Getting through exam block- in 8 simple steps

Today everybody, I would like to talk to you about a serious problem I once suffered from. I know there are many out there who too suffer from this problem, and I would like to take this time to tell you my story about an addiction I had to a serious substance:

procrastination

But I don’t just want to tell you my story; I want to help all of my fellow procrastinators out there who struggle with this affliction, too. And so I have put together the eight steps of over-coming procrastination, and getting through exam block.

But first, my story.

It usually started with a thought process similar to this:

“Ok. Here we go. Exam block is here. And this time it’s going to be different! I’m going to be organized, prepared and disciplined! There will be order and feng shui coming out the ying-yang, and everything will be colour coded, EVERYTHING!! I will NOT get distracted this time! I am in control! I shall turn off my wifi and open my text book…right after I finish this episode of Ghost Whisperer.”

Aaaaaand so exam block begins for another semester. Now, I know what you’re all thinking; how could someone as wise, as studious, and as perfect as me succumb to the enticing grip of procrastination? Surely by my third year of university study I would have become a professional exam-blocker and would be able to resist such peasantry temptations.

If anything, over time I became a professional procrastinator.

I once procrastinated so hard that I ended up singing karaoke with my mates at an empty tavern instead of doing my assignments.

It was about the time I reached the second verse of Don’t Stop Believing that I realized I had a problem. And while I looked out at my mates, belting that final “wooaaaooOOHHHHHH!!!” instead of typing up my self-evaluation essay, I knew it was time for a change.

Procrastination is difficult, and overcoming it was hard, but looking back I could see how much better and brighter my future is without it in my life.

And so here are my eight steps to over come procrastination, and to get though exam block.

Step one: Admitting you have a problem.

Although it may not take a wild night of karaoke to come to this realization, everyone has to take the leap and admit that their exams really ARE close, and that procrastination has taken over.

If you find yourself cleaning every corner of your house, or baking every kind of cake you can possible imagine, or have suddenly decided that THIS week is the week to start learning how to be a rodeo clown- then yes, you probably have a problem with procrastination, and it’s time to move on to step two.

Step two: Looking at the bigger picture.

What you want to do is try to re-ignite your passion for study. Just like a relationship that’s going a little stale, you need to zap your attitude towards study in the passion microwave and re-freshen your love for your degree. (And yes, I did paraphrase from a “re-kindle your love life” book for that one.)

Remember that very first moment when you found out that you’d made it into your degree? How awesome did that feel!?!?! The butterflies in the stomach just before the QTAC page FINALLY loaded, and then the squeals of celebration after reading the first line. (Don’t even try to deny that you reacted that way because I know you all did!!)

Remember thinking that your whole future had just started? Those fantasies that ran through your mind of how this degree had brought you one step closer to owning your own company, or building your own buildings, or directing your own films.

Remember that day? That was a great day.
And although today, as you stress-eat your way through an entire packet of Tim-Tams and click over to the next episode of One Tree Hill, mightn’t be as great- remember what you’re aiming for.

Step three: Making the decision to dedicate the next few weeks to study.

Funniest_Memes_one-does-not-simply-study-at-home-without_9966

What you need to do at this point is get into full-on hibernation mode. That means making no new social plans until all of your exams are over and your assignments are in, and trying to cut back on other work, too.

Another thing you could do is turn off your internet for 30 minutes at a time, study hard-out for that half an hour and then have a break for social media time, because we all know how important it is to catch up on how our mates are coping with exam block, to compare their stress to yours, and to read up on some funny exam/study memes.

Step four: Telling people you have a problem.

When it comes to getting through exams and dealing with procrastination, the more people you tell, the more they’ll understand and be able to get you through it.

It may seem unbelievable, but you don’t have to go through exams alone. You can either get together with other students and study together, or get a family member to help you out, or anyone willing to help out. For example, one of my friends studies in trimesters so we always have exams on at different times. So what we do to help each other out is supervise each other’s studying. Whenever one of us gets distracted, the other one creeps up and yells out “KEEP STUDYING!!” and we have no choice but to get back to it.

Step five: Taking things slow and steady.

Studying for exams is more like a marathon than a sprint…I think…to be honest I was never very good at sport. Anyway, I know from experience that it’s better to pace yourself rather than cram.

Step six: Adjusting your lifestyle (for the next few weeks).

Let’s be honest right now, during exam block, you’re not out to look good- you’re not even aiming to look human. Because you’re not socializing, you’re not working as much, and you’re only really leaving your room to get food. So as I list off the perfect food and exercise régime for exam block, keep in mind that you should only stick to this during exams- not forever. Let me show you why:

When it comes exam block food, you want stuff that’s easily accessible and simple to make. This includes Oreos, two-minute noodles, baked beans, any form of potato chips- pretty much anything that comes in a packet, box or can. However if you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous, you could even smash out a frozen meal- but be warned, the point of sticking to easy-to-make foods is to avoid any possible procrastination sneaking back into your routine. You may say to yourself “I’ll just cook a simple steak and veggies” and the next thing you know you’ve bought your own cow, slaughtered and prepared it, and have now started your own butchers business- simply so you don’t have to study for your Social Communications exam.

Also, you want to be as comfortable as possible; if you can attach pillows to your entire body- do it. As I said, exam time is not a beauty contest (and in my opinion, if you’ve ever listened to a lot of what the people who enter beauty contests actually say, then you’d understand why a person should prioritize studying over spending time trying to look as good as possible.)

study-noun

Step seven: Getting creative.

One of the reasons why people procrastinate (in my experience-so, according to…me) is due to the fear of facing the dreaded flash-cards and boring textbooks. Now, first of all textbooks and flash-cards can be fun…for some people. But if that’s not really your thing, then you could try sticking colourful post-it notes with study notes on them on the outside of a glass shower, or the back of your toilet door. That way you’ll be looking at your notes at least three times a day.

You could also send your friends your study notes, and get them to randomly text you with pop quizzes. Annoying? Yes. Helpful? Mostly.

Step eight: Sticking to it.

This is the hardest step, because in the end it’s really up to you. Kicking the procrastination habit is tough, but once you’ve done it, and you’ve got yourself into the exam-hibernation mode with your pillow suit and your Oreos, you might as well go all the way and study hard!

481535

Studying is not always easy, but I promise you that it’s always worth it in the end. Now stop reading my blog and get to it!

The Myths of Study

cat

Note: This is not my bearded dragon or cat. However, in a utopian, perfect (in all ways incredibly unrealistic) world it could be… read this blog to understand what they have to do about my Myths of Study! I popped up at the USQ scene straight from school – so I thought I had a few sneaky study and assignment plans and tactics that were completely irrefutable.

Please note: starting studying the week before a major exam is NOT one of my irrefutable tactics… I’ve found that out the hard way… a number of times.

However, I’ve found that sometimes a particular exam or assignment seems like a nasty job – similar to taking out the rubbish when there is a small lake of rubbish juice lying tranquil on the bottom – and in this case, I’ve learnt that studying or starting that assignment first is the best plan of action. Yes, I said first. Not last, not second last and definitely not doing it just after procrastinating by cleaning your bearded dragon’s cage for the last few hours (yeah, I’m guilty of that. Don’t judge too harshly, okay?). By completing that bad boy first you will still have something to look forward to. For me, this has included a super fun assignment about how best to help children develop in a particular environment.

Along with studying the not-so-fun-or-enjoyable-or-cool-or-awesome exam first, there are a number of key ways to help yourself enjoy studying it. I found at school that there was a limited capacity for the amount of ways to study. It was kind of like going into 7/11 and only finding small cups available for your slurpee in the middle of summer. All you could basically do was look back over the textbook or your own notes from class. Maybe, possibly beg your teacher for an old exam to use as practice. However, at uni, there are a bazillion ways to study – look at your notes, look at the online lecture slides, look at the information you gained during your tutorial, look at your textbook, play some really weird and interesting online games that the textbook author has developed. It’s like… have you heard of BYO cup day at 7/11? People are literally allowed to bring their own cup (whatever shape, whatever size, and fill it with the liquid goodness of the 7/11 slurpee).

I kid you not, google it if you have to. There are photos of people with kiddie pools getting filled up. It’s crazy. It’s fantastic. Well, studying for uni is basically that. There is a kiddie pool sized amount of ways to study just waiting for you. Of course, everybody has to find their own particular study habit. I personally enjoy waking up and starting an assignment or studying straight away – before I even have breakfast. I don’t know why but it works for me.

Compare this to my little brother (who is in Year 11 in high school), he enjoys staying up late (I know, typical teenagers), listening to music and studying during this time. I personally hate any type of outside noise and can’t stand music to be on while I study – even though I like to think of myself as a massive music enthusiast. So I say this to you, my fantastic readers, I am probably only a slightly above average student (oh, you think I’m better than that?! Aw thanks!) – and I can still find the motivation need to study, so, so can you! Find a time and a place, find a particular way to study and go for it! Sometimes, studying is just not possible. Perhaps… its BYO cup day at 7/11 and you have a kiddie pool just waiting to be filled up… or… or… your bearded dragon has just run under the couch and is hiding there and you’re kind of scared that she will come face to face with your cat (and they are not friends).

Sometimes you need a day to relax and watch hilarious re-runs of your favourite TV show. And I say to you: that’s okay too, as we all need a break once and a while, and trust me, you deserve it. Just don’t do it too much and end up a week out from a major exam having done zero study. I would finally like to say to you all: good luck for the following semester! Get those good habits in and kick those bad habits out!

Tackling Semester 3

The half-time whistle was blown a couple of weeks ago now, and this soccer match is nearly at a close. It is unbelievable to think that the end of Semester 3 is nearly in sight. At the half-time kick-off, we welcomed a New Year, twenty-fourteen, two-zero-one-four. Some may see this as a new start. Others may feel no different – so much so that they are still writing 2013 as the date instead of 2014. Whether you are one or the other, I hope for everyone that this year is a remarkable one.

As far as New Year’s Resolutions go – I’m not very good at keeping them. So what I’ve decided to do this year is set smaller targets, more achievable ones.  At half-time, I thought back to the first half of the game and it was clear to me what I had to improve on to reach my desired result at the end of the match, and for future matches. I think saying “I’m going to have all my assignments done two weeks before they are due, instead of staying up to midnight the night they’re due” is a bit far-fetched for someone like me. Two weeks before the due date? Unlikely! So, rather than leaving it to the last minute, my 2014 goal is to at least make a start on my assignments as soon as I feel I have covered enough content and know all the requirements to begin. That way, I am less likely to wind up in a panic the night it’s due.

I kept this in mind for my second assessment item for Semester 3. Just like playing differently to how you had intended to in a soccer game or receiving an unexpected injury, study plans can also change and other things may interfere. I have found that the best thing you can do is to keep your head up and work harder throughout the rest of the game. Catch up as soon as you can catch your breath and your chances of getting the ball into the back of the net are still looking good. Keeping this in mind is how I plan to stick to my main New Year study resolution.

k3

Having a drink break

Now for a quick summary on the past events of my holidays. So far they have played out like I had planned in my previous blog with a couple of extras: a birthday surrounded by family and friends, both X-Factor Live Tour and Taylor Swift concerts, work, playing in a representative soccer team as well as a casual five-a-side game every week, consuming A LOT of food at Christmas time in addition to getting WAY too spoilt, a little retail therapy here and there… the list goes on. Yep, just in case you’re confused, this is still a Semester 3 student speaking!

K2

Working in a clothing store over the holidays has been a great experience – something different to what I’ve ever done before. We also stock the school uniforms for our community. Becoming a teacher and having the opportunity to see the little Preppies come in to try on their first school uniforms ever is such a treat!

While studying this time of year can very much be challenging, it is important that we take time out to simply even take in the word ‘holidays’. Even the greatest soccer players in the world can’t play their best for a whole 90 minute match without having a break between substitutions during the game and/or at half time. Maybe this is easier for me to say compared to my Semester 3 peers as I have decided to only tackle one subject this time round, yet I believe that USQ allows enough flexibility for us to do so. With Semester 3 conveniently only being offered through an online mode and study materials usually accessible at any time required, I have found that we are able to run at our own pace and time.  It’s important that we stop for that drink break when we are tired. It is OK that we rest for a minute, just like the others have, as long as we can find the motivation to run back on again. Hearing “are you coming out tonight?” or “I’m just off to the beach for a week” from your friends as a Semester 3 student is sometimes a bit hard to swallow around due date periods but I’m sure it will pay off in the end!

Coming head-to-head with Exams

Although studying isn’t a team situation for the majority, around exam time it can be! With exams coming up, just like team members come together to a training session for a match, so can a group of friends for study. Sections can be broken up so that each person in the group can bring something to the field and everything will come together. Not only is this less work for everyone but there’s also a chance that someone might know something you don’t. And there’s where you score a goal. Score line – Self: 1, Confused-self: 0.

Without guidance from the coach, players are less likely to perform at their best ability. Ask your lecturers questions, and always listen to the advice they give. They love to help and the weight off your shoulders is enormous when you do. After all, they only want you to succeed and are well-informed of the rules of the game. Plus, the referee will only abide by these when it’s time to umpire!

Another few important things to remember: eat well, keep hydrated, get plenty of sleep, study hard with a balance of regular breaks, and most importantly – DON’T STRESS OUT! Believe that you can do it and everything will fall into place. Don’t forget to reward yourself; they say that a new year brings new things. Being the soapie fanatic I am, I know I can’t wait for the new season of Home and Away (although some may find this sad) to enjoy once I submit my last assignment for Semester 3. There’s also teaching prac, rep soccer and many more things to look forward to this year that will get me through the rest of the semester and remind me that studying, even when others aren’t, IS worth it.

What are you looking forward to this year?

k1

For those who have exams and/or assignments to complete, all the best and I hope the full-time whistle brings you all you desire. To the others, enjoy the rest of your holidays!

Kristie

Sucker for punishment!

Holidays? What are these “holidays” people speak of? No study, they say?

While some are celebrating the end of the university year, my fellow ‘sucker for punishment’ peers and I are oblivious to this occasion. Yep, we are the ones who chose to do Semester 3 subjects. Whilst pondering on my first university year once it was over, I calculated the months until next year’s classes commence, one… two… THREE MONTHS! Cha-ching! This was plenty of time, for me and many others, to work towards a big fat tick beside a small component of our degrees. Instead of merely doing ‘holiday stuff’ for the entire three months, on top of this, we will find ourselves sitting at the computer, watching lectures, completing assignments and absorbing content for exams. For some this may sound like an utterly mind-numbing way to spend some of the summer period, but the way I look at it is… studying is just another hobby to fulfil this time bracket. Yep, does it make me crazy if I say I enjoy it? Besides, we don’t have to spend the WHOLE time studying. If we did, that’s definitely CRAZE-AY!

The one subject I have chosen revolves around a big word in a teacher’s dictionary… assessment. It has been interesting to discover the different aspects on this topic and I can definitely see it becoming applicable later on in my career. The ways I have prepared and chosen to get through it (aside from consuming half of the Cadbury factory) include:

  • Adhering with the allocated study schedule – by gauging your learning around this, last minute panic when assessment is due is less likely to occur. There is nothing worse than last minute cramming for assignments and exams!
  • Setting a goal and sticking to it by creating a timetable – due to the lighter workload in Semester 3, there is opportunity to assign simply one whole day a week towards study, matching it to your study schedule. This will form a routine, which increases the likeliness of the work getting done. Plus the rest of the week off – score! If this isn’t possible, break it up over a few days, yet ensure to keep on track with this each week. Saying ‘I’ll do it later’ tends to fold, and later ends up being too late! (Not at all speaking from experience :P)
  • Allowing time for “fun stuff” – those who follow my blogs would know by now that I’m a strong believer in taking breaks and having time out for yourself. Make sure there are enjoyable events scribbled in your timetable. That way, we aren’t completely isolated from the holidayers! On top of this, we have something to look forward to and reward us. After all, Christmas is unbelievably just around the corner. Something like a whopping 5 weeks and 36 sleeps away (not even counting!).

blog2blog3blog1

I’ve chosen to participate in these “holidays” too by having “fun stuff” planned within this period. In between studying and working in a clothes store, I will spend my time going to a couple of concerts, celebrating a birthday with my twin brother, and eating A LOT around Christmas time. For the rest of the time, I will go with the flow and see where the time takes me. After all, we can’t let studying this time of year get in the way of having a break!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and for those doing Semester 3 – Happy Studying!

Kristie :)

Hello Holidays!

What time is it? It’s holiday time!!!

blog1

With the semester two exam season now at a close, the sighs of relief can be heard echoing from students across Toowoomba, Springfield and Hervey Bay.

After completing the usual post-exam ritual of returning library books, cleaning my desk, and packing away textbooks, I found myself at a loose end – there wasn’t any more study to be done, no exams to prepare for. With all the time I now had, I worked out that in the last 256 days of the academic year, I successfully completed 8 courses towards my double degree, which involved attending approximately 104 classes (lectures and tutorials), writing 25 assignments and sitting 5 end-of-semester exams!

Although 2013 seemed to speed by so quickly, I also managed to squeeze in time for a law internship, attended networking events and also had the opportunity to travel to Sydney to represent USQ at on a national’s level. With all the major academic hurdles now behind me, I am able to kick back and enjoy the holidays.

I know many people have exciting and adventurous plans for the summer, but after a busy year of study I’m just looking forward to relaxing and enjoying some well-earned peace and quiet.

blog2

This summer, I’m looking forward to the little things like visiting grandparents and extended family, catching up on a mountain of TV shows and movies I missed out on during the year and playing the next Call of Duty game.

This summer will also involve celebrating two significant milestones in my life – the completion of my business degree (one down, one more to go!) as well as my 21st birthday. After spending the past two consecutive summers studying, this summer break has been a long time coming and it’ll be nice to have some time off to rest up before my final year of study at USQ!

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Deciding the Right Time for a Cupcake

1blog

Leading up to the final weeks of university for Semester 2, I seem to be forever in procrastination mode. My question is: why do we procrastinate when we are aware that the time we have to complete our assignments is diminishing before our eyes? I constantly find myself in search of other things to do (nowhere near as important of course) like catching up on the Home and Away episodes I’ve missed, planning my holidays, online shopping… the list goes on. These breaks or ‘procrastinations’ are quite like the indulgence of cupcakes. The first few bites are liberating, right before the sudden guilty pleasure hits you. As you go to pick up another cupcake, you know you should be burning off the first one instead.

“To Glee or Not to Glee?”

2blog

My cupcake feast in the past week involved going to see USQ’s “To Glee or Not to Glee?” performance at the Toowoomba Campus. On a Wednesday evening, the 17th of October, into a bag went a picnic blanket, snacks and drinks, then off we went to witness some of Toowoomba regions’ great talents. Students of Concordia College, Downlands College, Oakey State High School, Scots PGC (Warwick) and Toowoomba State High School (Mt Lofty), singers from the Toowoomba Junior Choral Society, and dancers from The GRID and USQ Creative Arts students all amazed us with their clever compilation of choreography and outstanding vocals. Themes on the night were The Healing of Time, Young Love, Suffering, Forgiveness and Friendship. The event was a true representation of the welcoming atmosphere our university exhibits and certainly made me proud to be a USQ student. Spoiling myself with this cupcake was definitely a worthwhile break away from study. Our Creative Arts Faculty and USQ as a whole are often producing these events for the community to enjoy so make sure you keep an eye on the USQ website and/or Facebook page for the next upcoming exhibition!

Exam Preparation

As exams are fast approaching, it is important to allow yourself time out for that cupcake. Avoid getting so stressed out and caught up in study that you only leave your desk for the bare essentials – this will only send you insane and is more likely to do you harm than good.

Tip #1: Apply a tab to the open page in your textbook, put down the pen and step away from your desk. Assign enough time to lick the icing and the sprinkles (maybe even the paper and your fingers for every last bit). However, if you plan on doing more study that day, restrict your cupcake treats to no longer than ten to fifteen minutes at a time, and don’t go back for an immediate second one as finding motivation following this will be a strain (trust me!).

Tip #2: It may not be preferable around exam time, but for other times of the year, take the time out to go to a social event once a week. Go to a USQ event, play a sport, have a hobby. Don’t restrict yourself to the four walls in your bedroom – this isn’t healthy. Just like a cupcake, these things are OK in moderation!

Some extra tips:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep each night as studying on a few hours sleep will only lead to brain-frazzle.
  • Eat properly and stay fully hydrated – it’s distracting hearing your stomach rumble over the sound of the computer keys or the pen touching the paper!
  • Avoid checking Facebook every five minutes (if only our News Feeds gave us the answers to our exams!)
  • Ensure you have a comfortable and roomy study space – nothing beats a big cosy chair, textbooks and notes spread out everywhere and not having to search through one big pile.
  • Create a personalised study timetable – even include everyday activities like breakfast, lunch, dinner, lectures, tutorials etc and plan around these. DO follow it to avoid last minute cramming (especially midnight before you exam)!

If you’ve done all of the above and still feel overwhelmed, approach the Student Services team at your campus who are supportive and can assist you in various ways with all kinds of stress. Remember: they are there to help, not to judge!

4blog 3blog

5blog

Last but not least, avoid the face above by having confidence and always telling yourself “I CAN DO IT!”

All the best with your exams!

Kristie :)

The pre-exam lull

It’s easy enough to notice how quickly the semester has passed. For most of us (the engineering students at least), the bulk of the assignment work has passed and now is the time to refocus because of the looming exams. Before that is the “in-between”, the break, the calm before the storm. If you are an education student, however, I’d say you know the storm pretty well right now from floods of assignment work, so here’s a chance to just sit back and laugh in the face of exams you may never have to face (that’s what my friends do anyway…). For the rest of us, I thought it would be appropriate to ‘refresh’ our perspective on exams in this blog. Exciting huh.

The most common attitude to exams that I see, and one with which we are most familiar, is the constant dread. It reminds me of some of the shows I watched during my childhood. Early into the piece, the main character is introduced to the monster, usually coming out of the dark, maybe a trap door entrance to their lair. The unknown scares the character but he or she finds some sort of inner strength. Finally, despite the overwhelming fear, our champion would take the plunge into the pit, only to find that the “monster” was as scared as he was, worried by the threat of the incoming warrior. Before the end of the half hour, our two characters – the protagonist and the antagonist become friends.

1blog

I think our fear of exams is much like the story, we fear them and dread them, worry over our results and sweat over the last couple of concepts that are impossible to pin down (although, to say we become friends would definitely be a stretch). However, at the end of the day we always pull through, semester after semester, year after year, we are still here.

Personally, I love this time of year, mostly for the reasons stated in the illustration above. I relish the opportunity to face the giant and come up against the trial. If you are competitive (I am, just in case you hadn’t realised), it is a great opportunity to better yourself. To challenge yourself to be better and finish stronger than ever before. I mean, we’ve only been preparing for 16 weeks.

blog-1

So, despite the apparent calm, now is the best time to be preparing. Going over past exams, notes, self-assessment questions and everything in between. This is a great opportunity to spend 3 weeks with heads down and to see great reward from the work that we are doing. So turn the cricket off (if you have been watching the Ryobi Cup like myself) and get a plan going for study. And if you need motivation, just think: holidays are just around the corner.

Until next time,
Josh

So what do they call people who aren’t students?

I ask as I am about to put my studies on hold for the first time ever. EVER.

In less than a month’s time I will lose one of my defining features. No longer will I select ‘student’ as my primary occupation on the demographic section of surveys, or flash my ID card for discounts at the movies. My days spent studying/chatting/sleeping in the library are numbered and I may well have had my final picnic (for many months anyway) in the Toowoomba campus quad. The most astounding thing, which definitely hasn’t hit me yet, is the fact that I won’t constantly have assignment due dates in the back of my mind or exam study looming over me. My diary will be devoid of highlighted study reminders, my USB will lose its ‘Uni’ folder, and many trees will be saved from all the journal articles I won’t have to print.

blog1

It’s a freaky feeling to be putting my tertiary education aside but, after much deliberation, I have decided that it is time for a break. I feel like I’m ending a relationship: ‘it’s not you, USQ, it’s me – and I need some space’. Twelve years of schooling followed immediately by a three years’ bachelor degree have taken their toll on my sanity and stress levels (especially as my bachelor’s degree included two doses of summer semester and thus no real Christmas breaks). And then they were followed by this year. Honours year, which is due to be finished in a month (…tell that to my two outstanding assignments and thesis – so close but yet so far it seems!). Sixteen years of being a non-stop student. And to think that at the start of this year I was planning on applying for the 2014 master’s program as well, which would have brought the count to 18 years!

I guess the dilemma which is faced by many goes along the lines of ‘well if I stop studying now to _____ (work full-time/travel/have a family/become a lion tamer and run off with the circus), then will I ever return to obtain the education and qualifications that I want?’ Coming out of high school I figured I’d just ‘knock over’ the six additional years of study taken to become a registered psychologist – better that than be interrupted and lose focus on the end goal. I was naïve and didn’t realise at the time that it would take some kind of super power (that I am yet to possess) to stay focused for so long without my brain making mad attempts to escape through my ears and never come back.

blog2

I am someone who likes to be involved in lots of things and unfortunately the life of a successful student isn’t always compatible with that. So, after many hours deliberating over what to do next year I have come to the ‘take a break’ conclusion. Though I wouldn’t pinkie promise you on it, I do think that I will return to study at USQ sooner rather than later and that time off to relax, refresh, and reassess can only be a positive thing.

So then I had to think ‘wow, well if I’m not going to be a student then what will I be?!’ ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘what better to be than an adventurer?’ I need a real break next year, and whilst I also considered full-time work, in the end travel seemed like the best option, and something that I may not get the chance to do if I go down the career path now. Added to this is the fact that I was born in the UK, have British (as well as Australian) citizenship, and have 95% of my extended family living overseas. Aside from these things, wouldn’t you choose a traveling holiday over work?! So, not being one to mess around, my flights to the UK are booked for April next year (after graduation), and my British passport is in the process of being renewed. The tentative plan at this point is to gain some work in mental health whilst in the UK and then apply for Masters in 2015 when I return to Australia, but I’m also happy to just ‘go with the flow’. Farewell to the student and hello to the happy-go-lucky explorer! Oh wait, I’d better deal with those assignments and thesis first…

So, dear reader, I have a feeling that you may hear from me again before I depart, but if you don’t then all the best on your own study journey, and perhaps you will see another blog from me in a year or so!

blog3

How-to tips for study problems most of us have but don’t want to admit

I love a good Google, and my favourite image search is usually “little yellow cars”.  I can’t explain why they make me laugh- they just do.  My other favourite search (especially this time of year) is “study tips”.  Not because I find them particularly helpful, I just find them funny too.  Funny because so many of these so-called tips are heavy on what to do, but light on how to do it.  Telling a first-time uni student to not panic, stay positive, set a routine, get organised, and manage your time, is like you telling me to change oil in a car (yellow, or otherwise).  If I had to change the oil in my car, I wouldn’t know where to start!  I probably wouldn’t even get as far as popping the hood before giving up in frustration, and returning the olive oil to the pantry.  To prevent you from giving up in frustration when it comes to revising for exams, I’ve got some how-to tips for study problems most of us have but don’t want to admit.  So let’s get started by first answering the following three questions honestly with a true or false:

blog1

If you answered “true” to all three, congratulations, you’re completely normal and in touch with your own limitations.  By accepting these limitations, you can begin to work with them rather than fighting against them, leading to more effective studying and resulting in better grades.  Now because you’ve already identified yourself as easily distracted, I’d better get to the tips!

blog2

There are many different flavours of procrastination.  Some people procrastinate by getting out and about and taking $10 study breaks, but lately I’ve been more of a procrastinator at the keyboard.  After all, just sitting down at the computer with the intent to study is half the battle, right?  And just when I thought I had read everything on the internet, I discovered the internet archive!  Want to see the USQ website circa 1997?  You can!  In fact, just for laughs, here’s a link http://goo.gl/o4R5Wr.  And that my friends, won me a gold medal in the Procrastination Olympics.  But procrastination gets dangerous when you’ve been scouring the internet archive for five hours, and that assignment is no closer to completion.

The solution?  I tried waking up earlier, scheduling my day, and rewarding myself, but all I ended up doing was snoozing my alarm, being late for appointments with myself, and eating chocolate for breakfast.  So in a moment of clarity, I removed temptation.  StayFocusd (http://goo.gl/Q35ly8) is a free extension for the Chrome browser that lets you only access certain websites at certain times.  And without the internet, what else is there to do but study, watch mid-morning TV, or go and exercise?! Needless to say, by comparison, study suddenly looked really appealing.

blog3

The fact you’ve read this far has impressed me, because, to be honest, even I’m drifting in and out- and I wrote it!  That of course isn’t a reflection of the (incredibly insightful) content of this blog; it’s more a symptom of the fast paced world we live in- there’s always something that has to be done or something more interesting to do.  It’s one thing to master the fine art of blocking internet sites, but what do you do when you’ve been going at it hard for a good 11 minutes, and your mind starts to wander?

The solution?  A humble stopwatch, which, before it was an app, was actually a thing (http://goo.gl/9x9eav).  When studying, I quickly realised that when you’re not really in the mood, nothing sinks in, so I decided to tame my short attention span.  Here’s how I did it.  When I first sat down to start revising, I committed to a period of time I would spend studying that day- let’s say six hours.  As soon as I started studying I would start the stopwatch.  At the first sign of waned interest, or in one instance a burning desire to do the laundry, I’d stop the stopwatch, get up, and do something else for a little bit.  Then when the inevitable happened, and the new activity bored me too, I’d go back to studying and resume the stopwatch.  Rinse and repeat until that six-hour milestone was reached.  It will only take a few days of spending 14 hours to finish six hours of study to curb that tendency to take long intermissions, and just get it done!

blog5

I’ve yet to find a single event that slows down time like waiting for the exam room doors to open.  In that time, you can feel every single nugget of knowledge you have studied for the entire semester slowly evaporating.  Then, in your traumatised state, you are given the impossible task of finding the correct desk to sit at, which even though they’re alphabetised, has in some courses been harder than the exam itself.  Finally, you are left waiting for the perusal time to start.  That was always the part that got me the most.  The sitting.  The clock.  The anticipation.  The Nerves!

The solution?  Many courses have their own bank of practice exams, so if you’re going to practice, you may as well PRACTICE! Why not simulate the whole experience?  Before you start your practice exam go and stand outside for ten minutes (bring your stopwatch!) and stare at the door.  As you stand there visualise how you will feel and what you will hear while you are waiting for your real exams to start.  No matter how bored or silly you are feeling now, it’ll only be amplified on the actual exam day- so you may as well get used to it now!  Then, without talking, go inside and sit at your desk for five minutes.  Just sit there, and again, visualise how you will feel sitting in the exam hall waiting to get started.  I like to stare at the clock, because that’s exactly what I do in a real exam.  After five minutes, give yourself some perusual time, and then start working through your practice exam.  I’m not sure if I’ve heard it somewhere before (or even if it’s true?) but I think professional sports teans use visualisation, and if it’s good enough for Dunedoo Swans and the Wee Waa Panthers, it’s good enough for me!

Got your own how-to study tips? Share them below.

GRAAAAAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAH! SEMESTER BREAK IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!

This past (10 week!) term has been the most epic, marathon like event of my uni life. I haven’t studied continuously for such a long period of time since school… which reminds me – this past month brought up 4 years out of school for me. Wow, just wow. Where did that time go?! (Just in case anyone was wondering if I dropped out, no – I was born and raised in the glorious state of NSW, but that is a story for another time).

So, prelude aside, it is HOLIDAYS! Well, a holiday of sorts. We still have assignments piling up (some of us anyway) as we head toward the ‘pointy’ end of semester – THE EXAMS. But while it is here, we might as well linger a while in this honeymoonlike bliss that is the mid semester break and dream of the real break in just 6-7 short weeks (depending on your exam timetable). Where will you go? What will you do? The opportunities are endless. Roadtrip to Melbourne, fly to NZ, spend hours lazing around beautiful beaches to the south at the Gold Coast or the north at the Sunshine Coast. Nevertheless, summer breaks are ALWAYS a time for relaxing, having fun and making memories.

I was trying to think of one adventure for this post until I realised I couldn’t narrow down a lifetimes worth of holidays (admittedly only 22 years…) so here is the revised edition of all my holidays compiled into one big holiday. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to find an adventure of your own.

It all began with a roadtrip. Like most good adventures. Where are we going? Southward!The taste of excitement is lingering in the air as the car sets off. The first memory? Windows down along the highway. Hot air bursts into the car send forth an explosion of hair as the girl sitting next to me peers out the window. Of course, this trip is a family trip. We wait in eager expectation of our destination, asking regularly “are we there yet?” or laughing as the younger boy makes humourous observations about the family dynamic.

Destination 1: The bakery. OH MY! The delights! The smells! Apple turnovers, custard tarts, cream buns and jam doughnuts! Culinary sensations to tease the tastebuds and fill the tummy. The essential stop and destination in any roadtrip satisfies the hungry mouths and gives the adults some quiet as the back seat passengers take a nap…

Rocking rocking rocking. The boat rocks back and forth, but it isn’t harsh, if anything the rocking is gentle, enough to rock a baby to sleep. It is the Spirit of Tasmania. Land ahoy! After only hours we’re running into the fresh breeze around Dove Lake at Cradle Mountain. Take a moment to breathe it in. Glass-like reflections across the water, fresh mountain air, “crunch, crunch, crunch” goes the sandy gravel underfoot. In the blink of an eye you’re swimming in Wine Glass Bay. And before you know it you’re out. Way too cold.

Blog_1

Jump to an airplane. The first overseas adventure. Burma. Orphanages, children, games and fun. The evening brings out all sorts of strange smells. Sounds to arouse curiosity. It’s the street vendors that sell their food for five to ten cents Australian. The guide shakes his head as you navigate the cracked and uneven footpath, it would NOT be advisable to purchase, despite the pangs of hunger. But alas, when no one is around the corn fritter-thing takes your fancy and…

… by some miracle it is delightful to both the senses and the stomach! 1 – 0 to the cast iron stomach.

Ahh CHOO! The dust from the road causes a sneeze to shake mountains and before you know it, it’s the lights of Singapore dot the horizon. What a beautiful city! Adventures to be had here there and everywhere. Chinatown market fun, Orchard road mischief and the Night Zoo! Monkeys scream at the approach of dusk and fire-twirling Islanders put on a fierce show, entrancing the mind as the rhythmic boom of the drums echo through the heart and mind, flashes of orange-red flames dart across the dark sky and ferocious war cries pierce the night.

A far cry from the streets of Burma, the stores of Singapore offer another enticement. Digital goods. Cha-ching! and the credit card is whipped out at the allure of a new camera. For what is a holiday without good photos?

Blog_2

Finally, on the last leg of the journey, we enter the streets of downtown Kansas City. It’s cold back home but not here – a lovely 34 degrees. Singlet weather, definitely singlet weather. A monitor is on, advising residents of a “UV warning”. What the heck is that?! Try spending 5 minutes in the Aussie sun, then you’ll get some real UV exposure.

blog_3

Besides the lovely temperature, you take in the magnificent Spanish architecture and al fresco dining places highlighted by a faint orange glow as the sun begins to set.

Flying back to reality requires one final stop: San Francisco. Steep hills, COLD breeze and thick fog (you quickly discover the reason for the local saying “The coldest winter you’ll ever have is a summer in San Francisco”) and stunning character. Segway touring is a blast, rolling up hills, down hills and side to side slalom. One last snapshot: giant slices of SF’s best pizza and very sore feet, finally, you are satisfied. It is time to go home.

blog_4

Until next time!
Josh