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Study tips: Coursework and productivity

  • @SophieWarnes


It's easy to forget that you're supposed to actually, you know, work, during your time at university. In between cooking terrible food, taking part in a crazy university society, frantically trying to save money or even trying to make money, and trying to stay healthy, you actually have to learn.

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless you’re adept at writing essays in your sleep, you’ll need to work hard to get your degree. Or perhaps you need to pass exams. Read our exam guide.

Organise, organise, organise

Organisation is the most important skill you need. You need to build up a schedule so you can study effectively. Write out your deadline dates, then grab a weekly chart (or make one in excel). Fill in your commitments for that week first of all – lectures, university society meetings, any other meetings you have. Then from there, be honest with yourself about how much time you want to spend on work - one to two hours a day of good-quality working is probably enough, and leaves you enough time to socialise in the evening. Do this every week, altering your schedule as and when you need it, and you should find meeting deadlines becomes a lot easier. You should also organise topics into folders so information is easier to find.

Stay out of the bedroom

Bedrooms are for sleeping, kitchens are for cooking… You get the idea. It’s not ideal to study in your bedroom, as – it sounds silly but it’s true – we have designated rooms for designated tasks and we get used to doing those tasks in there. In short: you’ll get bored or tired and eventually want to sleep in your bedroom, or get distracted by surfing the net, instead of doing work. If you’re struggling to do work, look at your environment. Do you have a lot of distractions in the form of other people, computers, or TVs? Maybe you should find somewhere quieter to do your work, like the university library. A change in environment can see your productivity go up loads.

Pick a good time to work

The generally accepted wisdom is that it’s best to work during the day or in the early evening. Everybody’s different and it might be easier for you to work at a certain time due to time restrictions, but play around with when you do your work as this can make a difference. Make sure you have enough energy – ideally you want to eat around half an hour after eating, and of course, it’s best if you eat slow-release energy food like porridge. Snacking on chocolates and sweets will make you feel better for a while but it’ll come back to bite you when you crash from the sugar high!

Start as soon as possible

Begin working on coursework as soon as you’re given it. This not only means you have more time to work on it, but it also means that the information you’ve been given on it is fresh in your mind, so you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing. If you really don’t want to actually start on the piece of work, then simply start sketching out some kind of plan for what you’re going to do, and then you’ve got a framework to start from, rather than starting weeks later and having no idea what to do!

Pace and reward yourself!

You need to balance elements of work and play, but studying needn’t be joyless. After you’ve finished a piece of work, or met one of your goals for that week, reward yourself in some way. It can be something small like getting a takeaway for yourself or buying something you really wanted but didn’t want to get for yourself. Alternatively, if you’ve finished a big goal, like your dissertation, you can go out and celebrate with friends or treat yourself to something much bigger, like a holiday.