How to manage studying and well-being at university

Owen Havercroft shares his top tips for staying on top of both your well-being and your studies whilst at university.

A group of students sat round a table in a seminar.

Moving to university is fun, but it can also feel like a lot. You might feel there is too much work expected from you or feel a lot of pressure to get good grades. It might be hard adjusting to a new environment.

Whatever the case is, your time at university, on top of getting your degree, helps you develop yourself. One of the most important things you learn is to manage your wellbeing and work sustainably, a skill you will take with you after uni.

To maintain your well-being there are several steps you can take to not only work sustainably and more effectively but enjoy the process as well.

First, be intentional with your time

  • Use a calendar to time-block: This sounds limiting at first, but it will help you work more effectively and realize where you have free time and where you can fit in study/work time.
An open diary with a pen placed on top of it.
  • Set yourself deadlines: Ever wonder how we always manage to finish that essay in one day when we have had two months to write it before? This is because of “Parkinson’s law”, which tells us that work expands to fill the time we assign to it. To use this to our advantage, set yourself mini deadlines to finish parts of the project (using your set study time from your calendar for example).

Second, enjoy the process of working and studying

  • Make it fun: Make a study group, gather your friends and work together. Being in an environment with everyone working will help make studying more fun. Get some snacks and coffee as well so you enjoy your time there.
A group study session with students gathered around a table.
  • Take breaks: Don’t forget to take breaks, some people enjoy taking many short breaks, for example using the Pomodoro technique, in which you work for 25 minutes and take a 5 minute break. Some people prefer longer breaks, work for hours and rest longer. Try out whatever works for you, this will make working more manageable as well as more efficient.
  • Set a Goal for the study session: It is important to have a goal for your study session, the more specific the better. This will help you realize what needs to be done for the day. For example instead of: Revising for the exam, try: Revising Weeks 7 and 8 until you learn it.
  • Deep focus state: We work better when there are no distractions. To achieve this, try putting your phone on do not disturb, it’s hard to focus on your task when you are thinking if your friend replied yet and what the plans for the evening are. I recommend using the Forest app while you work, which will help you avoid phone distractions, as well as getting a playlist for studying, ideally instrumental only to focus better. Also recommend giving the book Deep Work by Cam Newport a read if you’re into this topic.

Finally, enjoy life outside of university

  • Have realistic goals: If you are not used to studying for the whole day then start with an hour or two, then up the intensity if you feel like it. If you feel burned out, then there is something wrong with your routine.
  • Do not be afraid of taking a break day(s): If you feel like you need that day (or days) off, then take it, catch up on that series you’ve been meaning to watch and don’t feel guilty about it.
  • Do things outside of university: Visit a new city, Sheffield is well positioned to visit many parts of the UK, take a day trip to a new city, or go to a new restaurant or cafe in Sheffield, try to do one new thing a week, however small it is, keep life interesting.
A road winding through the Peak District as the sun rises.
  • Don’t sacrifice your outside life: Go to that party, join that society. University is a time for you to have fun, discover what you like and meet friends who will stay with you for life. This won’t happen if you stay locked in your room.
  • Keep up with friends and family: Be intentional about this, it might be hard to keep in touch when you have a lot of work, or to talk to your family back home once you moved out but set aside time for this. Give them a call, and catch them up with whatever has been happening, I’m sure they will appreciate it and it will help you not miss home as much.

I hope these tips help make your work sessions more fun and productive, and just remember that University is what you make it. Try to enjoy the process, and life outside of it as well.

Written by Owen Havercroft in January 2023.

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