Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Studying on the run

Studying On The Run

Good god, working and being busy is the worst thing. I love to sit down, set my desk up nicely and have some relaxed study time. There’s no greater indulgence than studying at a slow pace enjoying a cup of coffee and a pastry – but we all know that’s rarely the case. Rather you’ll always find yourself stuck running between academic work, busy court dates and social outings.
so much to do!!

On tumblr I’ve seen a few quick and dirty tips to get you through on the hyper busy times – but really those aren’t very sustainable. The best way to manage studying on the run is to prepare for the siege. Some of the most important ways to prepare is to trim off what isn’t necessary.

Removing the unnecessary;

When your life is busy it’s important to grab five minutes to go over what you really have on. It’s best to do this in that little bit of R&R time you get whenever. While it may be a bummer to lose some of your relax time to work I can guarantee you’ll be getting more chill time in the future.
Firstly, write out everything you do – even the little things like grocery shopping, taking out the trash and vacuuming. These tasks all eat up your time and you need to factor them in.
Some good ways to list out what you’re doing include;
-        Making a general dot point list

-        Using a weekly schedule to map out the time spent on each item

For this you can group together larger tasks like ‘household cleaning’, ‘week preparation’ and place them approximately where you’d do it. The idea is that you can see how much time is spent where.
Also factor in travel time, and preparation time. Things like packing your bag, finding the food and driving to work will add up. For example, if you have a five minute walk to the bus, a twenty minute bus drive and then a three minute walk to the office when you get off the bus, you spend 280 minutes per working week just travelling to and from work.'

Don't forget to save yourself
some time for treats!
Another positive method to try is to use a monthly planner to figure out where your appointments are and then combine it with your weekly general planner to see where you might lose extra time. Calculate the total amount of time you spend doing each activity. Just fill out the general plan and pair it with the weekly schedule to make sure that you cover all your bases.

Now that you know how you chisel away each minute of the day run through the list and figure out where you overspend your time. Think of it like a budget, you can only spend a certain amount of time in each area of your life. This apportionment will be different for everyone depending on your job, study, family and individual needs. However, my preferred break down looks like this;

(Worked out via, portions per day in a 24 hr cycle – using double amount of estimated time to allow for preparation and travel)
Exercise and Eating

These are basic categories of what I need to do in a day to ensure that I’m maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Using my schedule I often find that I’m overspending time in work or study areas and cutting back on sleep. This causes greater stress – and actually means that you’re working hard but less effectively.

Use your itemized dot point list above to assess which activities you’re doing in each category. When you’re struggling for time any activity that doesn’t contribute towards a ‘specific end goal’, needs to be cut.

End goals are things like;

1.      Maintain all relevant administrative records up to workable standard
This means don’t throw anything out you’ll need later and have it to a standard so that if you need it you could use it. It doesn’t have to be perfect but useable.
2.      Achieve goal 1
3.      Achieve goal 2
4.      Maintain work required not to fall behind in other areas

These are prioritized for a reason. While it is optimal not to fall behind in other areas, when you’re still learning to manage your time you may struggle to maintain number four, but always make sure that number one is followed – otherwise you can end up in a real tangle.

Keeping yourself on task

It goes without saying that even if you schedule your day, if you fail to follow it nothing is going to be resolved. It’s important then that whatever task you’re focusing on – you follow it entirely. Don’t let go of the task until you’re complete – because lots of half-finished tasks are an absolute nightmare.

To make sure that you stay on task – use your administration time wisely. Plan out larger tasks into twenty minute chunks and take a break after every 20 minutes. An example of this break down can be found here;

Additionally, the best way to make sure that you stay on task is to minimize your distractions. Sometimes when you’re really struggling to work you actually need to change up the kind of distractions that you are allowing yourself to have. It is inevitable in this environment that you will always have to combat some distractions.

However, we can use them to our advantage; some days you will work much better in total silence and a few lights on while other ways the hustle and bustle of a café will provide you with the perfect amount of background activity to plow through a huge pile of work. Try to have an armory of different places that you can go to work and be prepared to change things up to suit your needs better.
Streamline your activities

As discussed in a previous post it’s important to have a good admin system so that you can move quickly through each task. I like to set up the routes of the day and have my bag packed to suit each of these activities.

For me, I also like to use time markers throughout the day to ensure that I have to move on. For example at nine I know that I have to be out of bed and at my desk for either study or work. Some days this means that I have that extra bit of flexibility to set up my work space and find the perfect environment, then by 12 I have to have finished up my first activity for the day.

Additionally, give yourself a clipboard or an ipad where you can work on your lap. When I’m exhausted or struggling to maintain focus it’s perfect to be able to give myself 30 minutes or so to curl up on my bed and just work at a bit of a slower pace until I feel recharged.

The most important part if you’re easily distracted is to put blocks up in place so that you can’t be distracted for longer than necessary. I am most easily distracted before appointments. Appointments often mess up my day and when I’m out of the routine I spend hours floundering about trying to figure out what exactly I should be doing. I can’t settle on one task and I’m always thinking about when I should leave. Knowing this I leave all of my small admin or progress tasks to the morning before an appointment so I don’t have to settle in and focus on one thing for too long.