Welcome back everyone! Let’s finish 2023 strong. This post contains a couple pieces of simple end-of-year advice, but its real purpose is just a verbal ‘high five’ as we all gear up for the final sprint to the finish line.
Hope you had a refreshing/productive/enjoyable/relaxing mid-semester break. I say that but I caught up with a few students in the Be Well Plan last week and they told me they had spent the bulk of the break working or catching up on study. That can be the reality for many with the demands of modern life.
Whether you got to take a break, or it was business as usual, right not, this is it – the sprint to the finish line 🏃🏼♂️ Those final few weeks (approximately 4) before assignments are due and exams and then the end of 2023.
Students face varying challenges in this last part of the year. For some it is preparing for exams. For others it is getting final assignments due. For those mid-PhD, it is meeting those self-imposed deadlines. Regardless, we are all trying to get things done before the year ends, and often juggling an enormous range of other activities at the same time.
So, let’s see if we can finish 2023 with a bang. Well, more the fireworks 🎆 kind of bang, versus the head exploding from stress type.
I have a relatively packed schedule leading up to the end of the year. I have a conference to attend, presentations to write and give, a behaviour change course to build, a Be Well Plan to deliver, a wellbeing website to consult on, and a writing for wellbeing workshop to finalise. I hit this time of year with energy levels intact but a little mentally scattered. If you see me walking around the hub mumbling to myself, just know that is my process 🤪
A key factor for me in sustaining my energy levels until Christmas will be the discipline to sustain healthy habits. This includes 10,000 steps per day, strict wake and sleep times, and good nutrition. I am also trying to regularly get my head out of my own arse and attend to the people in my life to see what they might need. This bit doesn’t come naturally, so requires some discipline.
“Discipline” is a strange beast. In theory it is pretty simple – it is just clearly defining what we need to do and sitting down each day to nibble away at it. But it isn’t always easy in practice. So many things can throw us off the path: unexpected events, fatigue, strong emotions, powerful distractors, boredom, loss of confidence, setbacks.
So I have a few pieces of advice.
➡ First, try to find 1 or 2 simple activities that you can easily use daily to downshift. When I am at work, I use short 10-minute walks. When I am at home, I use simple garden tasks. But there are many things you could do (see the diagram). These might only take a few minutes, but they give your nervous system a chance to rest. Use them to break up periods of focused work.
➡ Second, where possible, protect your existing self-care and wellbeing behaviours. These are often the first things we abandon (to free up some time) but their absence ultimately saps our energy levels and we end up losing time to fatigue. So, protect your sleep, your exercise, healthy meals and your social engagements. Keep as much richness in your life as possible, even in the face of allocating significant time to studies. These activities often provide the energy required to do the hard work. If you need to adjust them in the face of increased study or work demands, that is OK. Just keep actively engaged with the foundational activities of sustaining a healthy body and mind.
➡ Third, if appropriate, head onto campus. I’ve had a number of students tell me recently that coming on campus each day, even if they don’t have lectures or tutorials, means they get much more work done than sitting at home. As the weather warms up and the campus comes alive, you will be able to get energy from the presence of others, even if you are just set up in the library doing some reading, note-taking or listening to lectures.
➡ Fourth, utilise support services as needed, but also proactively. If you haven’t been taking advantage of the Student Learning Support Service’s different resources and programs, now might be a good time to start. I am thinking particularly of Studiosity and the Learning Lounge where you can get feedback on your writing and assignments. Now is not the time to delay on getting support if you need it. See the Support and Services Directory to see who you might need to talk to for the challenge you are facing.
➡ Fifth, use evidence-based study and exam preparation strategies. We have our Study and Exam preparation tips document, which remains packed full of suggestions on honing your study skills. Utilising more efficient and effective study strategies may help you get more done with the time you have available.
Remember that you aren’t alone in the final rush to the finish line. Both students and staff are working their tushies off to get to the end of the year.
And whilst this time of the year is generally super busy and we can easily get lost in the rush of it all, see if you can take a few moments each day, to just enjoy the journey. To acknowledge all the things you have learned and are learning. To notice the movement on campus. To recognise the progress you’ve made in building the next stage of your life. To just be in the moment as we move quickly to the end of the year. It is all too easy to just have our eyes on the prize and miss out on enjoying the many moments that lead up to it.