planning

What’s the Best Way to Write Your Essay? That Depends on You. – TUB-Thump 027

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Do you like to plan ahead before you work, or do you like to crack on with a clean canvas?

I hadn’t really considered this so much until I’d seen a presentation by Tristram Hooley with various writing tips.

A couple of Hooley’s slides look at two different types of working that resonate with me, because they have a similar outlook to one of the ways I look at learning new things.

For learning, I like to look at the bigger picture and drill down to the details from there. But some people start with some choice details and work outward to uncover that big picture.

In many ways, how you choose to write may have similarities in that learning choice too. And that’s what I talk about in Episode 027 of TUB-Thump.

I wonder if you’ve read this plan of the episode first, or if you’ve jumped straight into listening. I guess that depends on how you like to do things!

What’s your choice?


Here are the show notes for the 5-min episode:

  • 01:00 – Tristram Hooley’s presentation: Writing. How, why, when and what?
  • 01:20 – Planning writers versus generative writers.
  • 01:55 – Make a plan and then write a first draft or write a first draft and make a plan off the back of it?
  • 02:30 – One of these ways of working is likely to work better for you than the other. But it’s always worth trying the other way of working to see what you can learn about your process.
    I’ve talked about that before. Hear more on Episode 023 of TUB-Thump, How to Change Your Perspective and Why That Change is Good.

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!

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!

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?

Three Years To Tick A Box – Small Goals and Why Your Degree is the Minimum Requirement

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Three years to get your degree. That’s a big win.

You could wish that it was only two years. Or a week and half. Anything less than three years would be an advantage, wouldn’t it?

Not necessarily. Because you’re not at university *just* to get that piece of paper and the highest possible grade.

There’s even more value available in being distinctive.

My last couple of posts on TheUniversityBlog have looked at thinking beyond your grades and getting the most value from your student experience. Let’s wrap things up here by celebrating all the little plans while you’re working toward that big moment of graduation.

You may feel like there’s loads of time left.

Trust me, it’ll be over quicker than you’d like it to be.

Lots of Small Goals TUB

Lots of small goals

Your journey is full of lots of smaller wins. They may even add up to much more than the one big win of graduating.

Here’s the way Fast Company describes it:

“How do you prevent the intimidating big picture from dragging you down? Simply by finding ways to push yourself higher to more creative, more innovative levels that make you feel proud and give you the strength to make it through the tough days.” [SOURCE]

There’s so much happening right now. But with so much thought of the future and that one big goal of graduating being the driver, it’s easy to neglect where you are at this moment.

Your relationship with higher education can quickly swerve off-course.

That’s not your fault. There’s a lot to think about.

And because you’re thinking about so many things, you may forget to define your smaller goals.

A focus on getting a degree is understandable when the degree is another box ticked. Another step up the ladder. But it’s not enough.

Three years spent on a single box ticking goal isn’t a good use of time. I’m sure you completely understand that.

But that doesn’t mean the goal doesn’t get in the way.

Even when you make it a goal among many goals, it’s paired with that big future goal of getting a job after you graduate.

Degree as Minimum Requirement TUB

Degree as minimum requirement

Ticking the box is always at the back of your mind. And unless you see all your non-degree related skills and experiences as relevant in the long-term, you may still put the emphasis on ticking that box before anything else.

As you enjoy the club you joined, casually volunteer, and fill up your free time with fun, it could all mean something big. Notice that. Don’t leave everything to chance; make a bigger plan to fit in smaller goals, while you’re pursuing your big box-ticking goal.

No need to trust luck to get you further. You can spend a little more time and effort making a better bet for your future?

The degree isn’t the ultimate goal.

The degree is just the start. It’s the baseline. It’s the minimum requirement.

Beyond work experience and other well-worn paths, there are other things you can do. Things that don’t always take up too much of your time either. Schedule wisely and a few minutes each day may be all you need to create an empire of awesome.

Planning With or Without a Plan TUB

Planning, with or without a plan…

You may not even know what your future career plans are. Even uncertainty can come in useful:

  • You can explore new skills and experiences that aren’t limited to a single area of work;
  • You can find a new dynamic to help you see things differently and, perhaps, more clearly;
  • You can get some first-hand experience of different fields, allowing you to decide whether or not you want it to have a place in your future working life.

So while it may take you three or more years to get that stamp of approval from the university, that should give you time to build a bigger picture of yourself at the same time. The more you can do that, the easier it will be to sell yourself when you finally do graduate.

More than just a degree, you’ll have a lot more to show at the end of those three years.

Note it down as you go along. Big and small, document your achievements and experiences. They could come in handy later. And it’s better to have it set out as you go along, rather than wracking your brains later and getting a blank.

Over these years, what will you achieve and proudly show off as part of the story of you?