Pace Yourself: Tip Six for the New Semester
It seems the common stereotype of a student that they are either part-hard and work-shy or work-hard and party-shy. Certainly, you will come across people who fit into those roles; the person who is too hungover to come to any lessons or hand in their essay on time, and the person who locks themselves away in their room or the library to work away the night. Whilst diametrically opposed lifestyles to have at university, both are unhealthy and should be avoided. Instead, students – especially those in their first term – should find some moderation. If you are able to pace yourself what you do will carry you through your university career.
The issues with living a raucous, party-animal lifestyle whilst at university seem fairly self-evident: if you are out every night, you are losing out on sleep in exchange for consuming excesses of alcohol, both of which can have a serious detrimental effect on your physical health. Equally, the effects on your body of extended drinking and interrupted sleep patterns, mixed with a deterioration of your ability to keep up with your studies, can have a serious impact on your mental health. And, within that there is a further point, which is that it will take a toll on your studies, which is the main reason you are at university in the first place. Whilst it may be fun and perfectly acceptable to have frequent nights out at university – more so than in the rest of your life – you should still moderate yourself so it doesn’t affect the other parts of your life. Conversely, locking yourself away can bring you the same problems. There is a temptation to work crazy hours at university, especially in exam term, due to 24 hour libraries and independence in your studies. However, working late and not moving from your desk takes a toll on your physical health too. University is a very social thing, and whilst you are there to study, you are also there to make friends and socialise, so you don’t want to lock yourself away from a friendship network that can support you. Feeling isolated is a slippery slope that can seriously affect your mental health, and is completely avoidable. Also, there is a myth that working x many hours translates into a better grade, which is simply not true. The quality of study you will do at 10a.m after a good night sleep will be infinitely better than at two in the morning after a further eight hours of study, so it is better for your studies to do moderate amounts of focused work than try and attempt massive amounts of poor work.
The best way to pace yourself in university is to find a happy medium between your social life and your academic studies. In the first term you want to cultivate a friendship circle and remain sociable, but keep on top of the work you have to do without overdoing it. Whilst no one’s life is exactly the same, and that happy medium will be something that you will have to work out for yourself, there are a few things that you can do to help keep that balance.
The first thing you can do when you get there is to sign up for some extra-curricular activities. Extra-curricular clubs and societies are the lifeblood of university socialising. They are a very easy way to meet like-minded people who share the same interests as you. As a fresher, the temptation is always to sign up for loads of clubs, then not go to most of them because you find you are not as interested as you thought in them, or you simply don’t have the time to commit to them. Pace yourself and pick a few that are varied – perhaps one club, one society and one sport – that suit your most fervent interests and make sure you get involved.
To better split your time between a social life and your studies is to use your diary to your advantage and schedule blocks of study time, as well as time to relax and socialise. If you properly pace yourself, you dont have to be as strict as telling yourself you can only spend two hours on a Saturday in the pub. If you know you need to get some work done independently, it is very difficult to give yourself time specifically to finish that task, so schedule work time as if it were any other timetabled thing. Once you know how long you have to work in a day, you can work out how much time you have to relax and not worry about work. If you are feeling like the work might be getting to you, you can clear your agenda for a day at the end of the week to relax and recuperate before going back to the work anew.
A final issue that can allow one side of your life to take over the other is a lack of definite timeframes to work within. At university, as independent learners, a lot of the time we are in charge of our own personal deadlines, as well as keeping to them. This means that not only can we think we don’t have work to do when we do, and so take more time off and end up missing a set deadline for work, but, with a helping of procrastination, to try and meet that deadline end up working through the night and producing something sub-standard. To keep a good work/life balance, set your own deadlines for work and give yourself enough of that scheduled study time to complete it in. If you have a set deadline for a piece of work, set a personal deadline to have it completed a day or two before; that way you can keep up and deal with events that may come up without missing a deadline. If you properly pace yourself at university you’ll find you are able to naturally get a lot more done, both socially and academically.
Make sure you check out the rest of the articles in our series on Tips for the perfect start for the next semester: