In a high-stress environment like LSE, you’ve probably had people tell you to relax on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, as we all know, it’s really not that easy to “just relax.” Here are a few tips (adapted from this article) to help you calm down now that it’s revision season:
Take deep breaths. Take very deep breaths in through your nose, and then breath out through your mouth. The NHS suggests counting to five on each breath, and that’s probably a guideline to follow. Doing this three to five times a day is quite helpful- I’ve just started to try it, so we’ll see how it goes.
Get comfortable. If you’re at home, wear comfortable clothes and try and sit in a position that isn’t rigid or unpleasant. I know that I tend to get too comfortable to get work done when I’m in my room, but that’s exactly the kind of thing you need when you’re purposefully trying to relax.
Try some stretches. I’m just going to quote the NHS article I’m using for this post, because paraphrasing wouldn’t work too well in this case. The following is directly from Relaxation tips to relieve stress, the piece I am basing this entire post on:
Face: push the eyebrows together, as though frowning, then release.
Neck: gently tilt the head forwards, pushing chin down towards chest, then slowly lift again.
Shoulders: pull them up towards the ears (shrug), then relax them down towards the feet.
Chest: breathe slowly and deeply into the diaphragm (below your bottom rib) so that you’re using the whole of the lungs. Then breathe slowly out, allowing the belly to deflate as all the air is exhaled.
Arms: stretch the arms away from the body, reach, then relax.
Legs: push the toes away from the body, then pull them towards body, then relax.
Wrists and hands: stretch the wrist by pulling the hand up towards you, and stretch out the fingers and thumbs, then relax.
Since no one revision method works best for everyone, it’s important to try different things. I found a really great time management guide on the NHS website, and so I’ve included some of its tips and a few tips of my own. If you’re stuck, try to consider a few of these points.
Create a to-do list
I am really addicted to to-do lists. I write them often, and even if I don’t manage to accomplish the tasks I write in a timely fashion, I always appreciate having them listed in one place. It’s a great method of organisation, and the best part is when you get to check things off your list.
Take note of which tasks on your to-do list are the most important or time sensitive and arrange them accordingly. As an example, I’m much more interested in finishing up my dissertation right now, but I I need to finish my summative papers first. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to think about things in this way. Similarly, if you’re feeling really stressed out, try and prioritise de-stressing before continuing your work. Check out the "LSEWellbeing" tag for some inspiration.
Sit down and write
This may also seem obvious, but what I mean to say is that you should find a quiet space (or a noisy space if that’s how you do your best work) and just write. Even if you’re not very motivated, just try and get some words on the page. You’ll have plenty of time to add citations, review, and build upon the ideas you’ve written- but at first, just getting something done is always good.
Avoid excessive distractions
Some distractions are good, but if you’re checking your Facebook every few minutes, you’re not going to get anything done. There are actually quite a few apps that help you block distracting websites while you’re trying to get work done, and I’d definitely recommend trying at lest one of them out. One of those apps is SelfControl, but there’s a wide variety if you’d prefer to try another. I tried it my last year of undergrad and I kind of hated it, but I think that means it was working perfectly…
Take a relaxing break
This is partly because I just really loved the gif, but also because getting your best work done really does require taking breaks. You might be able to get work done by staying up late and stressing out, but it probably won’t be your best work. Be sure to spend some time outside (visit a city farm, green space, or royal park), take a coffee/tea break, go on a day trip, or do something else you enjoy. You won’t regret it!
Check out these helpful websites for more tips:
Easy time management tips (NHS)
How to manage your time effectively (University of Kent)
Top 10 Tips for Time Management (UCLA)
At this point, you’ve most certainly thought about your dissertation, but really getting started on it will put you way ahead of the game. As postgrads, we have quite a bit of time until we need to hand it in (depending on your programme), but that doesn’t mean you should put it off. Here are a few things you should be keeping in mind now that Lent term is over and Summer term is fast approaching:
I recently found an article about how to stay productive at work- it wasn’t specifically about students, but a lot of the same concepts seemed applicable to the work we’ll be doing over the next few weeks. I decided to sum it up with a few gifs, so here it goes:
Take a walk: I know I’ve suggested this like a million times already, but it’s a really great idea! Here are my last two posts about it: Royal Parks & Green Spaces
Remember your new year’s resolutions: Even if you’ve already forgotten about your promises from January- it’s not too late to pick them back up. You’ve still got a few months to join a gym if you’d like.
Keep your environment clean & comfortable: Try and clean up your room. It’s a productive way to procrastinate, and you’ll probably feel a lot better when you’re not sitting in the middle of a big mess.
Eat well: We’ve also driven this point home pretty firmly, but check out these past blog posts to get some ideas in case you’ve missed it: Farmers’ Markets in London & Healthy Foods
Take breaks & get lots of sleep: A healthy dose of procrastination can be good for you every once in a while. Staying up all night to finish a paper is a terrible idea, so try and start it a few days ahead of time so that you have time for sufficient sleep and a few breaks. Take a look at this post about why sleep is important, and these posts about healthy break ideas.
Be social: Meet up with friends! Staying alone in your room for days on end is just lonely and stressful. Mix it up a bit by going out with friends. Trust me, your paper can handle being on its own for a few hours.
If you want to heard more, here’s the article I adapted these ideas from: 12 Tips for Staying Productive at Work Through the Bleak Winter Months
It’s now the second week of break, and I find myself feeling like all I’ve done is sit in front of my computer thinking about work without actually doing anything meaningful. If you’re in the same position, I recommend trying out a new study technique called Workstation Popcorn. I decided to simplify it a bit for my test run, but you can set specific times and such if you wish.
First, you break up your tasks into three portions: Task 1, Task 2, and Task 3. Then, you decide upon three places to do these tasks. After you’ve finished Task 1 in the first location, you move onto Task 2 in the second location, and so forth.
Since it sounded fun, I decided to test this out instead of just telling you about it. Here’s how it went:
First stop: Caravan Restaurant, Bar & Roastery
My first task was to write at least half of my paper for my core Social Policy course. That meant dragging my laptop and all of my notes about school choice to a local cafe to write about a thousand words. I brought a friend along, and decided on Caravan Restaurant, Bar & Roastery in Exmouth Market (just a short walk from Rosebery Hall). I ordered a flat white (look how beautiful that coffee is!) and took out my laptop to do a bit of work. Since I’m a chronic procrastinator, I ended up writing more of this blog post than my paper- but I still made progress! It’s a great cafe, by the way. They have a really interesting menu, some delicious, strong coffee, and plenty of outlets if you’re planning on bringing an electronic device. Just two things to keep in mind: it’s a bit expensive (£2.60 for a flat white, £2.80 for tea), and you should come well before 12pm, because they have a “no laptop policy” during lunch.
Second stop: The Maughan Library at King’s College London
After a short lunch break, I headed to the Maughan Library at King’s to continue to work on my seriously neglected paper. It is located on Chancery Lane (very close to LSE) and it’s open 24 hours. All I had to do was show my LSE ID card and sign in. I’d recommend asking the front desk how to connect to the internet, because the “KingsGuest” network wasn’t actually for guests, and I was having some trouble with the “eduroam” network. The best part about this stop was definitely the round reading room (pictured above). Once you enter, turn right and walk straight down the corridor. At the end, the reading room will be on your left through a set of doors. I ended up writing most of my paper there- so it worked for me!
Third stop: The LSE Library
The LSE Library sounds a bit boring, I know, but it’s a great place to study on Friday and Saturday nights, or early in the morning any day of the week. I went on a Saturday afternoon, and I got a ton of work done. I find that I can get my best studying done when the library isn’t very crowded. It’s open 24 hours now through the end of the year, so even if you can’t make it at those times, there’s bound to be a time that fits your schedule. Reserve study rooms through LSE for You for the best spaces.
Before I go, here’s one more Workstation Popcorn suggestion:
The Shaw Library is on the 6th floor of the Old Building, and it’s got very comfy chairs, lots of space, and a comfortable atmosphere. When there aren’t any events going on, it’s a great place to study. It’s also got a very lovely roof terrace attached to it, which could be quite nice now that spring has arrived. It’s open Monday to Friday from 9am-10pm. Unfortunately, it’s not open on weekends during breaks (which is why I didn’t go here during my own Workstation Popcorn).
Now that over 20% of our Easter break is gone (yes, I kid you not), it’s time for us procrastinators to *start* to get back into productivity mode. What better way to start the week is there than revamping your workspace? Here are five of my favourite tips to get the table suitable for the upcoming intensive studying.
1) Arrange for productivity.
A workspace should be comfortable and functional - I believe most of us would agree on this; the thing is, we don’t really put that much of a conscious effort to arrange our workspace to facilitate our work.
Try this tip here: If your work requires multitasking or plenty of books (hint hint Law students), go for a more open layout, and lay your required material systematically. If concentration is the main ingredient for your work, go for something minimal and focused instead.
Like that one.
2. Upgrade to digital.
This tip might not work for everyone as it depends mostly on preference and affordability. Personally, I prefer to store my notes in a cloud storage service (Google Drive or Dropbox), so that I can access them from wherever I am rather than lug those heavy stacks of notes all around London.
Digital tablets will make life even easier, as you get the mobile convenience of bringing your whole digital e-book library around, while also getting the internet connectivity to allow you to procrastinate on Facebook when you get bored (you didn’t hear this from me btw).
3. Rest. Food.
Always make sure that you are well-rested and well-fed (and other stuff, well-groomed if need be) before starting on your work. It’s always better to grab a power nap before continuing to study, rather than plowing through the waffle-like notes with droopy eyelids.
Keep a bottle of water handy (substitutable with a cup of coffee), and of course some healthy snacks (I would prefer crisps, but then.. Refer to Christina’s post on study-snacks).
4. Lighten it up.
Natural light boosts energy and engagement. Unfortunately, not every room is graced with rows of windows. If possible, adjust overhead lighting when needed to reduce the eyestrain and headaches it causes. Get a table lamp if possible, it’ll be a great investment.
5. Keep things moving.
Part of being comfortable and productive is staying flexible. If your work keeps you computer-bound for long periods take a quick break and get your circulation going. Many office workers are opting for higher desktop counters, so they can stand or sit on a stool while working. Changing positions and movement helps keep you energized and productive.
And no, don’t study on the bed. It does not necessarily work for everyone (well, not for me I guess).
Don’t do this.
I think we can all agree that revision is pretty stressful. But eating junk food while your body is already unhappy is one of the worst things you can do. Since I really care about you all, I’ve made a short list of some tips and suggestions for your enjoyment. Please take care of yourself!
1. First off, make sure you eat breakfast. This probably seems obvious, but it’s actually a major contributor to increased attention in class and while studying. Revising is already hard- why make it harder by skipping breakfast?
2. Eat lots of fruits. This is also kinda obvious, but you’ll feel much better after eating a juicy orange than you’ll feel after eating pain au chocolat (trust me, I know it’s hard to make the right decision sometimes- but try!). The best part is that fruits are high in vitamins and other important nutrients, so you’re basically doing everything right. I’m personally a big fan of buying £2 packs of grapes and snacking on them while watching tv shows. It’s a great study break idea!
3. Enjoy some whole grains. The energy from the complex carbs you find in oats and other whole grains are said to boost brainpower. I don’t have the energy to verify via peer reviewed journal (I’m doing enough reading already), but even if it’s not true, they are filling, healthy in moderation, and excellent for breakfast. I’d recommend steel cut oats because they are one of the least processed grains. And they sound cool.
4. Have a cup of coffee. This may seem contrary to what you’ve seen, but I’ve read a few articles that suggest it’s not such a terrible choice of beverage. Apparently, coffee can help with attention and focus, though the effects on long-term memory aren’t known (maybe they can’t remember). I don’t think anyone would recommend having lots of caffeinated drinks, but if you’re going to choose one, definitely don’t reach for a Red Bull.
My delicious cappuccino from the Garrick.
5. Last, you can reach for a bit of dark chocolate if you’d like. Dark chocolate isn’t exactly healthy (some of it’s benefits have been deeply exaggerated), but it can lower blood pressure in some cases. That’s definitely a good thing during revision, right?
Good luck with your studying!
There’s a life outside of the LSE library, and we want to share it with you over the Easter Break. As part of #LSEWellbeing we want to help you procrastinate and take time off from your work so you feel better when you are being super productive.
We know many of you will be studying hard over the next few weeks so we’re here to help procrastination be even more fun and help you explore bit of London and the internet you may not have, as well as share some helpful study and revision tips, spaces and techniques.
Posts coming up include super healthy brain-food to replace the sugar in your life, green spaces to explore and places to study in London, revision techniques including workstation popcorn (even more fun than it sounds!) as well as some great links to lose your 10 minutes breaks to.
Keep an eye out for more coming your way soon…
Throughout the Lent and Summer terms, the LSE Library will be open for students and staff 24 hours, Monday - Sunday. The hours will change for the Easter and Summer vacations, but we will post more information about that toward the end of term.
With these adjusted opening hours, you will have much more time to access the Library’s massive holdings. Maybe you’ll even manage to finish that dissertation a bit earlier than you expected!
Good luck with your studies!
Remember how overwhelming the first week of classes felt? As an international student, I was trying to juggle buying all the essentials I couldn’t fit in my suitcase and sorting everything out on a campus, all while suffering intense jet lag. It was a nightmare. So, if you’re like me and you want to try and avoid a messy first week of Lent term, I highly suggesting taking a look at your reading lists before Monday.
If you get started now, I promise you won’t regret it!
With classes starting up again next week, it’s time to get back to work. Postgrads, if you’re planning on starting your dissertation soon, or if you’ve already started it (I applaud you!), you might be feeling a little overwhelmed.
Although it might seem a bit early to be thinking about studying for exams, it’s never too early to start, especially if you have quite a few more responsibilities this term. My advice? At least start to think about scheduling your time.
If you’re not sure where to start, we have tips to help you! Take a look at this post from last year if you’re in need of some assistance: The Art of Revision.
My favorite tip is to take a look at past exams.
We can’t wait to see you next week. Until then, enjoy your last few days of the winter holiday!
My 5 Top Tips for keeping productive over the holidays.
1. Find out what time your local library is open.
This is one of those overlooked but highly important details that I often forget to check out. It would be a real shame if the week you decided to be productive coincides with when you library is closed.
For those that are staying in London over the holidays, the library on campus is closed from 21 December to 1 January (inclusive).
2. Set yourself some objectives.
This can be anything from the number of hours a week that you are going to work - to what modules that you are going to review first. Be careful not to make these objectives too vague because you wont be able to hold yourself to account, but also not to make them overly prescriptive because you might find yourself falling behind your intended objectives very quickly – which could be demoralising.