Everyone needs a hobby. I have some which have endured for decades – singing, reading, getting excited whenever I see a dog, a cat or a baby – and some which are more recently acquired – sewing, accidentally trespassing in pursuit of public footpaths, putting little jumpers onto the dog. And, it would appear, studying.
A few days ago I posted about the tools I use to stop my life from descending into disorganised chaos and ensure that I remember to do basic things like feed myself properly, and also stay on top of academic deadlines.
Today I’m honing in on how I create a routine for days when I have no externally-imposed structure. I do not do well with unstructured time. Give me an entirely free day without any specified tasks and I am likely to spend it in my pyjamas, eating toast and biscuits and watching catchup TV on my laptop. Obviously that isn’t a very good way to get things done. It’s fine on the odd occasion, but for various health-related reasons I’m currently only going into university for a day and a half each week, so I had to find a way to make sure I actually got round to some constructive studying on the days I was officially “working from home”. My tutors are very supportive, but I think even their tolerance would fail to encompass a month’s worth of vegetating. Plus it would drive me to a pit of stinky, malnourished depression. Continue reading
Lectures started up again on Monday. It was nice to see people (although sad to discover that two more of the cohort have left for personal reasons – two of my closer friends in the group) and get back into the swing of things. I’m learning to adjust to the newest addition to my life, which is reading glasses! I’ve got to sit right at the front, because otherwise I have to take my glasses off to see the whiteboard and put them on again to make notes. The bonus there is that I can more easily block out the frankly ridiculous amount of chatter that builds up at the back of the room over the course of the lecture.
We have several new lecturers which is brilliant as we were getting alarmingly low on staff at the end of last year – several people went off sick or on maternity leave, a few got new jobs and at least one retired. I’ve not met everyone yet but the ones we have already had lectures from seem like they’ll be really good. And I am excited about most of the modules we’re doing this year; it’s the “complex” year, and while I am an advocate for low-risk, natural birth I am very keen on supporting women with complex personal needs. Personally I’m especially interested in the challenges faced by women without much English, teenage mothers and families from very low incomes or chaotic backgrounds. A lot of the population around here fall into at least one of those groups so everything we’re studying this year feels extremely relevant. And my new office area in my flat will make it far easier to get my work done at home, which is good as the timetable has changed this year so I won’t be staying in the library for hours after lectures any more. Continue reading
Today was my first exam this term. It was also my first actual exam in two years (I’m not counting the January mocks, which were helpful as a test of our progress but had no bearing on our grades).
It went well! It was my contract law exam, which is the subject I struggled with most at the start of last year and the one I ended up feeling most confident about. Being supervised one to one with my director of studies was a huge help, because she could focus on what I was concerned about and also had the time to debate points and get me to really think about issues properly.
The exam paper was great, although not everyone in my year agreed – it didn’t follow the pattern of the last five years (because a different lecturer wrote it) and people who had tried to predict the questions fell down. It had one essay question which had me beaming; it was almost identical to a question I had set myself during revision, and I had a strong argument for it. Two further questions were complex and took a lot of planning but I was relieved to discover I could remember most of the important case names to back up my points. The final question, another essay, was not as successful – I couldn’t remember any relevant cases, so I decided to base my answer on careful logical reasoning and references to statute. It may turn out to have been way off base, which would bring my grade down, but I’m hoping it won’t. Overall a good feeling about this one.
My hands and arms ache, and my head is not keen on the idea of going straight into more work, but I have to because tomorrow morning is my next exam: land law. I’ve worked hard over the last few weeks to get myself on track with land, but I floundered so much during the year that for a lot of my “revision” I have actually been straight-up learning the material. Tonight’s challenge will be memorising the critical facts and cases and hoping they stay in my brain until 12pm tomorrow. Wish me luck!
Well, that was interesting at least. 44 hours without using my laptop for a single thing, and more specifically without using the internet – I was tempted by the facebook application on my phone for a minute, but I didn’t use it.
I found that I was thinking about checking my email and forums a fair amount, but when I remembered that I wasn’t doing that at the moment, I just shrugged and moved on. I have knitted several rows of my jumper and dug out a colouring book which I used as a reward for every revision flash-card I made. It was a much more effective way of motivating myself to study, because I only spent about five minutes away from my work instead of the hour or two hours I would take as an internet break. So I think I shall try to use non-computer things as a break mid-work in future.
I opened my email programme to discover I had 27 new emails, which in 44 hours isn’t all that many really. I often get that many in 12 hours, when it’s the height of a new term and people are not buried in exams. Most of them were junk anyway, which confirms the fact that I don’t need to check every hour in case something important has come up.
Because I was already in the mood for some social isolation, I also switched off my phone and put it in a drawer for 24 hours. I only got one message, and no one called me, which is fairly standard, but the symbolism of putting it away meant I didn’t keep checking just in case: a useful reminder that the world gets on just fine without me.
The one thing that did bug me was that there were three or four times when I wanted to contact someone, or look something up, and I couldn’t. I need to send three different emails today and I wanted to check a couple of opening times, but none of those things were urgent or essential either.
Forty-four hours is not really a long time. Forty-four hours which were spent almost entirely in my own room, alone, with nothing to do except work felt like quite a long time, but they were more productive hours without my computer. Which is what I expected, really. I just hadn’t anticipated that it would be so easy.
A few days ago I went to a comedy show with a friend. We arranged it months ago and she had bought the tickets, so I was definitely tied to going (and anyway we hadn’t hung out for a while and I wanted to see her), but I realised during the afternoon of the show that I didn’t really want to go. I wanted to stay home and go to the library.
I think I’m getting old.
The show was great, by the way. I’m glad I went – but I’m still looking forwards to a library party tonight. Read on!