Advice from a Student: Assignments

Bonus tip: study in the university library. Photo by Abby Williams.

Having recently returned to university for my second year of study, I’ve been regaining the momentum I need to face assignments, meet deadlines, and hopefully, earn good marks.

Assessment pieces naturally appear daunting at first glance, but these are three of my favourite approaches to managing the work load and persisting with confidence.

1. Take small, steady steps

Straight up, let me introduce you to an app called Forest.

When you’ve got an assignment so overwhelming that you sit there cowering instead of actually doing it, this wonderful app allows you to set a sort of ‘productivity timer’ for as little as ten minutes.

The idea is that, for those ten minutes, you are committed to working on your assignment. Give the piece a title. Put together a rough outline. Write a handful of ideas, and perhaps even a sentence or two. When the timer goes off, that’s ten minutes of work you’ve accomplished.

What generally happens at this point is that your mind comes to life and you find yourself setting the timer again, for perhaps 30 minutes, to turn your two sentences into a short paragraph. Half an hour later, you set it again, because the idea you started in the first paragraph can easily flow into the second. Before you know it, you’ve finished your first draft.

2. Weave passion into your work

One of my favourite things about studying journalism is that you’re often at liberty to align your assignments with topics that actually interest you.

I’m currently brainstorming ideas for a feature article for my long-form journalism class. It’s proving to be difficult, as it can take the form of an investigative piece, a travel piece, or anything in between.

Indecision is a wonderful problem to have in this situation. When you can write about anything, there’s absolutely no excuse not to pursue something that you’re passionate about. When there is passion behind your work, it seeps through into your words. Not only does this make your assessment a whole lot easier to focus on, it makes your work shine.

3. Think Creatively

Creative thinking might point you in the right direction when it comes to assignment-related decisions, but its real power is evident as you look for ways to go about producing it.

Last year, for a class on digital media production, I had to create a bite-sized podcast and a short video, which could be about whatever I wanted, so long as it was well-edited and featured my own voice.

I had friends telling me that spending a day at the airport with a bag of recording equipment was a creative idea. Perhaps it was, however I would argue that the most creative part of the operation was ending up in a hotel near the airport (long story), dismantling the sofa, and creating a pillow fort between two queen size beds, to serve as a recording studio.

Often, when you approach assignments with creativity, you tend to actually enjoy them.

You’ve got this

Whether you’re new to academia, or a continuing student like me, you know what it is to be overwhelmed. This is simply a handful of methods that helped me through my first year at university, but take time to understand what works best for you.

And finally, never underestimate yourself. You’ve got this.

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