Balancing Your Breaks

I’m sitting in the train, and it suddenly hit me. “How did half of my Easter break fly by? My exams are in less than 3 weeks and my essays are due in a week!”

Being at the University of Exeter, you might’ve realised that we get pretty long Easter breaks and we often finish all our lectures and seminars beforehand. With about 5 weeks of holiday or more (depending on when your exams start), how do you organise it to get the balance of both work and down time?

This is something I’m still figuring out as I go along this Easter break but I think I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of how I probably should’ve spent the earlier weeks and how to make the best out of the remaining weeks.

First week. You probably would’ve just finished all your assignments or all the heavy content from your lectures. I would definitely suggest having some ‘me-time.’ Have a breather, give yourself a break. As an international student, I would either use this time to go home and spend time with my family or if I decide not to go home, I would travel around Europe. This Easter break, I went with my friends to Copenhagen for a few days. I often worry about upcoming assignments or exams but I told myself that I won’t be doing any work and to really just enjoy myself. If you have gone home, I would definitely suggest spending some quality time with your family as you probably have missed them during term time. Doing something for yourself whether it’s watching some Netflix or reading a book, it is the perfect time to do things you had no time for during term. If you’re in Exeter, take the time to go for a walk or go into town to buy yourself some Roly’s Fudge to reward yourself from the hard work you’ve put in during term.

 

 

 

Rest of the weeks. Ok, I admit. I probably could’ve been a little more productive. I was doing a couple of hours of work each day and some of you might be looking to do more. I struggled to get work done and looking back I could’ve worked for a shorter period of time if I had focused more and stopped procrastinating. So here are a couple of tips that I have found helpful in getting myself down to work:

  1. Set a timer for 20 minutes. In that time, focus on solely your work, get rid of any distractions, turn your phone on airplane mode. 20 minutes isn’t a very long time so I found it easier to get myself to focus rather than telling myself to work for the next 2 hours. Usually after 20 minutes, I would be in the middle of my work and find it easier to keep going. If not, I give myself a 5 to 10-minute break and get back down to another 20 minutes of work. It’s all about breaking it down to smaller chunks and giving yourself a break.
  2. Download apps that help you focus. Some of you may have heard of “Forest.” If you haven’t, it’s an app that is designed to increase your productivity. The app allows you to ‘plant a tree’ by staying off your phone for a certain period of time. Leaving the app to reply to a message or check your notifications will cause your plant to die. You can allocate a specific amount of time that you need to stay focused. For every 2,500 coins you earn, you can plant one tree as the app is in partnership with Trees for the Future. I use “Flora” which is the free version. You can put down a price that you are willing to pay to make the tree real and if you kill the tree, you pay the price for the tree to become real.
  3. Treat yourself! Set yourself a period of time for the day which you will spend working. The golden hours are from 9am to 11am according to studies. Once you have reached your targeted number of hours or work, do something to treat yourself. I often watch a film on Netflix or cook myself a really nice meal. I find that having a treat at the end of the day motivates me and gives me something to look forward to. It also sets up a nice routine to fall into.

If it is daunting to jump into your second week of holiday doing 4 hours of work. Start off with one or two and build that up throughout the weeks. But also, don’t forget to take a break! Like I said, give yourself a treat and take some time for yourself to recharge. Finding that balance is really important and the holidays are there for you to have enough time to revise, finish your assignments and relax.

As an international student from Malaysia, home is a long trip so I tend to spend my breaks in the UK. This means that I am often in Exeter during the holidays. With most students gone, town doesn’t seem to be as busy and with the sun out, it’s perfect for a nice walk in town and you could grab some coffee or cake in a café while you do your work. I like to switch up my study places once in a while for a refreshing change. Since I live near St. Luke’s campus, I go to the library there and if I need a change in scenery I’d go to a cafe in town.

 

 

This framework is what I often try to stick to during the Christmas break too, but I often choose to take breaks during Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. I find that when it comes to holidays, the most important thing is to use your time to take a break and recharge but at the same time balancing it out with assignments and revision. Once you get into an efficient routine, you’ll find that it’s easier than you thought it would be to do both work and enjoy your break!

   April 30th, 2019    International, Miscellaneous, Studying, Undergraduate

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