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Under Pressure: Coping with the workload, the deadlines & the criticism

Learning to juggle…

“Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you…”

I think we all know how Freddie Mercury felt when he wrote this; although, to be fair, he probably wasn’t talking about university exams.

Let me set the scene…

It’s two days away from deadline day and you’re yet to start a pretty important essay. Your mates have done theirs. To be fair, you’ve been busy with other work. You’ve put it off once or twice, but now you’re going to put in a couple of solid days. Hang on though. It’s a friend’s birthday tonight. That cancels out the evening (and most of tomorrow morning), so that leaves you with half a day of hard work, whilst trying to get the taste of rum and cigarettes out of your mouth. It’s not enough time to turn in a good paper so you panic, it all gets too much and aaaaaaaarghhhhhwhatareyougoingtodo???!

Breathe, it’s cool. Pop the kettle on.

It’s just about prioritising. Follow a few simple rules and you will have time for absolutely everything: going out, seeing friends, watching TV, going on Facebook, joining societies, making cocktails on that new juicer your aunt gave you, and the small matter of submitting your dissertation and other projects on time.

I always seem absolutely stacked, how do I find the time?

It may sound a little ‘too’ practical and clichéd, but make a list. Jot down everything you need to do and when things have to be done by. Then put them in order of importance. Having something down on paper can put your mind at rest. You’re usually given a couple of weeks per university project, so as long as you plan your time, you’ll be fine.

It’s important to use the resources at your fingertips, i.e. your peers. They are in the same boat as you and if you ask them, you’ll realise that they are suffering from the same anxiety as you. You can use each other, bounce ideas around and even set up study sessions with a group of people from your course. Having something in the diary like this will make it more real. For starters, just go to the pub with them and have a bit of a bitch about your workload. Then do something about it!

Speaking of the pub (and this isn’t a good study environment by any means), it’s important to get out of the house and mix things up a little. Choose different environments to work in. If you’re finding it a drag to work in your bedroom, go to the library or to a friend’s house. This will give you a fresh perspective on the work. Believe me; you can’t just stare at the same four walls all day!

Most importantly, learn to relax. If you plan your time efficiently, you’ll be able to socialise and see your friends. That’s not to say you should hit an 80s Cheese Dance Party the night before an exam, but when you are making a revision schedule, you should plan for extra-curricular activities too. After all, future employers will be looking for rounded individuals, not just bookworms.

So, it’s all about multi-tasking?

In a way, yes! However, it’s also about managing your time and using the resources available to you.

You’ve got your peers, you’ve got your list and you’re mixing up your working environments. Cool. But don’t be afraid to pay a visit to your lecturer. When you’re handed a project, spend the next morning looking over what actually needs to be done. If you’re unsure about something, email the lecturer or pay them a visit. There’s no use contacting them a day before it needs to be handed in. They’ll just have a “too little, too late” attitude; and to be honest, that’s fair enough!

It’s important to take your lecturers’ words of advice on board. They use their words sparingly, so jot down anything they say about your work. The advice and feedback you receive from your tutors might not always come with the sugar-coated words that you got from your A-level teachers, so be prepared. These guys will treat you like the adults you are, so expect to hear some very blunt (constructive) criticism from time-to-time. It’s not personal. They’ve seen a million and one students, so take note of their advice, apply it to your work and it will make a world of difference!