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Not another year of procrastination

by , 27 March, 2017


We all know what it’s like. We start back at uni and we think to ourselves “This year, this year will the year I’m effective. The year I don’t procrastinate and idle away my time.” But then before you know it’s SWOTVAC and we’ve done the same thing all over again. This is obviously not the ideal situation, and so we are setting out some techniques here for how to avoid the traps and pitfalls of university life. 

With an irregular uni schedule it is often difficult to find consistent motivation and reminders to work. As such, as soon as you have sense of what is required for the given course that you are taking, it is important to set goals. These goals should include knocking off all the requirements for your course within deadlines (ideally before the hard deadlines the university gives you) and so should initially be big picture. You then gradually want to break each of these overarching goals into smaller and smaller segments until you have the individual tasks that need to be accomplished in order to achieve the final goal. Then take the time between where you are now and your deadline and evenly distribute the tasks within that space creating a series of smaller task based deadlines.

This can be applied to your non-academic goals as well, whether you want to pick up a new skill, develop a new hobby or just ensure that you have enough time to take care of yourself. A big advantage of setting these goals is that when you have direction on how to spend your time, you are much more effective and as such this frees up much more time for other parts of life rather than spending hours in listless indifference before summoning the willpower to finally begin on the project.

Aside from assignments, the other big part of any uni course is making time to go back over material in order to make sure that it sticks for end of year exams in order to stave off that November panic as you employ increasingly drastic means to cram all of that information into your memory to be regurgitated the following day. Learning is not an exact science, but whilst it is true that very few people are taught how to learn and instead have to muddle their way through techniques they think and hope work, there is actually an evidence based approach to making that information stick. What follows is a summary of some of these techniques, but for the finer details on these concepts, head over to the blog here. However, to give you a taste, here is a summary of the techniques that can be used to good effect.
 
  1. Calibration: Aligning your assessment of your own competence with real world indicators such as past exam papers.
     
  2. Generation: Try to answer questions before looking up the answers, and then go on to look them up afterwards.
     
  3. Retrieval practice: Practicing recalling information through practice questions rather than simply putting information in.
     
  4. Spaced repetition: Utilise increasingly less frequent revisitations of information, but ensure that you do revisit it on a regular schedule.
     
  5. Interleave Practice: Rather than doing blocks of a single type of question or single topic of material, intersperse your study with all different styles of question and information.
     
  6. Elaboration: Apply your knowledge to new scenarios and try to explain it in order to add levels of understanding.
     
  7. Reflection: be sure to reflect back on your practices to see if they are effective or what could be done better.

The last thing is to ensure that you make time for self-care. Make sure you get those 7-8 hours of sleep, eat well and be mindful of your mental health. Do some reading on the signs of burnout and depression and be watchful for them in both yourself and your friends. It is often an early intervention that will save someone much suffering further down the track. Exercise, meditate and finally get on all those good life prolonging habits you’ve been reading about forever. And have a good year!