My sister Christina sent me a link to the Squiggly Rainbow blog where Rachael was looking for some advice on studying. Christina thought I might be able to offer some advice. I am no expert, but I do have plenty of experience (over ten years at uni - am I really that old?) and have been going to workshops at uni since I started the PhD. So I thought I would share the (long) comment I left on Rachael's blog, in case it helps someone else, but also so I remember to follow it too!
I have been going to a lot of "how to study" workshops at uni lately.
Do you have a work space? A desk or somewhere you can work uninterrupted? Maybe even if it is at the library?
Do you have a diary or a calendar with all due dates, family commitments etc written down?
Do you set aside huge chunks of time or work when you get a chance? In the workshops they say that if you say, "Oh I will do it on Monday when no one is home and I have all day", that is inevitably when you will mop and clean etc and not get around to it. So the answer is to chip away every day. Do a bit here and a bit there, even if it is only 10 or 20 mins it adds up.
Make lists of things to do and reward yourself when you get them done. Celebrate the victories, even if they are small and you will feel like you are progressing. Reward yourself with procrastination. Start the assignment and then write the blog post, or read a chapter and then knit for half an hour.
Let the people in your life know what you are doing and how you are going so they can support you. Which might mean someone else minding the children, cooking dinner or just having a coffee and listening to assignment ideas.
Look and see what study workshops (if any) your uni offers, or whether you can join a study group. Are you external or on campus? Either way, connect online or over a cuppa with folks who are going through the same thing you are.
Get a copy of the referencing guide you need for assignments, don't lose marks over something as fixable as a bibliography!
Figure out what kind of learner you are. Do you remember things if you write them out? Do you need to hear them, or talk about them? Does highlighting texts in different colours help you remember things? I use lots of post it notes, flags and coloured pens! And I take lots of notes in lectures and then go over them later.
Set time to do all the things you need to do, but prioritise them. Does it matter if the garden needs a prune when you have an assignment to do? It will still be there when you are done.
Set big and little goals, so you achieve along the way, but you know what you are really aiming for in the end.
Ask for help when you need it! Your lectures are paid to help you and I think often we are too scared to look silly and ask dumb questions. Just do it, seek clarification and feedback. Go to their office, email them or telephone. You have every right to!
Try brainstorming ideas and making concept maps or mind maps if you are stuck. Google these if you need to.
I could keep going, but I guess the key points are:
work out your timelines
chip away - be persistent!