Navigating your workload whilst in Higher Education can be difficult at the best of times, even more so if you suffer from a long-term health condition. I’ve set out some tips for you to take on board and make your time at BIMM as smooth as possible.
Communicate openly but selectively
Some people find communication comes naturally but for others it can be really difficult, especially if you’re a very private person. There are a few key things to remember: Be selective in who and what you tell, be as honest as you can and use the support that is there for you.
In order for people to help you, you have to communicate openly. This doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone – simply confiding in a student support officer or course leader can take a big load off your shoulders. If you’re worried about something, ask to speak confidentially and make yourself as comfortable as possible. It can be daunting reaching out for help, but remember that people only want to make things easier for you.
Not everything is a priority
When you’re swamped with assessments, it can be hard to balance study, life and social commitments. It’s important to remember that prioritising tasks can be a huge benefit. Break your obligations down into separate categories and rate their importance. Once you’ve done that, you can create a balanced to-do list and make sure you’re not letting anything takeover.
It can be hard to say no to commitments or admit when you’ve taken too much on. If you struggle with FOMO but think you need to cancel plans, suggest a different time/activity that’s more realistic for you. That way you’re not missing out, just rearranging.
Learn to manage your time properly
This links in with prioritising, if you can work out how to interweave the two, it will become automatic for you. Time management isn’t just about arriving on time for things, it’s about using your time wisely. Plan your time efficiently, make sure you schedule breaks and time off.
It’s always better to give yourself more time than you think you need. I like to give myself an extra 50% when planning, so if something is only a 30-minute task I’ll allow 45 minutes so I can take my time and have a break if needed.
A big helper in staying afloat, especially during assessment periods, is knowing your limits. Take some time to work out what a comfortable amount of work is for you. After you know what workload is realistic for you, you can take on tasks you know you can manage. Avoid creating unnecessary work for yourself and ensure you don’t overdo it.
When I was writing/editing my dissertation, I spent 6 weeks focusing on it. At the start of the day I’d set a realistic target judged on how I was feeling. Some days I would write 500 words, others I would just proofread something I’d already written. Being sensible in the targets I set meant I always felt productive and was never disappointed if I didn’t get as much done as I’d like.
Lay a foundation
A degree can feel like a marathon where every ten miles you’ve got to sprint just to get through to the next stage. Whilst you’re coasting, set yourself up for the sprint. Should you become overwhelmed or see a decline in your health, create a plan. This can act as a safety net and ease any worries. Make sure the right people know how to help you if you need. Reaching out, even if its only precautionary, will take some weight off your shoulders.
If you are worried about a busy period, do as much as you can beforehand to ease the stress. Don’t leave all of your work to the last minute. Enjoy the less stressful periods but help your future-self out. Spreading your work load out will ease the intensity of a busy period.
Accept the help you’re offered
For a lot of people, pride can get in the way of accepting help. Whatever situation you’re in, flip it and imagine a friend had come to you. You wouldn’t think any less of them, so remember that. The student support team at BIMM are amazing and will try their best to help you in any way they can. Even if you just need someone to talk to confidentially, make the most of them.
If you’re eligible, apply for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). I put off applying for my first two years of study as I didn’t see how they could help me. Once I had, my third year was much smoother, and I wished I’d applied sooner. Asking for help doesn’t have to be a big thing, it can be as simple as asking a friend for notes on a class you missed.