Everyone has an Achilles’ heel, not just Achilles. Whether it’s cooking, swimming or dancing, we all have that one thing that we’re scared of or think we’re not very good at. Some people go their entire lives not doing anything about it, but others put their mind to it and are eventually able to overcome their weaknesses. If you’re a student, the same applies to your academic performance. In this blog post, the members of the Student Team reveal the aspect of being a university student which they struggled with the most. In the next few paragraphs, you will read about how they identified their weak spot, what they did to improve and what the results were!
Arriving at University meant a distinct change in my learning experience because at degree level, you are expected to learn independently and identify your own targets for improvement. My primary weakness is in focusing too much on the bigger picture (everything I need to do), leaving me unmotivated and unhappy with my progress. I’m now working on being able to set myself and focus on smaller tasks and deadlines, so that I make sure to cover everything I need to while remaining motivated and continuing to enjoy my degree for the challenges it presents.
I used to find it very difficult to concentrate on one thing, especially when going through heavy academic journals and books. With time, I realised that removing distractions was essential. I used the mobile app “Forest” to help me concentrate for 50 minutes, then took 10-minute breaks. This method proved very useful, and I built my skills in this area by attending the “Challenging unhelpful thinking habits” workshop held by the Counselling Service in the Learning Commons.
Reflecting upon last year I realised that my biggest weakness was spending too much time on my work and not enough time focusing on my personal wellbeing. This year I joined a gym in Didsbury and now take 1.5 hours out every Sunday to do Rocket Yoga. As well as improving my physical wellbeing, I’ve found that my mental wellbeing has also improved as a result. I now finish yoga with a clear mind ready to complete my University work! I’ve found that taking this time out has actually allowed me to be more productive, hitting targets and deadlines more effectively.
When I started my course I was worried I wouldn’t have enough time to do all my readings and also, the very thought of having to write a lot of papers and getting good marks was a bit stressful, to say the least. Luckily, I came across the My Learning Essentials online resources which were a tremendous help and gave me a lot of confidence in my work. I didn’t stop there and I started to attend some My Learning Essentials workshops to improve my critical reading and essay writing skills (to name a few). I’ve learned a few tricks about how to read more effectively and go through materials much faster, saving me a lot of time.
My academic goal was to be more efficient in managing my workload so that I had more free time in the evenings and at weekends. I identified this was a problem because I noticed I was rushing work at the weekends to get it done for the week coming, and panic working late at night to get things done for the next day. I improved the situation by making a timetable, where I added study slots and also included some time for sports, socialising and general free time. The results mean I have a much more enjoyable work-life balance and I complete my tasks a lot more efficiently as I am working within a structured schedule.
During my first semester at University, I really struggled with writing essays in academic English. I had no problem finding the right information, but I wasn’t able to organise it into anything coherent – I couldn’t make logical connections between different ideas and my coursework feedback clearly reflected that. Since English isn’t my first language, I was also finding it very hard to express myself in a way which is suitable for an academic essay. Therefore, I decided to attend an My Learning Essentials workshop, “Academic writing: structuring for effective essays”, which I found very helpful, and it inspired me to do a bit of independent research about the different strategies I could use to improve my academic writing. I also discovered my alpha and omega for writing essays: the Academic Phrasebank. This is basically a thesaurus of academic phrases which you can use in different situations within an academic essay; if you find yourself repeating the same phrase or you are struggling to start a paragraph then this can really help! Overall, the quality of my essays improved, and my effort culminated in a high first on a very important essay at the end of my first year.
My course requires strenuous reading and research. Previously, I struggled to differentiate between information which was credible and which wasn’t. In order to improve my research skills, I started making use of the Library Subject Guides. Through the Politics Subject Guide I was able to access key databases and information relevant to my subject, and I knew that the information was reliable. The databases also helped me find a lot of unpublished data such as conference papers and datasets. So overall, I was able to improve the range and quality of information I used for my coursework.
I have noticed that I’m pretty good at turning up/doing work that I NEED to do but I’m not so good at going the extra mile. This means sometimes I struggle to get the best marks and I’m often willing to accept that I don’t understand something rather than work a little harder to understand or improve.
Now I tell myself what I have to do and have weekly designated time which in my head I have set aside for extra work, extra reading or improving other work. Since this has now become timetabled in my head and on my calendar it has just become my routine and so I don’t really notice that it is “extra” work anymore. This has helped me to improve my time management and I have noticed a knock-on effect in my grades and work attitude.
In my first year I really struggled with prioritising my time and doing my coursework at home. Although I made a timetable outlining the work I had to get done, I found it difficult to follow the timetable and felt extremely guilty when I didn’t do the allocated tasks for that day.
As a result, I decided to start using the Main Library and the Learning Commons during my free hour’s in-between lectures as I thought I would work better there than I did at home. This allowed me to achieve a better work-life balance, as I now have more spare time in the evenings to relax.
I noticed myself constantly feeling anxious about having things to do but I struggled to name exactly what needed to be done. This meant during downtime I felt guilty even though I couldn’t work out what it was that had to be done. To overcome this I started to use a notebook to plan my week. On one page I list all the university work to be done and on another page I list extracurricular things such as work shifts or chores. I then use a traffic light system to assign a level of importance to each task; red is important, yellow means it needs to be done soon and green means if I’ve got free time I should do it but there’s no rush. Now I can look at the double page spread and know exactly what my priorities are and what my plans for that week involve.
So now that you’ve read what the Student Team have done to overcome their weaknesses, try to think about what you can do to improve some aspects in your daily routine and maximise your strengths! For more tips and updates, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter! 🙂