Submitting final EMAs and Exams can be extremely stressful. Throw in the demands of a typical OU student who is juggling the demands of full-time jobs, children, family life, caring, disabilities, and inequalities, and it can at times become overwhelming.
I have placed my top ten study tips below that helped me get through both my undergraduate and postgraduate, I hope there is something on the list that may help you too.
1. I was once advised by an optician that for every hour you are on the computer you should take a 10-minute break. That break should not be to look at your phone, tablet or the TV it should be a totally different outlook. Even if it is a rainy day just stare out the window for 5 of those minutes. When I went back to the computer I could re-focus and it allowed me to study for longer.
2. When I got up in the morning, I put happy uplifting music on I could sing and dance to. Even if you are not the singing and dancing type of person, just having uplifting music on in the background can give you a boost and get your endorphins running. Putting on the TV can sometimes encourage you to sit in front of it or get you down with the sadness that sometimes surrounds the news channels. Create a playlist that you can just hit the play button to.
I will admit here that I am a bit of a cheese-fest, there is a play lost called ‘Songs to sing in the shower’, some real 90’s tunes, but it gets the blood pumping.
3. Once I am sat down to work, I put relaxing music on in the background. I am not talking whale music here, you want to relax not fall asleep, wailing music won’t cut it. Something that isn’t going to distract you by singing along or get stuck in your head that instead of writing about how long an easement can last, you are writing about how long you will love someone! The playlist that got me through is called ‘Revision Ballads’. Mainly love songs from the last ten years, however, there are many more you can find, or you can create your own.
4. Whilst drinking tea or coffee during revision or writing EMA’s can seem to be the answer to giving you a caffeine rush, I often found that having a hot drink would make me sleepy instead of giving me the rush I craved. Drinking water and making sure I was hydrated I found was the key. It can be easy to get engrossed in what you are doing and forget to drink so setting a timer of when to have a drink or making sure during my ten-minute break every hour, I set myself the challenge of getting as much water down me as possible. Dehydration can cause loss of concentration, feeling dizzy and lightheaded and feeling tired. Everything you do not want to feel when you need to concentrate.
5. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting at a computer to write and nothing coming out. You stare at the screen for 10/15 minutes for inspiration, but still nothing. I get this very often with writing articles. I can sit for two-three days and nothing and then I will get up one day and manage to write three articles in one day. In my honest opinion, as frustrating as it can be, especially if you have set aside a day to do the work, there is nothing worse than sitting at that computer and torturing yourself. Step back and walk away. Do something else, try for an hour. Whether it is the housework that needs doing, going and doing some shopping, or simply sitting and relaxing. You can spend two hours looking at the computer screen, rifling through books scanning the internet, but if the inspiration is not there that day it is best to walk away and start again. This is why I say never leave it to the last minute.
6. When things get overwhelming, it can sometimes be easier to bury your head in the sand and think I will come back to that later. Things start to pile on top of you and before you know it you feel like you are sinking under the weight of it all. I have a large whiteboard in my lounge/office area but just a piece of paper will do on the wall and write down everything that needs to be done. It doesn’t matter how small it is, clear your mind of what needs to be done by writing it down. You can then see it all in front of you and sometimes it is not as overwhelming as you thought it was. If you have people around you, is there anything on the list they can do? Is there stuff that can wait until after the EMA? Do not take it off if so, write it in another colour, and you can then prioritise, during your ten-minute break is there anything that you can do? I add to it daily. Even putting away the washing up. It allows me to stretch and gets me away from the computer.
7. I use the mindfulness apps to try and focus a few times each day and more during stressful times. Most apple watches come with them, but you can download lots from the internet or YouTube. Headspace is another good application. It allows you to just focus and spend a few minutes just focusing on yourself.
8. Spend some time at the end of the day just for you. Whether you read a book, listen to music, or watch TV. Once the children are in bed or you have finished work for the day, just do something that makes you smile and relax. I have seen a lot of people who have marched on and been amazing, but it has been after everything that I have seen them crash and burn. Don’t underestimate the amazing work you are doing, but also recognise when you need time out. Just reflect each day on what you have achieved and know you are doing a great job.
9. Once you have completed your EMA before submitting, walk away. Have a day out away from your submission, get someone else to read who is not in the field and ask if they understand it. Then go back with fresh eyes and read over before submitting. It is easy to miss things when you are tired and at the end. Looking over it after time out or having someone else’s opinions can really help.
10. AND if all else fails… please see below!. **We do not accept any liability for any injuries or accidents as a result of using this resource** Use at your own peril**
Written By Victoria-Jayne Scholes
OULS News Editor