Eszter, the Postgraduate Engagement Assistant shares top tips for balancing work and wellbeing, in this *NEW* StudyWell article!
Hi PGs, my name’s Eszter and I’m a PGT student who’s currently three months into a conversion MSc in Data Science. With exam season coming up, I can definitely feel the pressure building, as I’m sure some of you can too.
Despite this, I’m determined to have a restful winter break, and Study Well! I hope some of my studying tips will help you to find the balance between work and play over the next month.
Beating procrastination one to-do list at a time
The stress of starting a big project has often left me reaching for my phone for some mindless social media scrolling, and the temptation to go down a YouTube rabbit-hole of “How-To” DIY videos is ever-present. But the tips below have helped me over the years to find a system that works to get me started on a project or task:
One of my old lecturers in my undergraduate degree used to talk about beating “Blank Page Syndrome”. He was referring to that horrible feeling of pressure when trying to start a huge piece of writing like a dissertation or research report. His advice, which I found really useful, was to just write absolutely anything to fill the white space, even if you knew it would never make it into your final draft. For me, this can include a rough structure, citations that I want to revisit, or even a badly written pep-talk with copious amounts of capitalization.
“The 5-minute rule”. This is a trick that involves convincing yourself that you’ll only spend 5 minutes on any given task and can help when you delay a project because of worrying about the time commitment needed. After 5 minutes, you might well find yourself in the mindset to work a bit longer, or you might have a better idea of what tasks you want to work on next. Either way, it’s a good trick to kickstart productivity.
Break *everything* down, and tick it off as you go! As basic as it is, I’ve always loved a good old fashioned to do list: it helps me see the start and end of a project and lets me estimate how long each task will take. With PG life often being full of commitments other than studying, this can really help to plan out your day.
Good Sleep makes *everything* better
I’m sure it will come as no surprise when I tell you that sleep is important for well-being. The tips below have really improved the quality of my sleep over the years:
On a cold winter evening, it can be tempting to get cozy in bed to finish that last bit of coursework or research. But studying in bed can cause your brain to start associating it with a place of focus and potentially stress, rather than rest and relaxation. That’s why I make sure to only study at my desk, or the campus library. The Graduate Centre’s top floor study room is also a great place to get some light and beautiful views of the city skyline - I would definitely recommend it!
Try a sleep podcast for a busy mind. These special podcasts are designed for a good night's sleep, and might include a mixture of ambient sounds, guided relaxation, or even a story. The one I like to listen to is called “Nothing Much Happens” and can be found on Spotify. The author writes highly descriptive but pretty mundane stories and aims to capture the attention of a busy mind and lull you to sleep.
Unwind before bed. Research says that blue light should be avoided, and the most often recommended activity is to read a book. But if you’re like me and like a video game or two, a low stimulation option can have the same effect, as well as things like crossword puzzles, knitting, or even just folding laundry.
Live (a little) !
It can sometimes feel like the life of a postgrad is just study, study, (coffee break?) and more study. However, there’s always an opportunity to reclaim some of that work-life balance, which is essential to managing your studies in the long run.
For me, exercise is one of the most invaluable ways to de-stress. Even if I don’t feel like I have the time for a full-on gym session, taking a walk through a park or doing a short home workout can help to refresh and reset my mind.
Trying something new. Being at university gives us the opportunity to take part in a huge number of societies and extracurricular activities. For me, trying out bouldering for the first time was a great mixture of physical activity and socializing, and is something I’m determined to stick with. There’s an abundance of both student and university–led activities to try out, from sports to crafts, so there will definitely be something that fits your niche! Look on the Union website for a full list of societies to join, and bear in mind that there will be lots of newcomers in the New Year, so it’s the perfect time to join.
Meet your peers! Sometimes life as a postgrad can seem more isolating than your previous university experiences, but rest assured, there’s a community for you at QMUL. If you’re not sure where to start, look out in the Student Union’s newsletter and website for social events aimed at postgrads throughout the year, which I'll be running as the Unions Postgraduate Engagement Assistant. Our Christmas quiz on the 14th December is a great chance to get into the festive spirit, as well as brush up on your trivia ready for family or friends' game nights.
I hope you’ve found something helpful or worth a try in this article and wish you all a relaxing winter break!
Eszter (Postgraduate Engagement Assistant)