When I was little, we used to listen to an audiobook on tape in the car called Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers. It was based on a 1990s sitcom set in space three million years into the future. One of the characters was a self-important caretaker called Arnold Judas Rimmer, who repeatedly tried and failed to pass the engineers exam. It went like this:
“The first week of study, he would always devote to the construction of a revision timetable. Weeks of patient effort would be spent planning, designing and creating revision schedule which, when finished, were minor works of art.
The only problem was this: because the timetables often took seven or eight weeks, and sometimes more, to complete, by the time Rimmer had finished them the exam was almost upon him”Grant Naylor
They say that failure to plan is planning to fail. But for goodness’ sake, don’t do this either.
Planning a whole semester shouldn’t take much more than half an hour, and your plan should be flexible enough to incorporate some changes along the way. If you are a spontaneous sort of person, sitting down to plan the next few months of your life might sound like the last thing you want to do – you might even find it daunting. However, there are lots of good reasons why you should give it a go.
Without a good plan, you will have no idea of what you should be spending your time on from one day to the next. You’ll go back and forth to lectures, spend the odd hour in the library and devote countless hours to Netflix (watching Red Dwarf, if you have impeccable taste). When essay titles get handed out, the deadlines might seem just that bit too far away to start on immediately, so they’ll get pushed to the back of your mind, ready to be picked up again at some miraculously productive day in the future.
Procrastination is actually a form of self-sabotage. If you lack confidence, it is your most powerful weapon. If you wait until the last possible minute to start, pulling an all-nighter wired on caffeine tablets, you have a ready-made excuse. When you get your mark back, you might be pleasantly surprised. But if it’s not what you hoped for, you can console yourself with a thought like, ‘well, of course it’s not good, I did it in five hours’. Bizarrely, this can seem preferable to actually trying your best and finding out what the best mark you are capable of is.
Planning your time is a hugely important factor in success at university. Without it, you will spend more time on the pieces of work that you enjoy the most, rather than spreading your time more evenly, or dedicating more to what you find harder. It can be tempting to think that because each piece of work only contributes a tiny proportion to your final mark, that if you let a few assignments slip in standard then it won’t matter on the grand scheme of things. But you don’t want to find yourself with one semester to go trying to play catch up because you’re at the top end of a grade and want to push yourself into the next one.
Time can just run away from you, once you factor in lectures, socialising, societies, sports, visiting family and just generally enjoying yourself. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing all of these things – you’re paying a fortune to be a university so make damn sure that you have a good time! The benefit of planning is that you can factor in all of these things so that you can do them without that nagging feeling that you should be sat at a desk. One of the most exhausting things about university is that your time is never your own. While people with day jobs can clock out and go home to unwind, for students the opportunity to work follows you everywhere.
Being in control of your time is a powerful way to fight stress. If you know you are up to date with your work and on schedule to meet your deadlines, then you know when you have time to take a break. Whether it’s for a couple of hours or a whole day, time to really switch off is the equivalent of sending your brain on a spa break. It needs time to do absolutely nothing.
Planning ahead also has the benefit of giving you back control when the unexpected happens. Colds and flu will run rife around campus, but few universities will grant deadline extensions for minor illnesses. If you’re on schedule and a cold strikes, you won’t have quite so much to battle through to get your work finished. When you find a particular piece of work difficult, you will have plenty of time to go and talk to your lecturer. Don’t be one of the hoards who turn up the day before the deadline saying that they don’t understand the question. You can also avoid needless last-minute panics like not having enough ink in your printer.
So, as you can see, there are plenty of reasons why you should plan ahead. Not sure how to go about it? Sign up to be the first to read new posts and I will be covering it in detail soon!