The importance of routine

As part of Study Well, MBBS Medicine student and Circadian Editor in Chief Harris Nageswaran, discusses the importance of routine

For many years, I’ve found myself struggling with being able to balance the workload of being a uni student, with everything else that comes with it! I can remember metaphorically banging my head on the table, falling behind on work and wondering what secret that seemingly everyone but me knew.

Now, it’s important to note that aside from just being a cliché, it is indeed true that everyone is very different in how they learn and what tips and environments help them being productive. However, I wanted to share a few things that really helped me find my productive roots.

Create a routine – but make it realistic

For me, finding a routine was the biggest epiphany. That isn’t to say I wasn’t working before – it’s just that I used to work in an unstructured way; different times, different locations and in different ways - usually crescendo-ing just before an exam.

It was clear to me that just passively listening to lectures and attempting to read other people’s notes wasn’t working. As dramatic as it might sound, I found it useful to tear that all up and genuinely start from scratch. I had tried before to make little tweaks and changes to a broken system but there’s something rather refreshing and exciting to starting something brand new.

Creating a routine for me meant everything; working out when I should wake up (and hence when I should be asleep by), working out when I would be going to the gym (personally I’m a fan of the morning sesh to really wake you up), and when I would be focused on covering academic content.

Create an environment that lets you flourish

We are all having to work from home a lot more than many of us would maybe prefer - but that’s why it’s even more important to create a good balance in your environment at home. Make sure your study space is different to your break space – and try not to mix the two too much!

I found my phone to be the biggest source of distraction, so popping it on ‘Do Not Disturb’ and using the Hold app to reward me for not going on it (even for a few minutes) was an important step. A clean table is also a must for me – it allows me to spread what I’m doing onto it without feeling cramped and cooped in.

Find a study buddy

It can be difficult to motivate yourself all the time, and so it can be nice to have someone to motivate you when you’re having a slow day. Don’t worry about trying to find someone who exactly the same as you - you don’t need to necessarily be covering the same material at the same time – just willing to study at similar times. While it sounds weird, studying together over a muted video call is surprisingly motivating, and makes it feel less isolating! It’s important to also find non-study buddies too; someone to go for a walk with or just chat rubbish with on the phone.

Don’t get frustrated with yourself

A key tip for me was to over-allocate my study time. That way, when things felt a bit slow or overwhelming, I didn’t feel bad at all about leaving it and doing something else. Everyone has those days, but if you know you’ve got time on your side, it makes it a lot easier to look after yourself – as well as genuinely enjoy breaks when you take them! On the plus side, if you do cover everything you want to cover – it means more time to go over it again and really feel confident.

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