My time at university was not without its fair share of study traps. Today, I list the five biggest issues for me while I was working toward my degree:
1. Not making the time / Ignore my own time-management advice
Before I entered Higher Education, time-management was not one of my fortés. Fortunately, I made a 180-degree turn at uni and was always proud that I could manage my time well. Lots of free time, loads of fun to be had that didn’t get in the way of study…things were good.
Nevertheless, there were occasions when I relaxed too much and stopped focusing on my time.
That was a huge mistake.
Without the momentum pushing me along, it was as if time no longer mattered. It did, of course, because deadlines would creep up and nights out started to feel like guilty pleasures.
Luckily, I didn’t go much further than this, because the jolt of realisation was enough to shock me into getting back on top of my plans. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling, though.
2. Complete the easier & more fun tasks before anything else
I bet we all like to do this from time to time. You’ve got a list of jobs to be done…some will take about two minutes and others should be a bit of a laugh. Once you’ve completed those, it’ll look like you’ve completed so much work. So you launch into those tasks and ignore the more pressing ones.
I liked to do this kind of thing. It made me feel as if I was achieving a great deal, but it ended up leaving all the crappy tasks to be done. Worse than that, they all had to be done together, so there was no light relief at the end!
It’s no use putting the less enjoyable stuff off for later…and later…and later…
To be honest, this was one trap I fell into a few too many times. Even now I might feel the initial buzz of finishing the better work first so it’s all off my list and giving me a fuzzy feeling inside.
Terrible, isn’t it?
3. Put too much importance on trivial matters
It’s probably a bit of an ego thing. From time to time, there would be a short test or a piece of work for a seminar, worth no marks and not requiring more than a brief amount of consideration. But if it worked with my way of thinking, I would go into overdrive and spend way too much time on preparation.
This was usually because I already knew about the things the tutors were trying to get us to understand. To go mental on a project with no real reward at the end, based on something that I didn’t need to learn any more about, was like a double whammy of pointlessness.
To an extent, this trap is a combination of the first two traps. I wasn’t spending my time productively because I was dealing with the fun stuff to the detriment of everything else.
When I realised this was going on, I decided to craft essays that were important to get good marks in and immerse myself in writing something quite different. If certain ideas gave me so much passion and interest, it was time to take it to my essays and presentations.
When you find something hitting you so positively, make it a focus of your more important work. That way, you’ll be driven and the work will be a lot easier to handle. Also, the marks you get should reflect your passion.
The most pointed example of this is when I wrote an essay that argued how a well-known critic of the Industrial Revolution was actually praising the revolution for what it had achieved. It was a cheeky little essay and I didn’t believe it in the slightest, but I enjoyed the subject and wanted to deliberately take things one step beyond the obvious. It was one of my highest marked pieces of work from my time at uni.
Trival matters may spark your interest, which is a great thing, but the best bet is to develop those sparks into something that you can get some recognition from. It’s a shame to put your heart and passion into a 15 minute seminar conversation that will be forgotten about as soon as it’s over.
4. Ignore the course notes & tutors plans
I kick myself for not having focused enough on some of my tutor’s booklets.
At the beginning of some modules, we would all be presented with a book of notes and questions and various helpful pointers for the weeks ahead. While most of us would make use of these books in seminars, they gently gathered dust the rest of the time. If I was writing an essay, I would rush to the library for texts and check the Internet for other scholarly essays. All the while, the booklet, with it’s ready information, would sit on a shelf, unloved.
Some of the books didn’t even get the luxury of a shelf…
You go to their lectures and listen to what they’re saying then (hopefully!), but as for the notes that you can read up in your own time? They just get briefly glanced at, but not much else.
But these books are a pointer for you to see where the tutors are coming from. If you want an idea of what questions your lecturers are going to set for exams, it’s important to see how they have set out their tips at the start of the module. It may become apparent that they regularly refer to particular texts and take a certain set of ideas as a specific starting point all the time. Of course, it’s up to you to develop your own opinions and ideas, but it’s a lot easier to do that if you know what kind of direction the tutor is headed.
5. Let temptation get in the way
I call this ‘Internal Peer Pressure’. It’s like there’s someone inside, coaxing you to go out each night and ignore the work. Your mind starts whispering, “There’s no time like the present…get everyone over for a laugh. You can get the work done tomorrow instead”. You see a magazine you bought earlier and want to read it. And since you’re only reading a magazine, you might as well listen to the new music you’ve got.
Suddenly, you find so many wonderful things that you could be doing instead of the work on your desk.
Now, I must admit, I frequently enjoyed a lot of my study. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop other temptations pulling me away on a regular basis. It’s so easy at university. Always stuff going on, never a quiet moment (even when it appears quiet, you know there’s some fun just around the corner). It’s so good, it’s a nightmare!
My way of dealing with this trap was to turn it around. It’s a simple trick, but it requires a lot of willpower. If you can manage it, tell yourself that you certainly will do those wonderfully tempting things…but only as a reward for doing your initial studying.
When you’ve finished what you need to do, the rest of the night is yours. You’re bound to enjoy it a lot more without the threat of work in the background. And you’ll be partying guilt free!