How being a student is like being a circus performer

There are questions that all students ask themselves, for example, how am I supposed to work, study, keep fit, socialise, do the housework and get eight hours of sleep a day? This is why being a student is like being a circus performer, because you are constantly balancing, juggling and trying to perform.

The balancing act

I think we all know and understand what it is like to try and balance our time between our families, work commitments, that special time with friends, the sports we play and, of course, those all-important rest periods. Successfully managing your time is really important because it is great to spend quality time studying, but don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Your brain needs a break too, so create a flexible study schedule allowing a balanced amount of time for all of your activities. Ensuring you have balance in your life is important for motivating you to stick at your studies. A flexible study schedule will also help to allow for those unexpected incidents that inevitably happen in your life, such as illness, extra shifts at work and invitations to parties. It is also important that you communicate your study schedule to your family, friends and employer so that everyone understands the demands of being a student and so they can work in their demands on your time around your workload.

Read the full article here: http://social.usq.edu.au/study-tips/2015/05/lisa-why-students-are-like-circus-performers

How to identify and remove study distractions in 2 easy steps

I’ve come up with a simple two-step solution to get rid of those nasty, unnecessary study distractions! This semester has been pretty hectic for me – 4th year psychology – and I’ve definitely needed to get rid of those distractions that just aren’t necessary in my life anymore. And, of course, we’re really getting into the nitty gritty part of semester. Let’s get our fingers typing, people!

So, what are these two steps? Right now you must be shouting ‘Nick! Nick! Just tell me these two easy steps!’ Well…

Read the full article here: http://social.usq.edu.au/study-tips/2015/05/nick-remove-distractions

The break-time options

Ah! Mid-semester break… don’t you just love it? I know that I do. Two weeks of holidays when there are no lectures to attend! It would be so easy to just sit back, put my feet up and relax. After all, a little bit of rest and relaxation is good for the brain! I keep telling myself that I deserve a well-earned break and I have even convinced myself that it will lead to copious amounts of inspiration that will help me with my studies in the second-half of the semester.

Read the full article here: http://www.usq.edu.au/SocialHub/study-tips/2015/03/lisa-break-time-again

Studying with technology

I didn’t grow up with technology. As I have grown older, especially since I started studying at uni, it has been thrust upon me. I grew up in a generation where the most exciting technological innovation was colour television (1975), after having spent most of my childhood watching cartoons in black and white. I know it doesn’t sound that exciting in today’s terms, but you have to understand that, at the time, colour TV was cutting-edge stuff.

original computer

So, you must appreciate that trying to understand the digital world that we now all live in can be a little bit of struggle for me at times, although I do try my hardest. I have a confession to make. Before I started writing these blogs, I didn’t even know what a blog was and had to ask. Oh, I had a very basic understanding of computers, but I do mean very basic. I used emails and I was familiar with what a keyboard was but, unfortunately, that was the limit of my knowledge. I was not a complete fool because I was enlightened with regards to the any key.

press any key

At this point in my life, I would definitely consider myself a pre-tech geek. But when I started at uni, I had to learn… and fast! I started off with a copy of Office and sat down day after day in the weeks prior to starting uni trying to figure it all out. ‘I am going to be on top of this technology thing’, I thought. I clicked on this button and that button and even tried screaming at my computer, but I soon realised that the screaming didn’t help. It was frustrating, aggravating and somehow exhilarating, especially when I finally understood something!

When I attended my first week, I realised that simply being able to write an assignment in Word was not enough at uni. They were talking about PowerPoints, Excel, Access, Publisher, MathType, Endnote and wikis. This was a foreign language. I started to wonder whether I had gone to sleep and had woken up in another country. I had serious doubts in the first semester that I would ever get it.

googleit

By the end of Semester One, I had managed to struggle through and, to my great surprise, even did pretty well in my Excel and Access assignments. But Semester Two was just around the corner. Well, it started off again like a broken record (that’s the original MP3 or iPod, for those of you that have never heard of a record): peer reviews, statistics, more PowerPoints and Turnitin. And yet, again, to my great surprise, I made it out the other end of another semester completely unscathed, apart from the occasional caffeine overload.

Now, here I am at the end of my second year with all of the tech frustration behind me… almost! I still forget to save my assignments occasionally as I am writing them and hit the delete key without meaning to. But I now know how to find them hiding on my computer and have just recently set my computer to auto save… I wish someone had told me this was possible two years ago. PowerPoints, Turnitin, blogs, wikis, publisher, MathType, peer reviews, social media, skype and studying online… easy! It all seems so easy now.  I no longer hit the panic button, reach for a strong coffee, go into denial or wish there was another, much more tech-savvy version of me when things go wrong. I now have the answer… Google it!

coping mechanisms

Learning about technology when you didn’t grow up with it can be difficult, but it is possible. In my spare time, apart from the standard boring hobbies that people of my era have, I do enjoy playing computer games. I still don’t understand many of the technologies that are about today and I still don’t have an iPhone, but I now consider myself well on the way to being a full-blown tech geek. Here is a bit of computer humour that I can now understand:

  • Some things man was never meant to know, for everything else there is Google.
  • Failure is not an option – it comes bundled with Windows.
  • You know you’re a geek when you try to shoo a fly away from the monitor with your cursor.

If you didn’t grow up with technology either, I’d love to hear about  your experiences learning how to use tech at uni.

Handy Group Assignment Tips

group assignment hangover referenceWe’ve all been here, haven’t we? The massive group assignment that nobody really wants to take a part in, but we have to because, well… we need to pass the subject! We all know those feels. It’s difficult to trust another person with a particular section or part of the assignment because we just don’t trust that they will do it, or do a good job.

But, I think there are a number of ways to help the group assignment process go more smoothly. I recently completed a 50% group assignment where we had to give a 45-minute presentation to our peers and I think there were a number of things that helped this assignment go relatively well.

To begin with, we’ve all been friends for a number of semesters now, which made things incredibly easy. We already have each other on Facebook, so organising get-togethers wasn’t difficult at all. We all knew each other’s personalities, strengths and weaknesses. If you’re able, I definitely recommend trying to create an assignment group with people you know and, better yet, people you are friends with!

This way, people normally feel relatively guilty if they social loaf, or turn up late to group meetings or don’t do their assigned part of the paper as well as they could. And, of course, it’s easy to tell them that they’re slacking off too (in the nicest way possible of course!).

Try to organise things early. Just like with every assignment, if you leave it to the last minute, it’s going to be difficult, especially with a number of people trying to organise its completion.  For my latest group assignment, we had it completed two weeks before the presentation date, so we had plenty of time to practice our presentation beforehand.

Try and make as many group get-togethers as possible. Texting, phone calls, emails and Facebook messages can only go so far when there are more than 2 of you. And this way, you can really figure out how far the others have gone with their allocated section, as well as brainstorming how to fit each section into the final assignment.

Try to have fun. I know… that sounds crazy, huh? I always try to at least enjoy one part of the assignment if I can. Whether it’s writing the actual paper (on something I really enjoy), or doing a fabulous job of researching, or even that great feeling of presenting on the day and absolutely nailing it! I find I normally get a decent mark on the assignments I enjoy and although that’s obviously not always possible, we can at least try, can’t we?

Having fun in group assignments can be as easy as having a chilled break in the middle of a get-together, going to get a coffee or chatting with your group members about things other than the assignment. This will build team rapport, and make the group assignment just that little bit easier.

I hope these group assignment tips have been useful, and will help you brainstorm some new ways to smash out a group assignment next time you have one!

Why my degree was right for me

Once upon a time, when I was a wee lad, a huge storm broke over the horizon. Gusts of wind picked up and threw everything around in its path, including our family trampoline. We woke the next day to discover our trampoline had landed on the roof of a neighbouring house across the road. Some years later, that same neighbour greeted me on my first day at university as a lecturer.

Tom's trampoline after stormLooking back, that was probably just coincidence and not really fate. However, there were some key indicators over the years that reminded me I was studying the right degree for me. One of these was the style of learning. At school, I really struggled with maths because I couldn’t apply myself practically. Had Applied Media been a textbook-based course, I don’t know that I would have made it through. Luckily, my course was much more like physical education than maths, meaning you couldn’t really be marked on anything you couldn’t physically create. It is always different for everyone, but this was a huge plus for me.

One thing I never did at school was hand in an assignment early. Maybe it was the thrill of pushing the limits of deadlines, maybe it was just laziness. Something must have clicked at university, because I handed my first assignment in one week early. This unprecedented event was rewarded with a 7 (High Distinction) and an enlarged ego. I was so excited about handing in assignments I seemed to forget… I WAS EXCITED ABOUT HANDING IN ASSIGNMENTS! Who had I become? Was this maturity or had I been brainwashed? It couldn’t just be because I enjoyed the work I was doing, could it…?

If you’re anything like me, the first time you went to Dreamworld you refused to leave the gates at 5pm. I’m not going to lie, that’s exactly how I felt at the end of my degree. Not to say knowing I’d never have to hand in an assignment again wasn’t a great feeling, but I was left with an empty void. Having spent three years at USQ, I felt like I was leaving a massive part of myself behind on graduation day. The first thing I did after I graduated was search for post-graduate degrees and similar courses I could study just so I could stay.

But it wouldn’t have been the same. Much like watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you can try and recreate the magic of the first time you saw the films on the big screen, but it will never be the same. Frodo didn’t get to the top of Mount Doom and say ‘let’s do that again.’ Instead, he got on a boat with Gandalf and began a new adventure, cherishing the memory of his nine-hour, multi-million dollar, blockbuster quest.

End of LOTR trilogySo, I figure, if you cherish the memory of your university experience so much so that you consider going back just so you can relive it, you chose the right degree for you.

Until next time,
Tom.

The light at the end of the tunnel: study holiday planning

Well, we are halfway through semester already, but there is still hope for us… because holidays are close! I suspect that I am not alone in secretly saying to myself ‘Yippee it’s nearly holidays’. But it does leave me asking ‘Where did the semester go?’ If you are anything like me at the moment it all seems like study, study, study! Assignments… when will they end? And it would be so easy to think that with the mid-semester holidays coming soon I could just do nothing, have a complete break and forget all the assignments that are backed up halfway to Woolloomooloo.

holding booksBut I know that I would regret it at the end of semester when I go back to lectures and remember that those assignments are still due and aarrrrghhh! I haven’t started yet.

So holidays are an ideal opportunity to catch up on all the readings that you are behind in and get ahead on the assignments that are due before we get into the exam period. I find that a combination of relaxation, study and assignments works best for me during the mid-semester break. That way, when the last few weeks of the semester come around the stress levels are kept to a bare minimum. Well, that’s the theory anyway. It does work…mostly. Here are some options for studying during the mid-semester break:

  • Catch up on study and assignments one day, then take the next day off and catch up with friends.
  • Go crazy and work like there is no tomorrow, get everything done and dusted in the first week and take the rest of the holiday break off! The best thing about this plan is that when you get back to uni you feel like you have had a break and all your catch up is done.
  • Have a complete rest in the first week, do nothing, sit around, go to the beach, whatever you desire, then get into study in the last week of the holidays… but be warned! This plan does have a drawback! After a week of doing nothing it is really hard to get back into it and get motivated to actually start studying and begin those assignments again.
  • Do the mornings! Study in the mornings and have YOUR time in the afternoons.
  • Do the afternoons! Have YOUR time in the mornings and study in the afternoons.
  • If you are an evening person, have YOUR time during the day and study/ assignments in the wee hours of the evening.
  • If you are planning on going away for the holidays, take your laptop and assignment or study work. You never know, there may be a few moments that you will be totally inspired and a whole assignment can be completed in a few hours! Personally, this strategy never worked for me because I have always found the beach/family/shopping too alluring to resist!

But regardless of how you go about studying during the holidays, that is, if you do any studying at all, just remember that the holidays are a great opportunity to catch up and get ahead with your studies. Any effort you do manage to put into study will just make life after holidays and before exams so much less stressful. And remember: distraction is the enemy of study!

distraction

The 5 stages of starting an assignment

It appears as though semester two is well and truly underway again. Now is the time to start (if you haven’t already) moving through the motions of those assessment pieces, and for those of us graduating or taking a holiday over summer, these will be the final few for 2014! What’s not to cheer about? Oh that’s right… all the work we have to do beforehand. I was thinking… why don’t we make this a little bit easier for each other and share some of our rituals for how to get the ball rolling on our assignment work? I usually only get the opportunity to speak to classmates studying the same degree as me about what I get up to around assignment time and I think it would be really valuable to start bouncing ideas around with other faculties too!

Let’s get started, here are my top 5 super-secret psychology student assignment preparation stages:

1. Find your motivation and set yourself up for SUCCESS!
I personally like to blu-tac my study schedule to my lounge room wall so my goals are always there as a reminder to stay on track. If you’re a little bit edgy and competitive, maybe pair up with a fellow classmate and devise a challenge. Who can keep to a weekly assignment writing schedule? Word of warning: WINNER TAKES ALL. Kidding, but maybe the overall champ gets an IOU for coffee?

USQ success

2. Prepare… your time!
Prepare to be flexible when things might go off track and don’t beat yourself up if and when it happens. If you are working on a group assignment, allow yourself even more time so that you can be flexible and understanding of other team members time committments. Remember that there are some incredibly valuable skills to be gained from group work, and you may even begin building some new friendships!

3. Organise food and drinks to ensure you remain well-fed and hydrated.
This is not difficult for me because I love procrasti-eating, but sometimes I do need to remind myself to take a break, stretch and grab a glass of water. I think it is important to be organised before you sit down to do some serious assignment writing by preparing a yummy study snack and having a bottle of water on hand.

4. Become mobile.
Set yourself up with a cloud storage account so you are able to access your assignment anywhere. Because USQ has set us all up with UDrive, this is easier than ever. MS Office is also free on mobile phones now and for those of us who are pretty tech savvy individuals, this can make studying on the go that little bit easier.

5. Get started!
Finally,  get comfy and pull out your study materials. You might be here for a while so it makes sense to make yourself right at home in your chosen study zone. I have heard of all kinds of elaborate set-ups during my time studying at uni, but my preferred study space is on the couch with a desk or two and lots of cushions to support my back.

These stages are critical for me to get the ball rolling on the assignment writing process, but they can change depending on the type of assignment.

There is always a new, different or smarter way of starting an assignment and I would love to hear yours!

Group work: playing to your strengths

Today we’re discussing what a lot of students see as the dreaded, soul-crushing experience of group work. I know a lot of people really, really, really dislike group work and I understand why. There’s usually one person who doesn’t show up or do their part and gives you a lame excuse. I once worked on a group assignment with a guy who would show up, but then literally fall asleep in the back of the room. Although he provided us with endless entertainment (we used to see how many pens we could stuff in his jumper pockets or how many sticky-notes we could stick to his body before he would wake up, he wasn’t very helpful when it came to the assignment. Had we been studying sleeping patterns, this may have been a different story. But guess what? Group work is an important part of uni life, so we need to learn how to make the most of it!

eliza teamwork theory

When we are first told we have to take part in a group assignment, our first thought is often ‘Why do group assignments even exist?’

Well… it’s unlikely you’ll ever find a job where you never interact with others. Unless your job is to be the first person to live on the moon or something like that. And when you think about it, a lot of awesome things wouldn’t exist without people working in a group. We wouldn’t have movies, much music, buildings… we’d all essentially be living like Tom Hanks in Castaway, yelling ‘Wiiiiiillllllsssssssooooonnnnnnnnn!’ at a volleyball with a face on it. In fact, we wouldn’t even have this analogy because that movie wouldn’t even exist. So, you see, group work is important.

When assigning the roles in your group, try to pick a job that you’ll enjoy, no matter what time of day it is or how stressed you are. Also, try to pick a role that’s going to help you in the long run. For example, I want to be a journalist, so I try to pick roles that involve writing or talking. And if you’re feeling up to it, challenge yourself! University is a safe place to make mistakes and ask for help, so you should feel comfortable knowing that if you get in a little over your head, you can always ask for a hand.

When you first plan the assignment, make sure everyone’s roles are as clear as possible so there won’t be any overlapping and all the gaps will be filled. It’s also important to communicate when you have a problem! If Disney movies have taught me anything (aside from the fact that I will probably never be a mermaid) it’s that you should always be straight up about how you’re feeling about someone.They might not realise they’re upsetting anyone, so by telling them, they can do something about it. Just make sure you go about it in the nicest way possible. Be gentle and positive in the words you use, and try to remind them of why this assignment, and their contribution, is so important. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you explain to your group that you’re struggling, they may be able to help you, and should be more willing to, considering that your problems affect the group.

teamwork

Be careful to maintain a balance between your individual role and the ‘working together as a group’ part of the assignment. If you’re the sort of person who has a tendency to take over, then listen up! One of the things you learn by doing group assignments is how to trust others. I know you’re just trying to be caring when you’re looming over your group mates asking them constantly if they’ve written their three paragraphs yet, but they probably won’t see it that way.

teamwork

A way to do this is to inspire your team mates by reminding them how important the end goal is. For example, if you have a Facebook group for your assignment, every now and then post a reminder of what it’s going to take to get a High Distinction. This will inspire others to do their work and keep you motivated too.

So you see, guys? Working in a group doesn’t have to be horrible! Just remember that the people you’re working with are all in it to reach a common goal. You probably have a lot in common with your team mates and they are there to support you if you need help. Most importantly, you’re learning important teamwork skills that will help you succeed in the workplace.

How to set your study expectations!

Are you wondering how to manage all the study that is ahead of you each semester? Are all the things you want to achieve whizzing around in your head and you’re not sure where to go from there? The answer to this problem is… Goals!

Goal setting is an effective study strategy that will help you reach that long-term goal of wearing your cap and gown (as well as a smile from ear to ear that will be almost impossible to erase) on graduation day. Then there are also the all-important short-term goals like assignments, lectures and actually doing the study each week. It is important to think about your study goals because they will help you stay motivated, focused and able to maintain direction each week. But be sure to make your goals realistic, achievable and do not over extend yourself.

Remember that goals must be smart:

How to set proper, smart goals

I have found that writing down a list of my goals is an excellent place to start each semester. This gives me a starting place to take action, so that I am more likely to accomplish my goals. Writing the goals down and keeping them in highly visible places such as on a whiteboard in my study room at home and in my lecture notes, keeps me on task all semester long.

This is the whiteboard I set up in my study space at the beginning of each semester that lists all my goals!

This is the whiteboard I set up in my study space at the beginning of each semester that lists all my goals!

Before I start each semester, I also draw up a study schedule detailing the weekly study requirements for each of my courses. I list what chapters to read, any extra articles that need to be read and modules that have to be completed. I include all my assignments (and the due dates) on my study schedule to ensure that an assignment does not slip by me during a busy week. I highly recommend having a whiteboard in your study area at home, because it is a great way to keep track of everything that is going on in your uni life. I have drawn up a table on one side of mine which lists the Who, When, What, Where and Why of my assignments and exams so that I cannot avoid them.

The ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘what’ are obvious, but the ‘why’ aspect is because ‘I’ want to do it for my own self-esteem and my future. These assignments stare back at me on a daily basis as a reminder of the expectations that I have set for myself. If you are not sure how to draw up a study schedule there are numerous sites on the internet that have templates. You could always use your uni calendar to achieve the same results and display it in a noticeable position.

Study expectations

But for all your planning, there may be times that things don’t quite work out how you would like. It is important to be flexible with your goals. This will help relieve stress when your goals and expectations seem unattainable. Break them down into smaller more actionable steps. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you to accomplish your expectations and goals.

The most important part of setting your study expectations, preparing, planning and organising your study, is that it empowers you. You are in control of your education, you can see how far you have come and how far you have to go. Critical to this is that you can celebrate your progress. I always make a point of doing something special when the last assignment is marked off my whiteboard each semester. It is not uncommon to see me dancing around the room.

Being in control of your study and setting your expectations is vitally important to the development of your will power to succeed!

Set goals and be successful

If you have some special way that you set your study goals or expectations, let us know!