A university retrospective

I recently finished up with university. I learned a few things on the way. This blog post will discuss a few things I wish I knew when I started university.

Set boundaries between work and personal life

In early 2019, I learned the hard way what happens if you don’t balance your work and personal life. In the midst of many pieces of coursework being due and exams to revise for, I burned out. I just about managed to get myself through the year, but it left a lasting impression of me.

Make sure that you take regular breaks throughout the day. Look at something like the Pomodoro timer technique to keep track of when you need to take breaks. I use Forest to keep track of pomodoros, which also gameifies the process.

Set clear boundaries for your work within a day. A proactive step is to treat each weekday as a 9 to 5. Outside of these hours, avoid work. Try to avoid working weekends if absolutely possible. If you can’t, then try to minimise the amount of work that you do on weekends.

A good video explaining the reasoning behind this is Matt D’Avella’s video on the deep break .

Only write down in lectures what isn’t mentioned in the material

When you are attending lectures, it is in your interest to be paying attention. By writing down every last thing that your lecturer is saying, you are losing valuable time paying attention to their lecture. Specifically, they may cover something not mentioned in any of the notes. I found that only making notes of what is not mentioned in the material is not only better for paying attention in lectures, but also better for getting a greater understanding the material.

Spaced repetition will save your skin

The sub-heading doesn’t really do spaced repetition enough justice. Using flashcards with spaced repetition will save your bacon.

Don’t fall into the trap of writing lecture notes, forgetting about them until exam season, and then hurridly re-learning them. Instead, take the lecture notes and turn them into flashcards. Flashcards with spaced repetition will ensure that you are able to clearly remember the key facts for examinations.

The classic way of creating flashcards with spaced repetition is Anki . There are so many resources available on the Web for how to properly make flashcards. I prefer the web comic by Nicky Case entitled How To Remember Anything Forever-ish . Piotr Wozniak’s article on flashcard rules gives a good idea of how to best structure your flashcards to get the most out of them with spaced repetition.

Get out of your comfort zone

University is probably your last chance to get involved something a bit “weird and wacky”. Get out of your comfort zone and get involved in something you normally wouldn’t. Intramural sports are a great way to keep active and make friends without having the commitment of intensive training regimes. Union representation is a great way to network with lecturers in your department. You could even go all the way and become a sabbatical officer, though you should heed the warning of Tom Scott . Last but not least, there are bound to be dozens of societies that you can get involved in.