How to Stay Organised and Productive as a University Student

I am about to go in to my final year of studying BA English Language at the University of Birmingham. I’ve found that certain habits and choices certainly make me much more motivated to get my work done and help me to do it in less time. Here are my top tips for being productive and organised as a uni student!

Create a Weekly Plan and Daily Plans

I create a list at the beginning of the week with all the things I need to get done and commitments that I need to attend. It might also be helpful to include social time on here if you struggle with time management. This then lets see you how much you have to fit in to one week and a rough idea of what days can be allocated to what tasks. I then create a daily plan each day so you can change anything that needs adding/you’ve done early. It also helps as this daily one can be more specific, which I find helps me stay focused. Writing tasks such as ‘Finish paragraph three and four of essay’ is easier to stick to and achieve than ‘do uni work’.

Having an academic planner is a new thing for me this year, but so far I am finding it really helpful for remembering events and things I need to complete week to week. Mine is from ‘Ink Outside the Box’ and is a lovely design and also has a great layout inside.

Download the App ‘Forest’ to Avoid Your Phone Distracting You

I absolutely love the concept of the Forest app, and I use it frequently when working. The app allows you to set a timer for how long you’d like to focus for (it can range from 10 minutes up to 2 hours). The app shows a tree growing for the amount of time you have chosen, and if you leave the app then the tree ‘dies’ and indicates that you’ve broken your focus. I usually set it for an hour at a time, and have a 15 minute break between if I have a lot of work to get done. It’s also great because each time you grow a tree, you earn tokens. Once you have 2500 tokens, you can choose to put that towards the app planting a real tree for you. So the app not only helps you concentrate but also helps with reforestation!

Use Study Playlists for Working

I find it very difficult to work for any length of time doing notes or essay planning without having some quiet music on in the background. I find playing classical music or film scores really help me to concentrate and help me stay motivated whilst working.

Have a Folder for Each Module on Your Course

At the start of each term, I use a different ring binder for each module. So for my final year I have five folders; one for my dissertation and the others for the four modules I am taking this year. This means that all the work for one module is one place, whether it’s lecture material, essay feedback or seminar notes. This means you are also unlikely to forget anything if you have something on like a seminar discussion, because everything is in the one folder that you can just pop in your bag. It might also help to have each folder look a bit different so you can easily identify them and not get them mixed up. I try to use different coloured ring binders so you know which one is which. You can also label the spine of them if that helps too. Dividers are another great addition to your folders if you are wanting to separate your work out in to sections.

Use Colour Coding in Your Notes/Essay Plans

I find that using highlighters for specific things in my notes not only makes them look better visually, but also helps me find information for essays. For example, I use an orange highlighter for key words and turquoise for the names of scholars/references. This then makes it much easier if you are planning an essay and are skimming through pages of notes to find a specific scholar or key word.

Use the Bookmarks Bar on Your Internet Browser

I have a folder for each year at university stored on my browser, the modules in each year, and then also additional folders for specific essays within those modules. This is helpful when trying to find and refer back to scholarship so you don’t lose all the links that you are using for a piece of work.

I hope these tips were useful if you are about to head in to another academic year!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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Top 10 Tips on How to Plan a Mini Break on a Budget: Edinburgh Edition

I have just returned from the most fabulous three day break in Edinburgh, Scotland’s magnificent capital city. This was a mini break with two of my friends, with all of us travelling on a student budget. We managed to compromise very well on costs without compromising at all on the quality of our city break. We managed to book our flights and accommodation for a total of £107.84 each. We flew from Luton airport to Edinburgh airport with EasyJet, and got the tram from the airport to the centre of Edinburgh. We stayed in a gorgeous apartment on Montgomery Street, in the centre of the city.

Here are my top 10 tips on how to plan a brilliant mini break on a budget wihtout compromising on quality…

1. Book as Far in Advance as You Can

The further in advance you book your travel, the cheaper it will be. This goes for any destination! We booked our accommodation and flights in May, and our trip was in September, so we planned it 4 months in advance. For return flights booked this far in advance, I only paid £37.78. Our airbnb cost £210.18 for two nights, so split between three of us we paid £70.06 each. There was a £28.18 service charge included in this. For a lovely flat, spacious in such a central location, this was a very good deal. Planning in advance really pays off!

Here are some photos of our gorgeous airbnb, it just shows you that by saving money, you don’t have to compromise on quality…

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2. Travel Outside of School Holidays

If you are a university student like me, then you have the advantage of having holidays that are outside of the school holidays and being more flexible with dates. Try and go before the school holidays if you can, May and June are much cheaper than July/August if you have finished your university year by then. The school holidays means that accommodation and travel costs can almost double in price. We also found that September seemed to be even cheaper as it was outside of both the Scottish and English school holidays (bear in mind that if you are visiting a different country then school holiday dates may differ).

3. Use Comparison Sites to Find the Best Deals

We used Skyscanner to find our flights. I cannot recommend this tool enough. You can input your destinations and it tells you the cheapest options for travelling. It also lets you add the option to include other airports and non-direct flights if these are cheaper options. There is also a feature to search for the cheapest month and destinations. You can also find hotel and car hire information on here too.

It’s also useful to compare if it’s quicker/cheaper going to your destination by train, plane, ferry or driving. We found that even with a student railcard, the trains were considerably more expensive and would have meant a very long journey.

4. Sit Separately on Flights

Another cost that can be avoided is choosing to not pay to sit together on the flight. If you are spending a whole holiday with people, then it’s not the end of the world if you don’t sit next to each other if you are on a short haul flight like we were. However, we checked in for our flights about two weeks in advance and this meant we were placed next to each other anyway on both our outbound and inbound flights.

5. Limit Your Luggage

For this trip, we took hand luggage alone. This means you can avoid the cost of having to pay for putting luggage in the hold. Small savings like this can add up to save you a fair bit of money. Additionally, it also means you don’t have to hang around waiting for a suitcase once you’re off the flight. Not having heavy bags to cart around with you is also a bonus, this applies if you are travelling by train too. Our flight landed at 10am on Monday and we could not check in until 3pm. On Wednesday when we left, we had to check out by 10am and our flight was not until late evening. Therefore we knew we had to carry our luggage with us for these times in between. By having just a light rucksack, it meant our luggage didn’t limit us. We were still able to visit the castle and walked up to Calton Hill without being weighed down by heavy bags.

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6. Don’t be too Fussy About Travel Companies

We flew with EasyJet due to their company in general having lower cost flights compared to other airlines. Other airlines may offer what is considered ‘a ore luxurious experience’ but if you are on a short flight and it gets you from A to B then going with cheaper options to save money is definitely a good idea.

7. Be as Flexible as You Can With Where You Travel From

The closest airport to where I live is Birmingham. But we worked out that the cheapest flight at the time was from Luton airport and that airport parking was only £30 here. The Flybe flights from Birmingham to Edinburgh were significantly more expensive. So even though we drove a bit further than we would have to get to Birmingham, it was more cost-effective for us to go to Luton instead. So if you can, it’s good to be as flexible as you can with airport/train station locations as this may save you a significant amount of money.

8. Plan a Rough Itinerary in Advance

We roughly planned out the main activities we wanted to do Edinburgh and what day we could do them on (weather permitting!). Due to only having three days away, this meant that we knew we could include our prioritised activities in the small amount of time we were in the city. By booking certain activities in advance it can save you money and often saves you queuing for long periods of time. Additionally, so many great things to do are often free! On our last day we walked up Calton Hill which gives you an incredible view of the whole city of Edinburgh around you. I would thoroughly recommend visiting if you are in Edinburgh. We also enjoyed a coffee and pastry in Gardener’s Cottage which is the restaurant set on the edge of Calton Hill. This was surprisingly very affordable at just £5 each, but avoid at lunch and dinner unless you want a very pricey meal! Walking round and soaking up the atmosphere of the Royal Mile and Princes Street Gardens was another lovely experience which won’t cost you a penny. Most cities will have free galleries and museums you can visit, the National Gallery is free in Edinburgh, as is the National Museum of Scotland.

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9. Avoid Buying Food and Drink etc. from Tourist Attraction Shops

Often shops at tourist attractions have extortionate prices. Avoiding spending £3 on a disposable water bottle every time you want a drink and paying loads just for a sandwich is always a good plan in my book. Bring a water bottle with you that you can fill up before you go out for the day, and maybe some snacks if you’re likely to get hungry whilst out and about. We took a picnic with us to the zoo and bought snacks from a Tesco Express next to our airbnb so you can just grab something on your way out for the day.

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10. Choose Your Accommodation Location Wisely

By staying right in the centre of Edinburgh, it meant we were able to walk from our apartment to all the central locations that we wanted to visit. We were about a 15 minute walk from Princes Street which was great. It was also near the tram links that we used to get to and from the airport. So by staying in the city centre, we saved money by walking lots, where as if we had been much further out we may have spent more time and money on buses etc. Walking more is also a more sustainable and healthy option, and gives you the chance to see the city you’re in up close.

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I hope this was helpful if you are planning a trip on a budget. Here is a link to another of my Edinburgh posts which has more details on great things to do in Edinburgh once you’re there!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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How to Make a Rented Space Feel Like Your Own Home

Going in to my second year of university, I am now living in a furnished, rented house for the upcoming year in the city of Birmingham. It can be tricky to make a rented property feel homely and personal to you, when you are unable to make changes that you may make if you owned the property. For example, not being able to put nails in the walls and changing the paintwork and the furniture. After organising and personalising my space in my university halls last year, and having just done it again in our new house, I’ve found some helpful tricks, both in terms of practical things and more personal things, that can make a rented space feel like your own. Many of these tips are also for rooms that are fairly small, so whether you are just renting, living in a small place, or are a student on a budget, then I hope this is helpful!

Need some practical help?  Command Hooks and Strips

Putting prints, frames or pin boards up on the walls will also make your property more personal to you and your interior style. Command strips are great for putting prints or posters up on the wall if you can’t use nails. Last year in my halls I used Blu Tak to display all my photos, and have again this year. As long as you don’t use loads of it, it shouldn’t leave marks on the wall so this is a good method if you want to do something similar.

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Additionally, even getting some photos or artwork to have similar colours in can make your room look very coordinated. The post cards on the wall above are from Paperchase!

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Command hooks are so handy if you can’t put in hooks or nails and need a fixture to hang things that won’t damage the walls. I have one on the back of my door that hangs my dressing gown and my shoe rack and ones for my jewellery. You can also buy clear ones if you want them to be a very subtle part of the room, they are also handy if you need to string fairly lights through them if you want them.

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Want your home to look put together?  Colour and Furnishings

Getting some of the things in a room to coordinate in colour can really make a space feel put together. The two bedding sets I have are blue and white, I then have a throw and cushions in various shades of blue. On this note getting some cosy soft furnishing like blankets, throws, and cushions for your bed can also make your room look and feel more comfortable, which again will make it seem more homely to you.

In a furnished property with furniture you don’t love?

Put throws and cushions on sofas or arm chairs, get a rug to go under that ghastly coffee table, and a pretty table cloth to cover that dining room table that you would never pick yourself. Get a vase with some flowers in it to put in the kitchen (as a student fake ones will do!). These tips will again make items that you did not pick yourself look like they belong to you, and might make everything match a bit more, as opposed to looking like a house with lots of miscellaneous items.

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The map of the world, displayed above my bed is also predominantly blue to match my bedding, so having one main colour theme makes my bedroom look like everything matches, just as if you owned the property and designed it how you want. This poster was just £3 from Paperchase, they sell a lot of great ones! Even just getting a couple of items in a similar colour palette can make a huge difference. This can also be really cheap and easy to do, for example my makeup brush holders and pen pot are matching with the blue theme, so even just get some of your basic smaller items to match and this will work too.

Need something practical but also aesthetically pleasing? Use light

Again, the lights in some of the rooms in your rented home may not be to your taste. The only light in my room is a bit dingy, if you have this problem try and buy a new light bulb, you could always get a warm coloured one if you want a cosy vibe, or a brighter and cooler toned one if you need it for more practical reasons.

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We are not allowed candles in our house, but definitely get some if you can use them in your property. Alternatively, I have quite a few fake tea lights in my bedroom that I use in the evenings to make my room look a bit more cosy and they do the trick! Fairy lights are also fab for making a room feel a bit more homey, I have some draped them along my bed frame, and along the top of my wardrobe

I also have a desk lamp which makes the room a bit brighter as well. If you work at a desk late in the evening or like to read in the evenings then this is a life saver.

Hope some of these tips were helpful on how to make a rented property feel like your own home!

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a fab day where ever you are,

Mol x

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The Ultimate University Guide: Advice on Moving into Student Accommodation

All those of you who are starting university this year will be moving into your student accommodation in a few weeks’ time so I thought this would be the perfect time to start my university series here on my blog, as I was in the same position a year ago! I am now going in to my second year at the University of Birmingham, where I study English Language.

It seems like a good idea to start with the first main part of the ‘uni experience’ now that you have got your place confirmed, and this is moving in! Looking back now, it is actually quite a strange concept, moving to a brand new city, into a flat you’ve never seen before, with several people you have never met before, so it’s perfectly normal to feel like this is a very daunting experience!

I’ve put together 5 tips for moving in that ensure your moving in experience will be as easy and enjoyable as possible…

1.Get the move in date in your diary NOW

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This was the view from my room!

Firstly, make sure your move in day is in your calendar and that whoever is taking you and all your stuff up to university has it in their calendar too. Your university accommodation should have emailed you to say what day you can move in from, there may be a specific time frame too as this makes it easier so not everyone moves in at the exact same time! If you are anything like me, and who ever is taking you does not always work in the country or on a 9-5 schedule, then make sure as soon as you know your move in date, you tell them when they need to be around! You want to make this process as stress free as possible and you don’t want to realise at the last minute that you have enough stuff to fill a large 4×4 car (lol I did) and nobody to help you get there! Most people I know didn’t take their cars up in first year, if you are near the centre of a large city like I was, then it’s probably more of a burden than a help, but consider this before you go.

2. Pack your stuff up as logically as you can

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We split up all the stuff I was taking into the different rooms it would be going in: kitchen, bedroom and bathroom (I was lucky enough to have an en-suite). This just makes it a lot easier, as you won’t be having to go between rooms with loads of bags and wondering why you packed your toothbrush in with your fairy liquid, and your salt and pepper in with your pyjamas. Laundry bags or Ikea bags were what we used to bag it all up, would 10/10 recommend you use these! They are big enough that you can fit lots in them, but don’t fill them so full that you can’t lift them. My flat was on the second floor of my student accommodation and because this is student halls we’re talking about, there isn’t a lift so bear this in mind in case you have a trek up a lot of stairs. Your halls should have parking very nearby so it shouldn’t be too far a distance to carry everything.

3. Bring the personal stuff as well as the practical stuff

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Obviously you do need to bring all the practical things for your student survival, the pots and pans and laundry detergent and stationary galore. But also remember that this little space is going to be your home for an academic year (I say academic year as we know it’s not an actual year, because uni holidays are long WOOHOO). I printed off so many photos, and luckily there was a big pin board in my room when I got there which I filled entirely, throughout the year I also ended up sticking them on my walls and I also had a lot of postcards up on another wall, so take anything like this that you think will make the space feel like yours!

If you are also in two minds about taking too many little bits and bobs for your room, for example I took picture frames, my mini cactus’s and various other trinkets, take them! I took a few too many as my room was very small (don’t expect your room to be big!) and my parents just took them back home again in the car after we had unpacked. It’s better taking too much than not taking enough and then feeling like your room is bare and not your own.

4. Socialise!

You are likely to be moving in on the same day as your flatmates so make sure you speak to them and introduce yourself! Everyone will be busy unpacking and saying goodbye to people but you can all chat and start getting to know each other once you feel like you’ve got yourself organised. If you are nervous about meeting your flatmates, just remember that everyone else is in exactly the same boat! It will make you feel a lot better if you start introducing yourselves as it will make you start feeling a lot more comfortable after your parents (or whoever has dropped you off) leave, as you’ll know a little bit more about who you are living with. Even if you are feeling nervous, be polite and friendly and it might help to tell people that you feel a bit anxious, it is likely they’ll be feeling it too! Also it sounds a bit odd, but if you leave your room door open, when people are walking past or arriving it shows that you’re not shutting yourself away in your room and means people will tend to look in and it’s a very easy way to start chatting to people!

5. Familiarise yourself with the area you will be living in

After I had unpacked everything, before my parents drove home we decided to go for a little drive around the area. We drove from my accommodation to my uni and back again, which was about a 10 minute drive each way, this was so helpful because it meant that I knew how to get to uni and also where the bus stops were, both for getting to the university and to the city centre. Also, something I found helpful was that when we did this drive, I filmed a time lapse of where we were going on my phone so that if I forgot the first couple of times where I was meant to get off the bus, or if I was walking the right way, I could just look back at the video and check! Luckily there was an Aldi a couple of minutes walk away, and a few other shops opposite our halls, but if you want to do the same for seeing where your closest shop or doctor is etc. then go for a little explore! Feeling a bit more familiar with the area you are can make you feel so much better. I know for me, moving from a village to one of the UK’s biggest cities, it felt very overwhelming but familiarising the area makes it somehow feel a little smaller and a lot more manageable.

Thanks for reading, if you are heading off to university then good luck, I hope this was helpful!

Hope you are having a fab day wherever you are,

Mol x

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