador. I also try to spend as much of my free time with my boyfriend, family and friends.
I’m not one to whine about having a busy schedule, it’s just that when you have lots of things going on, its easy for your assignments to become slightly neglected, (raise hands if you’re guilty). The point I’m trying to make is not to take on more than you personally can manage. It’s all about balance and using time effectively.
5: Keep notes organised
I have small folders that I stick my lecture notes/ notes I’ve made for references etc. You can get these for just 30p at the resource centre, making it ideal to keep all your notes stored neatly together and when you come to find your notes or something important you will know exactly where it is!
6: Eat healthy
Having a balanced healthy diet is essential to keeping those stress levels down. I always find that when I make healthier food choices, I feel more awake, and ready to tackle those assignments. As much as I love chocolate, crisps and ice-cream, if I fill myself up on these foods constantly, I feel lethargic and easily stressed, like a big, lazy, food-bag. I’d always recommend choosing a filling breakfast such as porridge oats with blueberries, or maybe just some Weetabix with skimmed milk as it gives you lots of energy and makes you feel so much better. If I’m working close to a deadline, I’ll always keep a bottle of water near me, and some fruity snacks.
7: Fresh air
Breaks are important. I’m sure we’ve all sat down to start an assignment with good intentions, but when a sudden onset of procrastination hits we find a million excuses to leave it till the next day… and the weekend… and next week, until suddenly, you find yourself a week away from the deadline and resolve to staying put in your chair until its done and dusted. This is bad guys! We’re told often enough to start it sooner rather than later, but sometimes later just appears… Regardless, not leaving your computer screen for hours on end, or even your room for days on end, doesn’t help. For every hour I’m at the computer, if I step away from the screen and just go for a short walk, or even just stand outside, I feel more revitalised and go back to work feeling so much better.
8: Academically speaking
Remember if you really are struggling to understand the question, or academic terms, there’s still time to seek help! The Academic Skills Centre on the 5th floor Summer Row library is one of the best places to start. It’s way better to get a bit of friendly advice than stare blankly at a screen wondering what on earth you’re supposed to do. The library is also a fantastic place to find relevant sources and references for your work! Something that always helps me, is checking the reading list for my specific module, (lecturers usually list different sources of information and books/ journals that are relevant). If you’re still unsure on what to look for, you can also have a chit-chat with your subject librarian, they are just lovely! They take the time to sit down with you and show you how to use e-resources, u-search and can help you find applicable learning material for the course.
9: Be proud of yourself and remember it’s only an assignment
If you’ve come to this post having these feelings, I guarantee you are not the only one. I’m stressed about my work, even writing this post. In some ways I think a teeny amount of stress helps in terms of being motivated to getting your work done, but mostly it’s harmful having the added pressure on you, especially this close to Christmas. Aside from getting the work done on-time, I also stress about wanting to do the work to the best of my ability, and it’s tricky to feel accomplished when you feel as if you’ve rushed yourself past the finish line.
One of my teachers recognised I was feeling the pressure recently and said to me “it’s only an assignment”. Which for us, I suppose it doesn’t really feel like that, it kind of feels like your carrying the weight of the world upon your shoulders, but he is right. It is only an assignment, and as long as you know you’ve tried your best, you should feel proud of yourself for getting it done. Even if you feel like you could have tried a little harder, don’t sweat it. It’s good to recognise these feelings so you can work harder the next time!
I hope you find some of this useful. Don’t stress too much!