Top Tips for Productive Assignment Writing

Whose hiding under their favourite snuggly blanket, quietly rocking at the idea of writing assignments?! (I am) But... I'm cracking on too. Tis the season to try to procrastinate, so here are my 5 top tips for productive assignment writing.

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1. Know your own rhythms. I am USELESS between 3.00pm and 5.00pm. Utterly and completely dreadful. I can't concentrate, I can't sit still and I get really distracted. So I don't work then. I try to get my head into the books (or websites) early in the morning and work solidly for a few hours. I also set a reading timer and give myself five-minute breaks every 20 minutes or so. I make sure to stand up, stretch, go outside or just look out of the window. I have learned that if I try to read with no breaks that I loose concentration and daydream (usually about what I'm going to make for dinner) and get really distracted. I have learned this about myself by being reflective about how I work. Which leads me to tip 2...

2. Keep a journal. This is a great way to track your progress and learn a little aboiut yourself. It can be as much as a couple of pages or as little as a few lines, but the more you write the more you will learn. I try to be positive in my journalling; it really makes me own my achievements and be proud about them. I also recommend journalling negative experiences to let them out of your mind... and reflecting on them with positive lessons you've taken from them. The process of journalling is really cathartic – it helps me to come to terms with negatives. I journal in my Nightmare Before Christmas diary which I keep specially for the process, and I write in as many colours as I can find.

3. Make a list... and keep referring back to it. Include everything! My daily list starts with getting my horse sorted... nothing to do with uni but when I tick him off, I know that I've achieved something important and that gives me a positive start to the day. Sometimes my list looks very similar for days until I finish a big task. Sometimes I break it down, so instead of "revise contract law" I'd put "revise UCTA" or "check my referencing". I find that being able to tick off a goal motivates me to get going with the next one. It also helps me remember that although uni is very important, it is not the only thing in my life... so "pick up the kids" or "make dinner" or most importantly "ride Conrad" (who is a HORSE people... keep it clean) are just as important as my academic and employed tasks. Listing also helps you to prioritise tasks. If you're feeling really dynamic, include a timeframe for each point, or colour code for importance. (I am not that dynamic; colours are strictly for journalling!)

4. Don't let yourself get stuck in a rut. If you get bored easily, switch things around. I get sick of being in the same place all the time. so sometimes I nest on my sofa under a big fluffy blanket... sometimes I sit at the kitchen table... sometimes out in the garden... in the car... very rarely I even sit at my desk. Remember the library at KR is open, along with a number of food takeaways, so if you really fancy a change of scenery book a workspace (and two lateral flow tests) and crack on. Similarly, plan your work to either focus on one topic at a time, or move around topics to keep yourself fresh. I find that I need to get into a rhythm with assignment writing. I am something of an obsessive and will take myself off down a rabbit hole of research once I've got into my stride. But when it comes to reading for initial research, I tend to move between topics quite frequently. 

5. If you need help... ASK! I'm no professional assignment guru, but sometimes just reaching out and asking for help, or even just having a big moan to someone helps. The fact we are all so physically distant from each other does not mean that we lack community. The PAL Leaders are available in most disciplines as a point of contact... just search for PAL on Teams and you will find the channel for your subject. If you don't want to fancy that then call someone on your year's group chat. You'd be likely to find that most people on your course are feeling similar. If you need specific academic help, email a lecturer, or your PAT. We are all here to help you navigate these first years of uni life but we can only help if you tell us you need us.

These are my personal tips. I've learned them by trial and error (especially number 1 – multiple days of eating the entire contents of the fridge taught me that). They're just a few ideas which might help and by no means an exhaustive list. Think about it, get to know yourself and work smarter, not harder.


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