How To Actually Get Some Work Done During Reading Week

It’s a good life being a Humanities student. Yes, the Humanities building may smell of feet, but we have something that students in the fancy Maths and Stats building lack, yes, it’s the glorious reading week. Apparently it’s intended for Humanities students to catch up with our humongous reading lists and other work but, judging by other’s comments in my first and second year, most people use it as a chance to kick back and relax here at Warwick, at home or even abroad. Before you start grinding your teeth into little nubs jealous STEM students, I’m pretty sure the majority of final year students will try to use their reading week for its intended purpose. There may even be some first and second years trying to kill me with shock and trying out this novel approach. Regardless, how does one actually work during reading week? Fear not, for I hopefully have all the answers to make your reading week a productive one.

First of all, we’re going to try to be organised and make a timetable. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a simple electronic one will do. However, if you’re like me and enjoy creating a work of art to rival those in the Louvre, please set yourself a time limit so your reading week isn’t spent planning exactly what you’re avoiding. Believe me, the shoddiness of your last minute work will upset you more. The key is to be realistic; parties, family arrangements, coffee dates and work, we have a lot on as students so don’t sabotage yourself by insisting that you’ll work solidly. While doing this and before starting work, be sure to check on any upcoming deadlines or urgent work to avoid last minute unfortunate surprises. Make sure you allot some time for these deadlines and try and be realistic, if you’re not someone who gets up before 9am, it’s probably not going to magically change during reading week. Being ready to work at a decent hour is good and you can adjust the exact times depending on whether you’re a night-owl or an early bird.

Now it’s time to work, being well-rested, well-fed and watered is ideal and try to find a comfortable place for work away from distractions and noise. Although, changing up your usual study space can provide new stimuli to wake up your brain. If the thought of being away from technology makes you twitch, it’s best to put your phone away on the other side of the room or even install website blockers to avoid mindless browsing. Checking your phone or favourite site can be saved for breaks and make sure to include plenty of them to be productive. Techniques like the Pomodoro technique of working for 25 minutes and then working for 5 minutes will let you reunite with the one true love in your life, your phone, in a safe, controlled way.

 

When it comes to your work, play to your strengths. Remember that you’re being smart, better prepared and more sensible than the rest of us lesser mortals by working during reading week, so you’ve got some leeway to be creative. If you like coloured pens, notebooks and drawing as much as I do, organising your notes or creating mind maps and diagrams to stick around your room is great to first learn basic information and then revise it over the next few weeks, while brushing your hair. Future you will love you for it. Auditory and tactile learners can find their own methods too, from thinking about chemical structures with modelling clay, watching YouTube videos, or writing your own story of how impulses travel across a synapse (it got me a great A Level Biology mark).  Sometimes approaching something tricky in a new way is the best method to get it to stick and avoid giving up. I even have friend who will make up his own songs. Of course, there is a time and a place for completing essay questions or summarising ideas from secondary sources, but there are ways to make work feel less mind-numbing and less like, well, work. Even leisure activities can be productive, thinking over the physics of a sport or having a film night with friends and book adaptations can help.

Also, consider when you do certain tasks. Don’t waste your time decluttering your inbox and start with a more important task. Emails can wait until killing time before taking a break to grab lunch with a friend.  Alternatively, I like to switch off all my electronics and head to bed earlier to do some reading every night. The most important thing is to make your working methods and schedule work for you! Don’t be put off by how others do things and don't beat yourself up if a day doesn't go to plan. After all, at least we get to be smug about having a reading week unlike the STEM students.