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Staying on top of a heavy workload

Staying on top of a heavy workload



Keeping on top of academic work is something that we all strive towards but usually give up on about two weeks into the term when we get a better offer of how to spend our Wednesday evening. The benefits of being on top of work are widely known – it provides you with the luxury of not having to burn the midnight oil before a deadline or tutorial and also means that when exam periods come around, you can focus on going over your notes without having to catch up on writing and understanding them. I am no organisational wizard, but during my first year of university I managed to (just about) keep up with the work and reading. Here’s how I managed to prepare and consolidate my work as the year progressed.


Most of my work this year was preparatory, involving long lists of readings and questions that I was expected to work through before lectures and tutorials in order to participate in discussions and understand the topics properly. It’s vital to get a head start on this – trust me, it is impossible to complete the reading lists the night before (or even the week of) your class. This year, I used the week before my classes to prepare for them, giving me plenty of time to understand the work and allowing me to take a night off without stressing that my work for the next day wasn’t completed. This meant that the week before my lectures started, I had completed the reading for my first classes. While this meant that I worked through the second half of freshers’ fortnight, the head start meant that I was able to keep on top of my work all year by always being a week ahead of deadlines. I used a weekly diary to note down which classes I had on each day of the next week, and then worked my way through the preparatory work in the order that the classes were in. I also used the week before half terms to complete the reading for the first week back. It seems drastic, but trust me, this worked wonders for my stress levels and also the quality of my work.


The temptation after a lecture or tutorial to simply file away your notes and not look at them again until revision season is very real. Often the last thing that I wanted to do after a two-hour lecture was to relive it by consolidating my notes, but forcing myself to do just that was invaluable to my performance last year. After each lecture or class, I would take myself off to the library or coffee shop and type up my handwritten lecture notes, going over what I had been taught. I know friends who chose to rewatch every lecture after it had occurred, which is also an effective and thorough way to consolidate learning – especially if you zoned out or didn’t understand the content. This habit meant that when the revision period came around, I had a full set of neat, structured and detailed notes on a topic that I had already gone over multiple times and therefore mostly understood. It meant that, for once, revision involved revisiting and refreshing my knowledge rather than learning and understanding topics for the first time.

Staying on top of work can be time consuming and does require good organisational skills. However, once you get into a good routine, a lot of stress subsides and you will thank yourself when exam periods dawn. The work must be done either way – so why not do it in advance and avoid the stress of catching up a month before the exam?