We’ve all lived through days of doing everything we told ourselves we wouldn’t do. Though our timetables have stated that today is a day of reading and library work, often we wake up with a sense of exhaustion, boredom or confusion.
As students we can’t enjoy the luxuries that others enjoy – we are unable to have private a room dedicated to study, nor can we take a holiday abroad in the middle of our studies. But there are many ways in which little differences can enable us to get back into the right frame of mind. Many students are aware of Einstein’s comment, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” but that does not mean that you will find geniuses lurking in pigsties.
The following observations are rudimentary and so can be taken or left. But, in my experience, it’s the recommendations that we routinely gloss over, thinking them to be too simple to be utilised, that come back to haunt us…
Get off Facebook. Facebook’s Grand Theft Auto V equivalent’s tagline says it all: it’s “the reason the world never gets anything done anymore.” It is arguably the greatest static distraction to students in the modern day. It is quite possible for a student to spend hours of time scrolling through a news feed, acquainting him/herself with all manner of trivia and nonsense that is soon forgotten. Furthermore, reading about what your best friend was doing last night or where your old friends from home are up to now will only make you more inclined to abandon your work and rush off to do something else.
While you’re at it, get off everything else. A lot of student work requires an Internet connection, so you’ll likely be using a laptop or computer regularly. After closing Facebook, why not close every other unnecessary tab? Ask yourself if you really need to read the Guardian‘s headlines for the next few hours. Do you really need to monitor your social media feed for how many ‘likes’ you get per minute? Don’t worry, your streamed TV will be there waiting for you after you’ve done your reading.
Tidy your room. It’s a widely-observed phenomenon that people find it harder to work when their working environment is chaotic. There are too many things that catch our eyes, make us think about things beside the task at hand, or simply get in the way. How can you concentrate on the text in front of you when notes, books and a ringing phone surround it? Tidy your room before it descends into hygienic anarchy; some people can tolerate mess, but when you are stepping past your textbooks and hopping over last night’s meal, it’s a sign that your room is an obstacle to your capacity to think properly.
Set reasonable standards. Without the influence of caffeine, alcohol or certain illegal substances, it is not possible to get through a week’s reading in a day. Trying to digest page after page of complicated academic work without taking breaks is a good way to exhaust your brain and even make working on the day after difficult. Are you really going to read all five journal articles today? Set yourself appropriate, believable goals.
Decide whether you can work while listening to music. There is no right answer to this: some people can produce fantastic work while heavy metal is blaring through their speakers, whereas others can’t produce a coherent sentence without needing to turn it down or turn it off. If you have to listen to music, try something without a singer – there’s no need to start mouthing along to the lyrics in the library. If you have a habit of breaking out the air guitar, though, you’ll likely run into trouble with most music besides classical.
Don’t be afraid of a day off. When your designated work day comes, it can be disheartening if you just don’t have the right mindset. When we are aware of deadlines and expectations, it can hard to remember that we need rest and relaxation. People feel unwell, people feel tired or people simply aren’t in the mood. Sometimes an overarching crisis can make work hard to begin – the end of a relationship, an argument with a close friend, the passing of a loved one. Feel free to take a day off, but make sure in that day you do something. Have a walk around the walls, visit the gym, go for a swim, read some fiction, go to the cinema, or just give your mother a phone call.
Although, if your work is due tomorrow, it might be unwise to declare today a chill-out day. Use your common sense.