I’m dreaming of a writ-ing Christmas: how to best spend the festive period juggling assessments, applications and a little 'you' time
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‘On the first day of Christmas, my module leaders gave to me, a mountain full of work that I have no chance of completing in time for their January deadlines.’
It’s Christmas! Well, nearly. You’re just weeks away from ugly jumpers, poxy television and as many family get-togethers as you can physically stand. A time of year to sit back, relax and force yourself to work on your assignments somewhere that isn’t the university library. Here’s my guide to tackling the festive period.
Meeting your deadlines
It may go without saying, but completing assessments and preparing for exams has to be your number one priority. It’s imperative that you give your work the effort and time it deserves. My most important bit of advice would be to not go home when term finishes – not yet anyway. As term concludes in early December, give yourself an additional week or so to visit the library and start fleshing out some of your assessments. Remember, if you get your reading out of the way, you won’t have to lug tens of thousands of pages home with you. Trust me, you don’t want to be the wounded gazelle dragging duffle bags full of core texts across the country’s rail network. This doesn’t of course mean waiting until the evening of the 24th to travel home, but giving yourself some independent study time with limited distractions and both your department and the library within walking distance has got to be a big bonus.
Although you may not structure your term-time work this way, try to think of your days like office working days. Getting up relatively early, starting at 9:00 - 10:00am, and finishing at 5:00pm. This way you’ll have the evenings and weekends to yourself – giving you time to plan other things with friends and family. It’s much easier said than done, I don’t deny that; it requires practice and a lot of self-discipline. If you can make it a habit you’ll find independent study much more manageable throughout future years of study and training.
Seeing friends and family
Giving your friends and family a bell before you get home and making plans ahead of time means you’ll have lots to look forward to. This should, hopefully, provide a valuable incentive to complete work in time for these kinds of commitments. After all, you don’t want to cancel because you’ve got too much still to do! Taking time to relax and wind down from a busy term is incredibly valuable and shouldn’t be underestimated. Next term is going to be as hectic, so do take some time for you.
Why not put yourself together a calendar? It’ll help you to plan how much time you need for each of your assessments. Don’t feel guilty about taking ‘days off’ during the holiday season – it’s Christmas after all - just make sure you mark them in your calendar in advance so you can work around them. You want to avoid at all costs rushing assessments in the early days of January. You might complete and submit them on time, but it's unlikely to be your best work and you’ll have burned yourself out just as the second term is starting. That potential knock-on effect could lead you to playing catch up for months to come – never a good idea.
What should you do with your spare time?
Should you have any spare time at Christmas, have a think about looking in on local volunteering projects or companies. These might be ones you’ve already been involved with or perhaps would like to be in future. Making and maintaining these kinds of networking connections can be really beneficial when it comes to summer placements, part-time volunteering positions or jobs, and even paid work upon graduation. There’s little effort - and very little to lose - in dropping in for half an hour one lunchtime and taking in a Christmas card for the office.
Thinking ahead to life after university, you may have your eye on vacation schemes application deadlines and the like at this time of year. Although the rumours are that earlier applications are considered more favorably, remember that your academic work has to be your priority. Be it firms, chambers or other companies, they are less likely to take you on with poor grades.
It’s a balancing act and it’s not supposed to be easy, but I wish you the best of luck!