Working From Home: How to be the most productive

Hey everyone, I thought that since a lot of people will be working from home from now on that I would dedicate this month’s blogs to doing just that. I know that there are many reasons why people need to work from home due to sickness or perhaps not being able to get into university because of weather etc.

A Quiet Place

By this I don’t mean watch the movie. Now that I am working from home and continuing my course online due to recent events it is crucial for me to find a place that is silent because unfortunately, I do not have the pleasure of working in the silent study at the catalyst building. Luckily for me, I live in the quiet of the countryside so I don’t have to worry about loud neighbours but, I do like my own place to study and get in the zone as I find that I am more productive this way.

Study Cartoon clipart - Student, Education, School, transparent ...

I highly recommend finding a place where you live that is quiet and peaceful. However, I would try and separate your uni work from your bedroom as this can sometimes cause sleep issues due to stress being present in the environment.

Take Breaks

The biggest and most useful piece of advice I was given whilst studying at home for my A-Levels was to take breaks that are completely different from what I was doing which was mostly reading or writing. I would therefore go for a walk (big surprise), pet my dog or just talk to whoever is in my house. I would then go back to my work and be refreshed, ready to start again. I still use this tip today when I am writing or reading for a long assignment and it helps to keep my mind at ease.

Set Yourself Some Time

So, I think that we can all agree that you cannot work all day and if you can teach me your ways! That’s why I like to set myself time in the day to dedicate myself to university work and then plan out what I need to do in that time frame I have given myself. 

I usually give myself at least three hours in the morning before I do anything because that is when I am most productive and the rest of the day I have to do what I like. Before I start my work I always have a timetable next to me that is sectioned into hours of the day. For example, from 9am to 10:45am I read and plan for an assignment, tick that off and then I have a quick break until 11am when I usually have a lecture. I then plan for the next couple of hours and make sure that my day is broken down so that I don’t get too overwhelmed.

I hope that you found this useful and I hope that you are all keeping safe. I am really thankful that I can still continue my lectures online to keep from going insane, they really help all I need to do is perfect my working from home routine!

Thank you, Lauren x

“It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.”

-John Steinbeck-

Mini Mood Boosters

The world is in a time of real crisis and it has been a tough, confusing week in the UK. I have been sharing some mini mood boosters on my personal social media channels and in various WhatsApp conversations with friends in order to help us all through this. This weekend, it dawned on me that these would be perfect for overwhelmed students at exam/assignment submission time! Take the phrase ‘Exam Season’ out of each one and replace it with whatever tough, overwhelming situation you find yourself in.

Write an ‘Exam Season Bucket List’

It’s a tough and stressful time but you can still find some joy in it and ensure you stay organised. For example, you may now be sat down indoors a lot to study and read. Why not vow to take your skincare more seriously by doing regular face masks and forgoing makeup? Other things could be: creating a brilliant playlist, gathering some good reading on XYZ topic as you study, making a list of XYZ resources for future assignments, getting into the habit of drinking more water, finally mastering Harvard referencing…

Write an ‘I can’t wait to…’ list

I have done this since I did my A-Levels 7 years ago! You know the scene, you are sat revising or typing an essay and you notice it is a gorgeous day. Your mind fills with all of the things you would rather be doing. You think about how much you miss going out for cocktails or having lazy days on the grass with a picnic. How much you miss reading for pleasure and not for research. Write all of these things down! Having a list of things I am going to do when I come out of assignment season makes all of the difference to my motivation.

Find your Small Joys

Have a little collection of small things that bring you joy at these times. This could be photos, quotes and poems that inspire or motivate you or it could be websites or social media accounts that you can always go back to for a pick-me-up. For example, I love watching the 24 hour live streams that zoos like Chester, Edinburgh and Melbourne broadcast for free online. Instant mood boosts that are tailored to you!

Sam xo

The Essential Non-Essentials of University Living

Around this time, you should have heard back from all your University choices. In that case, congratulations on your offers! The UCAS application process is the most difficult part of the University journey, but the next worry for most students is living independently. My main worry was not knowing what I should bring. I knew the essentials: plates, cutlery, bedding, and cleaning products (to name a few) – but I didn’t know what else to bring. Here, I’ll discuss the essential non-essentials I decided to bring University.

Tupperware

Most nights I prepare my lunch for the next day. Having the food ready in Tupperware means you can eat wherever on campus and with friends. It also saves you time during your breaks – so you’re not spending ten-fifteen minutes preparing lunch. As a bonus, you’re less likely to spend money at the canteen (while it is reasonably priced, I prefer to exhaust my food supply at home before buying food around campus).

Decorations

I love the University rooms, but they walls are empty, so make sure to personalise them! I hung up photos from home and some posters I bought during Freshers week to personalise my room and make it feel more homely. You can get tens of photo prints online for free from websites such as SnapFish. Fairy lights are allowed, but they must be battery operated!

Clothes Hangers

There are rails in wardrobes to hang clothes on, but you yourself will need to bring the hangers for them. Being able to hang clothes on rails makes picking clothes out easier, will stop them creasing (saving you time from ironing them), and saves space. While there is space to put some clothing that you don’t have a hanger for, there’s not enough for you to put your entire wardrobe there and not on the rack. As a bonus, you can use a hanger or two to dry some clothes!

Closing Words

All the things I’ve listed have made life at University easier for me. One more thing I can recommend (that I could write an entire blog about) are slippers; bring some. Most showers are wet-rooms and wearing slippers will keep your feet dry and warm when you go into your bathroom after a shower. They’re also very comfortable.

If you want more ideas as to what to bring, drop a comment below!

-Tony

Finding Part-time Work…On Campus!

Before I started my degree, I was working full-time. As I live with my boyfriend and not with family I have to support myself independently, so at an absolute minimum, I knew one part-time job would be necessary to get me through my degree.

I now work as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities and the shifts fit around my studies perfectly, not to mention the fact that it’s one of the most rewarding roles in the world! However, from time to time I find myself missing the creativity of my old career in marketing and I often find myself needing an extra injection of cash when the student loan runs low. So, I work for Edge Hill!

That’s right, there are opportunities for students to work in all kinds of roles all over our beautiful campus – even if you don’t live in halls. I work as Digital Content Assistant, covering events and creating content such as Instagram stories for the university, as well as writing for this blog every month. These little creative outlets bring me so much joy and give me peace of mind that some extra money is coming in when times get tough.

You can check out the latest jobs on campus here or look further afield for work off-campus and around Ormskirk or the surrounding areas here. If you need support with your application forms, cover letters or CV then you will find instructions on how to access all of that here. Good luck!

Sam xo

Productivity for Procrastinators

I have several part-time jobs outside of my full-time degree so I often have a lot going on. My grades are good and my performance at work doesn’t slip, so people assume I must be really organised and productive. I am not.

Naturally, I am infuriatingly prone to procrastination and have a horrible habit of leaving things until time is running out as a result of this. So, in today’s post, I will let you in on my secrets to getting stuff done and looking productive when really you are a procrastinator.

  1. Pomodoro Technique

In this technique, you choose a task you are going to focus on, set a timer for 25 minutes and then solidly work on that task and nothing else. After 25 minutes, you stop and take a five-minute break before setting the timer again. After four blocks of 25 minutes, you take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes. Then you start again. The permission to get distracted in small bursts and the promise of a decent break gets you right into ‘the zone’! Just make sure you stick to the timings no matter what.

If you type ‘pomodoro’ into your app store, you will find lots of apps that will do the timings for you.

2. Get specific

I’m not going to tell you that writing lists is helpful because we all know that by now, but HOW we write these lists can be the difference between making progress and giving up and watching TV all day. Break big tasks into small, specific parts e.g. instead of ‘write research module essay’ you would have ‘read research module handbook, decide on points to make in research essay, write essay plan and send to tutor’ or perhaps even more specific tasks.

3. Star Tasks

You’ve got your specific list with really clear achievable tasks, so now pick your star tasks. Being really specific will actually make your to-do lists LONGER, so picking three to five star tasks per day to highlight or have on a separate list. These should be the things you need to get done as a priority. Get them crossed off first and you will often feel spurred on to crack on with the rest of the list. If you don’t feel that way? That’s fine, the most important stuff is done for the day! Take a break and see how you feel after.

Sam xo

Am I too old to go to uni?

When I decided I wanted to study Counselling and Psychotherapy at university, I was 22. I had just missed admission so I knew that it was going to be over a year until I could begin my course, making me 23 at the point of enrollment. I did the (very basic) maths. Graduating at the age of 26.

Being a serial planner and born worrier, I began to spiral into thoughts of how my future might now go “I want a Master’s, so that would take me to the age of 28…”

A frantic Google search into the possible career paths of a counsellor and how long they can take to become established in fuelled this fire “1 year to find the perfect role, 1 year to train and settle in…I would be 30. What if I want a PhD?! Where do I fit in family or travelling?”

My personal statement sat waiting to be submitted to UCAS and the glossy brochures landed on my doormat. Pictures of young people laughing and joking, advice for school leavers on getting good A-Levels, tips for moving away from home…my heart sank. Another thing to worry about. Not only was I completely overhauling my life and routine, putting my future on hold…I was going to be in a room full of 18-year-olds for three years.

Of course, I was wrong. I was wrong about all of those things.

I am not the oldest on my course and we rarely consider each other’s ages when we learn and spend time together, even when we socialise. My life is not hold – I have moved house, changed (part-time) careers and began a work placement in my dream role of a psychotherapist all whilst studying full-time at Edge Hill. When I graduate, I know I won’t be ‘starting again’, I will simply be continuing my journey.

You are never too old to go to university. Some of my peers came from sixth form, some were parents ready to build a career now their children were in education, some came from professional careers like I did and some came back into education from retirement, having discovered a new calling in life. You are never too old. It is never too late.

Sam xo

Student Finance – Northern Ireland.

Hey everyone, it is coming to that time in your university journey that you have to start thinking about your finances to support you throughout the academic year and beyond. Coming from Northern Ireland, my experience with student finance was slightly different but not that scary at all. 

Applying for your student finance well in advance before the closing date is so essential as sometimes, the application forms do not get approved straight away due to a small mistake or the incorrect information being given.

The first thing I did when applying to student finance was talk to someone who had already been through it. I spoke to my cousin who had been through it a couple of times and she was the one who told me to look online before I started. She also told me that it was easier if I applied for student finance online rather than through the document that was given to me at school. This was because if there was a mistake in the hard copy of the application it would take longer to send back and then have to post it away again once it was corrected. The student finance Northern Ireland website actually advises this as well.

As you probably already know, you need to be careful about what application form you download and so, there are a couple of things you need to check before you start to fill in the application form. Firstly make sure that you are applying for the correct academic year, that you chose the undergraduate or postgraduate form and if you are a full time or part time student. This information is essential to check before beginning the form.

The application form is quite long but as I said there is a lot of guidance on the website that you can download. I found these really helpful as the process can be quite overwhelming and some of the questions can be confusing. Just remember to keep checking over what you have done to minimise the chances of it being sent back again.

Also, when it comes to the part in the application that requires you to fill in household income, it might be useful to have your parents/guardians around you to ensure that you get the correct information as this will affect how much money you recieve. On the student finance NI website there is a guide that parents and guardians can read/download if they need any additional support or clarification about what information is needed.  

As I am in my second year of university, when I get my finance is different from my first year but they are usually around the same time. I get my first instalment of student finance in September (around the 15th/16th mark) just in time before I start classes (and freshers!). My second instalment usually drops right after Christmas time when school starts back again (mine came on the 6th of January 2020). My final instalment usually comes in after Easter just in time for the end of the academic year for me.

Like I said, the website is very useful and full of information if you need it but do not be afraid to give them a call for anything at all. I rang when I didn’t understand what I needed to do when applying for my second year student finance and the person on the phone was very calm and talked me through what I needed to do.

I hope that you found this useful and are excited to start your university journey, Lauren Fitzsimons.

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

-Beverly Sills-

Staying Mentally Healthy!

Hey everyone! I hope you are all well during this time. As we go through this difficult period in the UK and all over the world, I want to share some advice that I have learnt over the years about staying mentally healthy at university and at home from university.

I know I may sound like a broken record at this stage but by biggest piece of advice for staying mentally healthy is to GO OUTSIDE! Having a separation from the place you feel stressed or overwhelmed is so important for your well-being.

My house-mates know that when I say I am going for a walk that it is code for “time for me time,” and I let them know when I will be back and keep my phone on me at all times. I find that when I am outside, I can try and forget about how I felt within the four walls of the house and let my mind relax. Honestly, try it next time you get stressed over an assignment and come back to it with a fresher mind.

Another piece of advice that I would give you is to TALK to someone. This could be anyone from your friends, family, personal tutor or even your dog. Just as long as you are communicating your thoughts and feelings to someone who will know how to help, give advice or provide some form of comfort.

Last year when I got overwhelmed I went to talk to someone at the Catalyst help-desk and they were able to set up an appointment with a member of the team who had a chat with me and was able to set me up with an online help-course. This really helped but mostly because I had the chance to talk to someone about my feelings at the time.

I know that university can get lonely at times especially when self-isolation and social distancing is a must at the minute. Edge Hill University really helped me last year when I was feeling overwhelmed and lonely and so, do not hesitate to reach out to them and ask for help because at the end of the day, that is all we need to do to get to the next step in being mentally healthy.

look here for more information. https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/location/catalyst/

I hope that this is useful for people who may be struggling around these times. Just know that Edge Hill always has the means to help you if you reach out and ask for help, I am really glad I did.

Thanks for reading, Lauren Fitzsimons.

“The more you talk about them, the more important they will feel. The more you listen to them, the more important you will make them feel.”

Roy T. Bennett

Study Spots Beyond Campus

As an Edge Hill student your study time, whether that’s writing an assignment, doing your reading, or organising your post lecture notes, doesn’t have to be confined to a spot on campus or where you’re living during term time and beyond in the academic year.

The Catalyst, the Red Bar, upstairs in the Hub, and so on are perfect options but it’s good to explore beyond the University and into the town of Ormskirk, a short bus ride, (Using the Edge Hill Link) or walk away.

First up, my personal favourite, Starbucks. Starbucks is a very basic answer, I’m well aware, but hear me out! The Ormskirk Starbucks’ furniture is beautifully arranged, giving customers plenty of space to relax with a drink, or sit closer to the counter with a higher table to do work. Doing some reading? Take a seat closer to the entrance on the comfy plush chairs. Writing an assignment against the clock or anything requiring your laptop? Further up by the counter is your ideal spot, but down by the entrance would still work. It’s a perfect spot to do your academic work, and the baristas are some of the best I’ve ever been served by, and I’ve been to a lot of Starbucks cafes.

Ormskirk Starbucks

Costa is another great option, the tables in the Ormskirk cafe are a lot more appropriate for laptop or notebook work, the whole seating arrangement brings on a much more serious atmosphere in a way, perfect for a deadline crunch rather than relaxed reading or getting ahead of assignments to be submitted later in the semester.

Starbucks and Costa are great options, but there are many more. Ormskirk is filled with locations to try to study at, or unwind afterwards. Shifting to independently run establishments, Love To Eat near the old clock in town is a lovely place to get something to eat or drink after a morning study session or even lecture. I’ve yet to try to do it but it’d also serve as a lovely study spot as well. Strong recommendation on their pancakes if you’re looking for something to eat!

Alice

Budgeting as a Student

Before coming to University, there’s a good chance you’ve heard students talking about how little money they have. No matter how generous your student loan can be, it can be easy to spend too much and be left with pennies. However, there are plenty of small changes you can make to stop yourself going into your overdraft. In this blog, I’m going to talk about how I’ve managed my money.

Treating Yourself

It can be tempting to splurge – and you should! University is stressful, and you should spend money to enjoy yourself. Usually, people would treat themselves to a takeaway, and although they’re nice, they’re expensive. At ALDI, you can buy pizzas for as cheap as 65p, and as expensive as £3. You can also buy curry sauce, rice, and sides for less than £5. With takeaway pizzas usually costing as cheap as £6, by doing this you’re saving more than £5, which can make a huge difference while still getting the takeaway experience. Side note: A majority of ALDI’s items are the cheapest in Ormskirk, so it’s more economical to do most/all your shopping there!

Going Out

Liverpool is a train ride away and can make for a nice night out. However, a cinema trip can cost £12 (£5 for a train ticket with railcard and £7 for the cinema ticket). Instead of spending £12 to see a film, why not take a five-minute walk to see a free film every Friday in our Arts Centre? The £12 you’re saving can go towards clothes or a food shop.

Getting a Job

Shops in Ormskirk are always hiring, but there are opportunities to earn money on campus, such as being a student representative. This can be beneficial if your student loan is low, although a job would be another factor to accommodate for in your work-life balance. Thankfully, there is support at University to help you manage your time, as well as helping you manage money.

Closing Words

Saving money doesn’t mean you have to cut out all the things you enjoy in your life. You just may need to splash out less frequently, and look for alternative, cheaper ways. I’ve never had any issues with money, and I’ve been able to enjoy myself (as have many of my friends, so hopefully these ideas will be effective for you.