planning

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

small goals

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?

Remotivate yourself after the summer break. New year, new you?

Remotivate Yourself After the Summer Break. New Year, New You?

Don’t you just love/hate the gap between one academic year and another? ūüôā

In some ways the summer break feels too short. In other ways it seems far too long.

You relaxed. You got some cash from a summer job. You saw your mates back home.

But your work and your focus gets a bit rusty. You feel unpractised.

As soon as you return to university, you’re expected to get back to work and pick up where you left off.

It’s time to remotivate yourself.

But a new academic year also brings with it new challenges for your learning. Challenges that could stump you even further.

In my second year, I remember people’s unease and worry with the sudden uptake in expectations. Especially as many thought (and still do think) that first year doesn’t count. [Hint: It really does count…]

The new academic year not only meant we had to re-evaluate what we’d already learned, but also meant we had to push toward a higher level.

Not surprising, but a challenge on top of a challenge is…well, a challenge!

How do you recover from a summer away AND build on top of that too?

Here are 5 tips to get you started:

little and often

1. Little and often

It’s so easy to slip into an “I’ll do it later” mindset. Yes, there’s plenty of time, but that time rushes by fast.

Next thing you know, you’ve only got a day before that essay is due in. Or you’re just a few hours before a seminar where you are expected to engage in discussion.

Panic!

There’s a better way. Start when you get it, but only a small amount.

Little and often means that you spend a few minutes each day working on the subject at hand and not overwhelming yourself with too much content.

You may only need 10 minutes a day, you may need half an hour. However long you need, it’s much better spaced out in chunks.

By¬†committing¬†to just a short amount of time, you may be spurred on to continue doing more once you feel a flow. Or you can give up after a bad session, safe in the knowledge that you actually have the next day. And the next. And the next! You weren’t in the mood today, but you’re not forced to carry on regardless.

So the longer you have, the more chance you’ll have for inspiration to hit. If that’s not a reason to start early and not leave everything for the last minute, I don’t know what is.

This is the same method I suggest for working on essays too. The more time you give yourself to do the coursework, the more likely you are to hand in a piece of work that is worthy of you.

prepare in advance

2. Prepare in advance

Preparation shields you from surprises.

You usually get a timetable and reading lists and information on what to expect throughout the module or semester. When you look at this in advance, you can highlight common themes and the types of work that you’re expected to do.

With this information at hand, you’re not actively learning, but you’ve now got an idea of what you’ll need. Then you can focus on any areas you’re uncertain about.

Planning the coming weeks will also help you to find ways of making unenjoyable tasks more friendly and palatable. You may still draw a blank, but at least you’ve got more time to force yourself into a more inspired place. Good luck!

schedule your free time

3. Schedule your free time

Use your timetables and to-do lists for EVERYTHING. Even free time and fun activities.

It sounds strange to schedule free time, but it helps you to focus on the pleasure of leisure.

Without this, you won’t make the most of your free time. It tends to just get lost.

I spoke to¬†Bethany Wren, VP Academic Experience at University of Brighton Students’ Union.¬†Bethany suggests that you should “rota in some ‘you’ time every day, even if it is an hour in the bath with a vanilla candle, this will keep you sane“.

By scheduling ALL your time, including when you just want to do absolutely nothing or when you’re happy to do something on a whim, that free time can be used with more purpose. Even if that purpose is just to relax.

And sometimes the purpose is to gain some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Bethany says:

“Remember your friends once a month. My friends and I had a meal out in Brighton ‚Äď it reminded us that there was oxygen outside of the library but also that we were all feeling the same kind of stresses, and that was comforting.”

Your summer may have been quiet, lazy and carefree. So keep some of those summer memories and schedule those relaxing times when you’ve genuinely got nothing on. The next day may be back to work, but that can truly wait until tomorrow.

All you need now is a hammock.

find something new to do

4. Find something new to do

In my final year, I had a lot more on my plate. There as the small matter of a dissertation, I was living back on the student village with first years, and I was now a senior student.

But I still wanted to find new things to do.

For instance, I wanted to read a selection of Sunday newspapers to check out subjects that I’d never paid much attention to, and to get a taste of the different perspectives that come from a single story.

I would wake up early on Sunday morning. That way, practically every other student in the student village was sleeping, or had gone home for the weekend. I’d walk to the shop, buy a selection of papers, and wash my clothes in the invariably empty laundry.

As the washing machine spun around, I would sit back and read. A peaceful way to find out what’s going on in the world and expand my horizons without interrupting my other plans.

No need for sacrifices.

Okay, getting up early on a Sunday isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But by using the points above, it shouldn’t be hard to find what suits you. There’s always more time than you think.

And if you really are THAT strapped for time, maybe you DO need to make a sacrifice or two. That can be tough, but one you’ll thank yourself for in the long run.

I’m thankful for developing that new habit in my final year of engaging with new content. It’s helped me to build up good curation systems over the years.

ask for help

5. Ask for help

One of Bethany Wren’s top survival tips for getting back on track at university is to always ask for help when you need it:

“Nobody is expecting you to do this by yourself and there are a lot of people out there who are ready to give you a helping hand, all you have to do is ASK. We [at Brighton] have our Support service, SUSS at the SU who you can contact via email any time. Equally, if there is a member of staff such as your personal tutor who you can talk to, do!”

Renewed motivation can only manifest when you get the right type of assistance. Without it, you only feel overwhelmed.

A.S.K. – Asking Secures Knowledge

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Armed with these five tips, you should be well on your way to feeling remotivated.

And if you’re on a real hardcore productivity trip, I heartily recommend Graham Allcott’s books, “How to be a Productivity Ninja”¬†and “How to be a Knowledge Ninja.

No matter what your summer break was like, there’s more than enough scope to remotivate yourself and feel ready for anything as you hit campus once again.

What’s your main focus for this year?

 

Risk or Responsibility?

Do you take risks when faced with important decisions?  Do you push things to one side and let random excitement take hold and stress you out?

Perhaps you think you only take an occasional gamble. But you may be more of a risk taker than you think.

photo by anarchosyn

photo by anarchosyn

It doesn’t sound like much, but think how tempting it is to leave an essay until the last minute.¬† Rather than prepare in advance, there’s a want to bash everything out in the last minute.¬† You may not really *want* to do everything in the last minute, but the beast of procrastination rears its ugly head and that’s what happens anyway.

What of study plans?¬† Before the work starts, a plan can seem so structured and restricting.¬† Surely you’ll get the work done eventually.¬† You’ve done it before that way.¬† Much better to work when you feel like it, eh?

Keep those fingers crossed that you’ll get that feeling every time.

Of course, you will feel like it, because you’ll have no choice. Time will have run out. Panic is often a big driver of decisions.

Shame those decisions aren’t likely to be the best ones.

Many choices may not feel risky, but there’s a real chance they will make a negative impact.

Making plans straight away does involve taking responsibility.¬† But this is a low risk, positive action.¬† Responsibility sounds like a hassle, because you know you have to start.¬† And the end is so, so far away.¬† At least, it’s so far away until there’s not enough time.¬† Then the game changes and it’s out of your control…

The sooner you start, the sooner you can finish in your own sweet time.  No rushing, no major panic, no second rate attempt that you know could have been better.

You don’t have to jump on tasks the moment you get them, but neither should they be left to linger.

Advice like this isn’t unusual.¬† That doesn’t make it any easier to action.¬† Not until you give it a context.¬† As I see it, that context is risk.¬† The longer you leave it, the bigger the chance you’re taking.¬† Risks don’t have to sound risky before they become dangerous.

Are you willing to gamble with grades?