Loughborough Student Life

Coping with Coursework

A few tips for those of you who take coursework subjects!  How to deal with coursework stress, through mindfulness and organisation…

So it is coming up to the exam period and coursework deadlines are approaching! I have noticed that everyone gives advice on exams, but unusually never coursework and that too can be really stressful this time of year. I used to find myself making a list of all the jobs I have to do; I’d get stressed, complain and somehow my solution resulted in procrastination or usually by taking a nap. Not the most efficient way to get things done I must admit…

Stress actually prevented me from getting on with things, at first I thought I was doing the right thing by not giving myself a break (I was so wrong). I spent a lot of my time planning to do the work, then preparing to do my work, then thinking about how good it would be if I didn’t have the work, reading articles that might actually help me start my work. I’d say “I’ve been doing work all day” but honestly how much of the day was I actually working? I think one reason I’m a lot happier at the moment is because I’ve allowed myself to take breaks without feeling guilty! Starting work, taking frequent breaks, actually makes you feel more positive about working again and essentially makes you work more efficiently.

Give yourself a break

Driving yourself crazy won’t get your work done!  My little sister is currently in the middle of her GCSE coursework.  I know it’s a lot different to university but I remember the stress of GCSE’s, A levels and personal statements! My sister has complained a few times ‘I don’t have enough time’ and often it can be hard not to feel so overwhelmed. The other day she spent over an hour or so feeling frustrated about how her coursework deadline is due even earlier than she originally thought. But if you think about it, ironically while she spent this hour worrying about not having enough time, she could have actually used that hour to get even more of her work done…

Your mental state can really effect how efficient you are. The better you feel about yourself, the better you feel about the things you do! Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention. It is the practice of focusing your attention on the present without judgement or worrying about the future. This includes not feeling guilty about not working 100% of the time, as long as you acknowledge that you are going to work again later in the day. Focus on the work in hand, without thinking about what is next! The less you worry about what you have to do and focus on what is in front of you, the more you will actually achieve.

Mindfulness is something you can practice at home, at work, in a lecture; it’s all about taking a step back from stress. Take a deep breath and think about the moment.

Other popular forms of mindfulness include:

  • Petting or playing with animals increases levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decreases production of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Colouring helps you focus, reduces levels of anxiety by allowing you to switch off and focus on the moment.
  • Yoga, a mind-body practice that combines physicality, controlled breathing, and meditation to help your body stay relaxed.
  • Walking outside can put your brain in a meditative state; it is found to reduce stress, improve memory and attention.

(Don’t ask me how I know this, I may or may not have cheated by going on google…)

Coursework tips

  • Condense your notes

I remember in my first year at university, I had heaps and heaps of notes that I had taken in class that I never even read through… To be honest I was not sure which notes would help me or if all of them were completely irrelevant… This year I made sure I read through all my notes and thought about what information was important, typing them up on the computer. Something as little as this is surprisingly really helpful; it keeps me organised and reduces stress.

  • Plan your essay.

Planning is really important when organising your work. I often start a lot of my essays, only to then realise I actually know barely anything about the topic…  I’m sat staring at the computer like ok 50 words down, 2,950 to go… By that point, I realise that before I started I probably should have done some research. I’d suggest you start by highlighting key words within your question, making sure you understand what you need to research by acknowledging the key areas of focus.

Then make your plan! I always get the coloured pens out for this part, procrastination definitely comes somewhere along with drawing coloured borders around each point… I mean you can do that too if you want to, but I’m not sure it’ll help towards your grades…  In your plan you need to include an introduction (I usually do one as long as 10% of the word count), then plan three or four main arguments relatable to your question, and then a brief guideline of what you want to summarise in your conclusion! Planning this way will help you get started on your essay and keep you in line with a structure!

This kind of colouring – not so helpful for research. But, great for mindfulness!

  • Explain your answers to others

At Loughborough I have regular meetings with my dyslexia tutor; who is an English Lecturer. She sits down with me, I tell her my ideas and plan for my coursework and she questions my justification! This is surprisingly super helpful as it makes me explain and justify my answers. It also helps me realise which areas I need to work on and what I need to research further.  This could be a good job for your parents!

Anyway, hope you guys found this somewhat helpful. I should probably go on to take my own advice now! Good luck to you sixth formers, hope you get the A-level results you want!

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