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15th September 2011

The power of retrospect

Bribes, balance and realistic goals

Ever since I can remember September has come with the same mantra: new academic year, new start. I tell myself I’m going to turn over a new leaf. In primary school it was neat handwriting, high school was all about homework deadlines and by sixth form, I was convinced that I was going to start revising for my exams in early November.

Now I’m going into my final year at university (where did the time go?!) and unfortunately nothing has changed. With my Pukka Pad at the ready I’ve got my ‘new year, new start’ hat on once again. It’s a certainty I’m not alone in this. But what I have learnt at long last is to be more realistic with my goals.

There’s no way that I’ll be in the library five hours a day for the next nine months, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll have my dissertation done two months before the deadline. But there are some easy steps that can be taken to make sure I’m not spending my Easter holiday dosed up on Pro Plus trying to manically churn out 10,000 words.

Balance is key. Final year students it’s time to get serious but depriving yourself of all human contact is not the way to go. Be realistic, going out the night before you have a 9am seminar is never going to end well but spending every weekend cooped up in your bedroom is going to leave you with the social skills of Will from The Inbetweeners.

Bribe yourself. It really does work a treat; just make sure you’re strict. Simply by saying to yourself, “I can order that Domino’s pizza when I’ve read this chapter” or “I’m only allowed to go out tonight if I’ve finished this essay”. It’s the best of both worlds!

If the library doesn’t provide the same stimuli it does for most, don’t force it. For some people it can just be full of distractions (especially when Fit Finder is up and running) so see what works for you. Maybe a quiet coffee shop or secret computer cluster, everyone works differently.

Blackwell’s will see a surge of students buying every kind of planner available this week in an attempt to be organised. Writing down timetables, plans and to-do lists is common sense and makes missing that incredibly important meeting with your tutor much less likely. The challenge is making sure said planners aren’t discarded down the back of your bed or left on a Magic Bus before Reading Week.

If all else fails at least the student loan in our bank accounts will be enough to encourage a positive attitude, for a week or so at least.

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