personal development

Identify Your Five Weekly Wins Every Week – TUB-Thump 020

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Do you feel overwhelmed with the number of tasks on your list each week?

Do you struggle to work out what the most important issue is in each area of your life?

On today’s TUB-Thump, I talk about finding five weekly go-to points so you can easily identify your big wins.

Whether it’s the academic, the social, the personal, the career, or anything else, you can target what’s important to you, each and every week.

Ready to dive in?


Here are the show notes for the 7-min episode:

  • 01:10 – One academic win. The most important focus-point for each week. Sure, there’s plenty of work to be done, but this will ground you. Sometimes that’s all you need to stop procrastinating on the thing that’s actually so crucial to your academic week.
  • 01:50 – One social woo. If you can’t fit any other fun in your schedule, make sure you have at least one event to look forward to.
  • 02:40 – One personal upgrade. Around the home, to do with a hobby, improving a personal skill…When you specify a single area to make progress in, you commit to pushing further than the minimum expected of you. Go on, do it for yourself!
  • 03:20 – One career boost. No matter how big or small, with 52 weeks in the year, that’s 52 different steps in the right direction. Reach out to someone, write a blog post, do some job research…it all helps. And it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time in the week.
  • 04:20 – One wonderful wildcard. What is important for you? Add this one thing to the mix each week. Be creative, be methodic, be however you wish to be with this wildcard. As with the other schedule pointers, this helps to ground you in scheduling actions each week, and can also help you develop habits.
  • 05:30 – This method also assists in avoiding overwhelm. Instead of a huge list of tasks, you have your five big wins for each week.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

A More Useful Guide to Student Sleep

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…And why I didn’t mind being called smug

I loved being the last person to bed at night and the first person up in the morning.

My friends didn’t love it so much. I got called smug more than once.

I probably got called a lot worse out of earshot…

On one hand, I was lucky enough to only need around 6-hours of sleep a night, and I could do the odd 3- or 4-hour night without fuss.

On the other hand, I was only able to do this because I knew what made me tick. I’d already done the testing and suffered the consequences under control.

For example, one night I decided not to sleep at all. I wanted to spend the following day noting how I felt.

And that morning, I went for a haircut. I nearly fell asleep in the chair. The sound of electric clippers next to my ears wasn’t enough to stop me nearly dropping off.

The takeaway…I can’t get away with no sleep. Dagnabbit!

Another time, I went two nights without sleep. How long would it take me to recover?

When I finally did go to bed, I slept the moment my head hit the pillow.

Yet just six hours later, I was up and about as if nothing had happened.

Lots of small experiments like this were great in the run-up to university.

So why is this a more useful guide to student sleep? Basically, because this isn’t the usual advice to find a regular routine and get rid of distractions.

That type of advice is available elsewhere. And I’ve gone over those sleep issues on here before.

Student life can be different. Sleep can take a back seat. And when your timetable doesn’t have a regular structure, it’s hard to stick to a routine anyway.

That’s not to mention the impromptu late-nights and last-minute arrangements.

Understand how you work, with or without a routine

Clearly, a lack of rhythm is a pain.

Luckily, you can still do yourself some favours.

First off, it’s important to know how much sleep you need. Also, work out when you most like to get that sleep. Do you work better with an early night, or do you naturally stay up late?

If you don’t know these things, spend a few weeks testing the ground:

  • Spend a week going to bed at the same time every evening;
  • Now spend a week waking up at the same time every morning;
  • Now spend a week sleeping the number of hours you *think* you need. Do you wake refreshed, or might you need a longer stretch?

Thursday’s TUB-Thump will have more ideas on doing this.

When you know what makes you tick, you can tackle each situation as it arises. You don’t need a regular routine to make things work.

Learning from the teachers

Don’t knock regularity though. It’s still better if you can manage it.

Some of the most disciplined students I knew were those in Teaching.

During work placements, the teaching crowd had to be up early in the morning, ready to be taken to their school. Sometimes, this meant being up around 5am each day.

They didn’t have a choice.

But they didn’t complain. Well, not much!

It was clear from these student teachers that the only way to get past problems of unstructured craziness was to deal with it directly.

If you don’t take action, nobody else will. Your sleep is only a mystery when you don’t engage with it yourself.

My teaching friends still had late nights and managed to have impromptu fun. The difference was that they knew when to do it and when not to. Occasional was okay, regularly wasn’t.

And, perhaps most importantly, they called the shots. Nobody else.

How to deal with 6 more student-specific sleep issues

No matter how much you’re calling the shots, there are other issues that get in the way of your slumber.

From the people you live with, to the self-sabotaging thoughts in your head, you’ve got a lot to contend with.

TUB’s got you covered. Here’s how to address some of those student-specific sleep issues:

1. Early morning lectures when you’re a night-owl

When your timetable has two or three days of early starts, make the night before a calm one, even if you do stay up late.

The cards are already stacked against you, so don’t make it worse by going out, drinking loads, or doing anything that’ll keep your brain racing for longer than it needs to.

Prepare as much as you can for the following morning, so you have it sorted in advance. Clothes, books, equipment, packed bag, food…Everything you can think of so you don’t need to deal with it when you’re tired.

That way, bleary-eyed, you won’t have as much to think about for the early start.

2. Getting woken up by loud housemates

Some issues are out of your control. Noisy mates fall into that category.

When you expect your (supposed) friends to make a rowdy entrance in the early hours, it’s time for some damage limitation.

If you’d rather not wear earplugs, you could use comfortable earbuds (ones you’re okay to fall asleep while wearing) and listen to ambient sounds that drown out the outside world. A couple of my favourite apps are White Noise+ and Rain Rain.

And don’t forget to lock your door and windows. Yes, I’ve known situations where people are disturbed by drunken housemates who have climbed in through an open bedroom window.

That said, you probably don’t need to worry as much about an open window if you live on the third floor.

It depends on how determined (or sensible) your mates are…

3. Staying up later than you intended

Not all late-night events are planned. We’ve all been there.

But instead of thinking, “Just a bit longer”, switch to a different mindset. Think, “How much am I going to regret this in the morning?

In other words, get out when you feel the longer-term benefits of sleep outweigh the short-term joy of being out.

There will always be the odd event that you absolutely must stay at until the end. But these are rare. When your body is screaming out for sleep, do what it’s telling you!

4. You didn’t listen to your body anyway

Okay, it’s emergency time.

When you’ve not had enough sleep, you may still have a trick up your sleeve.

Enter the nap.

I’ve talked about powernaps before in these posts:

But there’s so much more to the nap than that.

Fortunately, someone else has put together a long article about getting the right type of nap for you.

How to Take the Perfect Nap for Performance, Mood and Memory

Thanks, Helmut!

5. You’re sabotaging yourself and you don’t even know it

What time in the day do you work best? Whenever it is, there may still be room to improve.

There’s a term called self-handicapping. If you’ve not heard of it, here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

“An example of self-handicapping is the student who spends the night before an important exam partying rather than studying. The student fears failing his exam and appearing incapable. In partying the night before the exam the student has engaged in self-defeating behaviour and increased the likelihood of poor exam performance. However, in the event of failure, the student can offer fatigue and a hangover, rather than lack of ability, as plausible explanations. Furthermore, should the student receive positive feedback about his exam, his achievement is enhanced by the fact that he succeeded, despite the handicap.” [SOURCE]

A team at Indiana University found that people who identify as night-owls are more likely to self-handicap during their evening time of peak-performance. Similarly, those who prefer the mornings will self-handicap most in the morning.

Are you choosing to lose sleep, or stay in bed longer than you need? Don’t let your worries lead to self-sabotage.

6. Your gut is trying to tell you something

You may not have indigestion, but there are other ways your body can tell you to improve your digestive health.

Your enteric nervous system is your “brain in the gut“. It can mess about with how you feel. Digestion problems may be keeping you up at night.

Lifehack says you may get a better night of sleep when you drink tea, do yoga, and eat more healthily.

My favourite site for information on healthy eating and avoiding preventable illness is Nutritionfacts.org.

Summing Up

No matter how much sleep you need and no matter how your schedule looks, you can make sleep work as a student.

It’s not always as simple as going to bed early enough and getting up at the same time every day. But at least you have options beyond this.

There’s no need to feel tired in perpetuity. We all get the occasional rubbish day, but don’t suffer every day when you don’t have to.

For all the temptation there is to stay up as late as possible, it’s no good doing it when you suffer the rest of the time.

The most effective way to find what works for you is to put in the effort in the first place. The more self-aware you are, the more you can feel like anything is possible.

One day soon, maybe your friends will be calling you smug too. It might just be the happiest day (and night) of your life so far.

And if it’s not, at least you’ll be sleeping soundly.

How To Be the Student You Deserve To Be – TUB-Thump 015

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We don’t operate on a level playing field.

Some things are up to you, while other things are outside your control.

On today’s TUB-Thump, I look at adopting the mindset to be the student you deserve to be.

University is about so many things. I like to think of it as a springboard to taking action.

That doesn’t make life at university easy. So how do you act in the most effective way?

If you want to do more than jump through a few hoops, listen to today’s TUB-Thump, get exploring, and reclaim the word “learning”. It’s a gateway to keep being awesome…


Here are the show notes for the 9-min episode:

  • 01:00 – To be the student you deserve to be, it’s about thinking how you can use everything as a springboard to further action.
  • 02:20 – The easier it is, and the more opportunities there are, the more likely you could end up procrastinating. It’s a strange situation, so keep a careful eye on it.
  • 02:50 – Not everything is laid out for you. And even if they are, that doesn’t mean you should blindly jump through the hoops without any real understanding or context as to why you’re doing it. I did some of this “hoop jumping” without question when I was younger. And since I didn’t know why I was doing it, I ended up making decisions that didn’t make sense. I had to pivot further down the line.
  • 03:50 – Not everyone gets the opportunities to correct their course or find their context. That’s part of the reason why I want to help open things up through TheUniversityBlog, TUB-Thump and so on. If one person can be inspired or can find context, that’s a worthwhile achievement.
  • 05:30 – It’s never too late to explore more. We’re always learning.
  • 06:10 – Reclaim the word “learning”. And check out another one of my shows, Learning Always.
  • 07:25 – Allow yourself flexibility, so long as you don’t blame others. Take on responsibility where it counts and where you do have control over it.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

How to combine routines & spontaneity in student life

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In yesterday’s TUB-Thump, I gave a bonus tip on planning and scheduling.

It was a bonus tip, because you probably already schedule some (if not all) your stuff.

All this timetabling and commitment to regular tasks is useful. But how do you let a bit of spontaneity into your experience too?

We’ve all had moments when we decide to drop everything and do something fun on a whim. It’s not rare. Last minute decisions can be weekly. Daily, even.

When you take that spontaneous risk, do you get away with it? Or does it bite you on the bum?

Maybe you’re lucky most times. But every time you take the risk, you may not be so lucky the next time.

No matter how “in the moment” you plan to be, you’ve got lectures to attend and essay deadlines to meet.

Here’s the weird thing: Those scheduled events are a good thing.

Seriously. The more focused you are on your schedule, the more spontaneous you can be.

I know that sounds strange, but there’s a logic to it. When you’re in control of your day, you’re able to manage your free time and available gaps far better. You’ll know exactly when you’re at a loose end.

So far so simple. But there’s a big ask if you want it to work well. You need to be in control of YOU.

Just because someone else suggests an impromptu outing or social session, that doesn’t mean you should always agree.

So how do you work out the times when you *can* agree to some impulsive fun?

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When you know you schedule intimately, you can rearrange it without fuss. The more you’re in control, the easier it is to make changes as you go along. When an impromptu session strikes, some are clearly possible and others aren’t. And when you’re at a definite loose end, you can choose the impromptu sessions yourself!

Every step of the way, this involves you being in control. Nobody else controls your situation. Peer pressure is a no-no.

Happily for you, peer pressure won’t feel so much like pressure anyway. When others try to overpower your initial decision, you’re swayed through uncertainty. By taking control of your timetable, you quickly know what will budge and what won’t.

If you’re determined to fit in something new when there’s no room left on your schedule, you’ll have to sacrifice something else on your list.

The good thing is, it should be clear what you can sacrifice, if anything.

Take these two situations:

  1. I was about to start working on an essay. I was starting early, so I had plenty of time to take a relaxed approach. It was a hot morning and it seemed like half the student village had decided to make the day an outdoor party. I could tell everyone was in a good mood, because friends were calling up to me and offering me free drink.
  2. I was trying to get my head around some concepts for an upcoming exam. There wasn’t much time left and I was still trying to work out best approaches and draft some test responses. Some of my mates decided to go to the SU for the evening and wanted me to come along.

Guess which of the situations I changed my plans for and which one I didn’t.

With plenty of time in the first instance, I rearranged my schedule so I could enjoy a day of debauchery fun in the sun. And as much as I wanted to go out in the second instance, there wasn’t the same wriggle room.

I had to say no in the second instance. It wasn’t important enough to sacrifice something else, and time was running out for the exam preparation.

Remember, no matter how much you’d like to sacrifice your academic work, that’s not the best plan… 😉

Do you feel in control of your schedule enough to let impromptu sessions into your life? And what’s the biggest thing you’ve ever had to say no to, even though you REALLY wanted to do it?