First of all, I feel you. I’m sure that nothing can really mentally prepare you for the pressure of third year. Not only do you have to contend with the extra amount of work that you’re given, but you have to deal with the constant pressure of people asking what plans you have for the following year. I sat next to a girl in my lecture the other day who listed all the grad schemes she has applied for so far to her friend, and I nearly cried. How can some people be so organised?
The problem is that there is no magical answer to how you should structure your time effectively and factor in time for yourself. Every week brings with it a new commitment; a friend coming to visit, a meeting with a personal tutor, a social event- none are exactly the same as the last. This isn’t just applicable for third years, either. Everyone has commitments, whether they’re sports teams, societies or jobs. So, you should begin by taking a look at your own timetable and working out when you can fit different commitments into each day. For example, I printed out my timetable last week and roughly worked out which days I could work on Gair Rhydd, my part time job, my work for each module and grad job applications. Obviously, I won’t stick to this religiously, but it will give me a good idea of when I have to complete tasks by.
One thing I must stress is the importance of taking a break. Overloading yourself with too many commitments can be detrimental to your health, both physically and mentally. A study undertaken at the University of Illinois found that even brief diversions from some tasks can greatly improve your ability to focus. The importance of taking a break is championed by the university in exam time, but what about during the term?
Taking a break from your work can have so many health benefits. Not working solidly into the night and having an early finish can contribute to having a better sleeping pattern, and therefore being able to function better the next day. It can also mean planning your meals better and therefore eating a more balanced diet – I’m ashamed to admit the amount of meal deals I’ve panic-bought since term has started.
I’ve found that sticking to a loose schedule and getting tasks completed when I need to can help me out in the long run. A really productive 1 hour stint in the library can often be much more useful than a 5-hour session spent flicking between Twitter, Facebook and my work. This usually results in being one step behind everyone else and cramming my reading in the evening before a seminar.
Ultimately, remember to spend time on yourself. I read a tweet today which said, “self-care isn’t all about bubble baths and face masks.” This is partly true, but if that’s what works for you- go for it! Just make sure that a portion of your day is spent doing something you enjoy; whether that’s chatting to your Mum on the phone, watching the latest Louis Theroux documentary or going for a long run (each to their own I guess!).