22 Sept 2011

revision timetabling

Jennifer commented on this post asking about revision timetables so I thought I would do a post geared towards those of us who study or want to study something - be it in their spare time or at university/college/school.

As you can see, I write my exams into my Filofax (this was back in January before my fling with the Moleskine) when I had two exams in three days (one on the Tuesday and the other on the Thursday). So the first tip is: write when your exam(s) are (if you have any), what time they are and also where. This must be the first thing you do - as it really reaffirms (in your mind, at least) that the exam is in the near future - near enough for you to write in your diary! Sometimes, you are also given a seating plan (I know I am for mine) so checking beforehand where you're sat can reduce panic on the day if you fail to find your seat. Luckily, I just follow my friend who is straight after me on the year list so I give him the responsibility of finding where we're sat.

Next, you'll notice that I wrote on each day not only what module I should be revising, but also what part of that module. I know it says 'PB everything' but on the previous week, it said things like 'PB NMR' or 'PB Mass Spec'. So the second tip is: work out what you need to revise for the exam. I'm lucky in that most of my exams can be selectively revised for in that I can choose what questions to answer. If this is the case for you, your task would be to also work out what you want to revise - as you'll do best on the questions relating to topics you're most interested in.

Once you've got the two most important bits sorted out, the next is to work out your 'body timetable'. Now, for me, I feel sleepy every single day (without fail) around 1:30pm-3pm and so, when it came to revision, I either avoided revising at this time at all or I did some light reading instead - such as reading a journal article about a related subject or reading a fictional novel. So work out what time of day is best for you. If you find that the best time for you to revise is 3am, it may be best to try and alter your sleeping pattern a little as I had friends who pulled 'all nighters' before an exam and came out of it feeling worse for wear! Needless to say, they didn't do as well as they hoped. Another way to combat your 'sleepy time' is to drink a cup of coffee or suck on a very strong mint. I find the Trebor XXX mints quite good.

After this, figure out how long your attention span is. I can work at a decent rate for at least two hours straight without a break. I know some people say you should work for an hour then take a ten minute break, or whatever, but I find that an hour for me is too short. I get so little done and by the time my brain is working at its best, I'm due to take a break!

Now that you've got all that done, your revision timetable can be devised. Stick to a certain routine with regards to waking up time and sleeping time. I tend to wake up at 8am for a 9am start to revision and then I go to bed at half 10 at night. I can actually function on eight hours of sleep but I'd rather play it safe for those nights where you can't fall asleep instantly.

Obviously, other advice (which can be useful) for revision is:
- to clear your desk (one that works wonders for me as it means less distractions!)
- work out if you need total silence or can bear a little noise
- and figuring out whether you learn better from writing things over and over again or need to use the a diagrammatical or pictorial aid. There is no shame in either method, or any method for that matter but I find that a mixture of both works well for me. As does colour.

I hope this has helped a little but this is basically the way I go about making a revision timetable. It has worked well for me thus far but of course, the main thing is sticking to a timetable and discipline :-)

19 Sept 2011

happiness project / / update #2

So, as you may remember, for August, I did a month of daily goals. These goals ranged from just baking a cake to reading a chapter of a book. For most of the goals, I succeeded – particularly the baking, watch x and y and volunteering but the ones I commonly failed on were ‘read a chapter of z’ where z would be a book I misplaced on a regular basis!

For September 2011, my overall motto is to ‘be more organised’. I’m moving back into hall accommodation in the last week as a re-applicant so I’ll help look after the freshers and stuff so I need to work out what to pack and what to send. I usually overpack so I’m going to try and pack less – remember my minimalist project! The picture above is just one draft (I know what you're thinking... draft?! Of a list?!) of my packing list but I need to whittle it down further as what you can't see overleaf is a list of the clothes I want to take - and that would take up two suitcases alone.

I also need to prepare for three entrance exams for my post graduate study application of medicine. I’ve decided against a gap year post graduation and have opted to go straight into study if possible. After all, I’ve enjoyed these two months of work experience so much – I want to get my teeth into a medicine degree ASAP!

So, it’s going to be a busy month full of organisational orientated projects. After all, this is what my packing list looks like and it is pretty long! Too long to take with me within a day, even with the help of my mum; so it needs whittling down.

I’m also going to draw up a revision timetable schedule that should be able to be applied generally so that I don’t need to make another one each time I revise for a new module. 

Hopefully, with this challenge, I will gain happiness by regaining more control of my time and life. At least, that's the gist of my September goal.

16 Sept 2011

my favourite scents...

...match my Vintage Rose Finchley!

my favourite scent

I sprayed this onto one of those cards you get from department stores and waved it around for a bit to sniff it’s true scent. After this, I put it into my pocket and the smell followed me round for the whole afternoon and it really is a pleasant smell. It’s not overpowering, nor is it underwhelming and the fragrance really does smell fresh and girly – not the mention the fact that it really does last, but this may be due to the fact that I sprayed the Eau de Parfum variety.

With this experience, I decided to purchase Eau de Parfum and I’m really glad I did. It’s fast becoming my new favourite scent as it lasts the whole day (two squirts does the trick – once at the neck and once on the wrist) and I often wake up the next morning still smelling faintly of it. And, I shower really thoroughly – trust me! I’m starting to believe that this will be my new signature scent.

I’ve been using Marc Jacobs Daisy for the last three years now and I love it. It’s nice and girly – exactly the way I dress and as a result, it suits my dress sense. However, with the release of Eau so Fresh this summer, I dragged myself down to my nearest department store and sprayed it onto a card. The card you see here incidentally. Anyway, this made my Moleskine smell so cute, that I had to purchase it. It’s an Eau de Toilette so it doesn’t last as long as my Chloe perfume but it’s perfect for those hot summer days where you want a light perfume that isn’t overpowering with the heat and humidity. It’s sweeter in terms of smell than the original Daisy but for me, I actually prefer it. Both variants actually last for about the same amount of time and a top up of the fragrance may be necessary later on in the day.

I actually use Miss Dior Cherie too but that’s currently in London (and I’m at home with my parents at the moment) and is a nice, more ‘mature’ fragrance for a grown up rather than a young girly girl – something that I think Eau So Fresh is more geared towards.

As you can see, my favourite perfumes are pink – whether it’s the bottle or the actual fragrance I don’t know. Either way, all I know is that it suits my Vintage Rose Finchley – something I’m trying to use once again.

10 Sept 2011

the cutest notebook ever...

...and it's not mine! Well, anymore. Last month, it was my sister's birthday and as you all know, I placed an order on Artbox for two diaries which I reviewed also: here and here. In this order, there was also a few presents and this is one of them: a cute notebook. And I had present envy when I gave it to her, too.

Anyway, isn't this the cutest notebook ever?

I don't think she has started using it yet so I can't comment on the paper quality, but the exterior just looks so cute and if I had it, personally, I wouldn't want to use it!

Do you have any stationery that you just don't want to use as it is cute/expensive/whatever else?

8 Sept 2011

help, i miss my filofax!

"Which one?" I may hear you ask but I mean my Vintage Rose Finchley.

For this reason, I'm looking for a way to incorporate my beloved Vintage Rose back into my life. The only thing I can think of is to use it as a 'food diary' but a Filofax deserves better treatment than that! Shall I use it as my desk diary? So, I'll have a smaller planner to lug around with me but a very nice Filofax sitting on my desk, wide open?

Any suggestions?

After all, as a girly girl, I need to have a girly accessory in my life - and this Vintage Rose fits the bill nicely.

5 Sept 2011

preparing for my final year / / part one

So far, in preparation for my final year of my bachelors degree, I have done the following:

I have chosen what diary to use when my Moleskine runs out (read: when 2012 commences). This is one of the two that I ordered from Artbox back in this post. This diary was chosen instead of the other one because it has a plastic cover - a detail I love as it adds protection to such a pretty little planner. I may use the other one as a food diary or something too.

I've 'dated' the monthly pages already for 2012. I used fountain pen and the paper is of a fairly high quality - high enough so that no bleeding is present when I used Parker ink and also no show through! Winner.

On the inside cover, I've stuck this sticky note to remind myself of what the left and right hand side of the weekly pages are for. You'll see why in a second...

You'll note that the boxes for each day is quite small which explains why I've separated the use of the left and right hand sides.

At the back, there are quite a few pages for lists - ideal as I can make lists for coursework assignments, shopping, life admin, etc. Plus, I love making lists so pre-made list pages are a bonus in this planner!


Finally, my mum saw these pads on sale for half price in Tesco and as a result, she literally cleared the stock. (When I say literally...I mean, literally!). It's because she knows how I rave on and on about how good the paper is and she's trying to help me minimise the need to spend next year as I'm not getting much from the loans company - and whatever I am getting will go purely towards my accomodation. This means I'll be digging into my own savings and will have to plan my spends carefully!
Anyway, hope you've enjoyed this part of my preparation. Part II (and maybe III) will entail my packing woes (as I always overpack and then end up not having enough space for essentials) and also budgeting matters.

2 Sept 2011

guest post / / time-management

Today's post is from Amanda at Paper Pens Ink; a blog whose name links together what I love so much about stationery (which also includes pretty colours of course if you hadn't already noticed). Anyway, Amanda does so much with her time - I wanted to learn more about efficient time management as I thought I was good - but no, Amanda is better (she juggles so many things, I'm in awe!) and I'll definitely be taking pointers from her post about it; and if you had any sense, you would too ;)

- - -

When I offered to do a post for Angela, I gave her a list of the things that I do (to see what she would like me to write about). Her response was to ask how I managed to do all the things I do and asked me to write about my time-management. So, here goes! I do not profess to be an expert (far from it!); I just do my best (and my parents always told me that as long as I had done my best, people couldn’t ask for more).

I am not a magician (or Doctor Who or a physicist) and I cannot manage time. I can manage what I do with my time, but I cannot actually change the laws of physics! Assuming you are equally ill-equipped to warp the space-time continuum, but still have stuff to do and time available and somehow have to marry them up… let me share some of the tips and tricks I have acquired along the way of my life.

One thing I have always found is that I cannot hope to manage any to-do list unless I have a clear idea about what the whole of that to-do list looks like. Some people have one giant to-do list with everything from the entirety of their life on it, ready to be crossed off. Others have a multitude of lists – one for each area they want to achieve something in. I currently tend to fall into the last camp, but have also happily resided in the former for great swathes of my life! What my list(s) look like has always been less important than what I have done with them. I don’t manage time so much as I try to manage tasks.

“Hang on,” some of you might be saying, “How do we get to that list?”
[if you already have a massive list, skip ahead. If you always feel at sea and like you miss important things, stay with me?]

A few months ago, I was completely adrift and knew that there were huge holes in my time/task-management ‘plan’. Work-related tasks were going just fine, but the rest of my life… hmm. Not so good.
So, I sat down with a big sheet of paper, wrote ‘ME’ in the middle and enclosed the word in a wiggly-line cloud. Then, radiating out from that cloud, I wrote out the different areas of my life: work, hobbies, relationships, etc. In each of those areas I wrote out my goals. Now, I am a really visual-coding kind of person and so I gave each area its own colour, but each to their own! Colour-coding works for me so I can see whether my week is balanced or not.

Now, many a time/task manager will tell you a goal is just a dream without some plans! The goals were where I wanted to get to. Just writing them out wasn’t going to get me there. Working out key steps along the way was needed, just like if I was planning a car journey I would need to know what towns etc I would be going through before reaching my destination.

Goals to key steps/projects

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a first step” – Lao Tzu

With key steps towards my goals organised, the whole planning side of achieving the goal became easier to manage. Key steps got broken down into ‘what do I have to do next’, and each key step had an ‘estimated time to complete’ added to it (some turned out to be pretty realistic, other wildly impossible, but, you live and learn!). I also shifted away from vagueness (sort out the garden shed) and started being more specific (empty the shelving on the left side of the shed and take all the empty tins of paint to the recycling place). My lists were starting to look much more achievable as I realised what I was supposed to be doing. I also run a ‘don’t forget’ list that has all the other stuff I need to do that don’t add up to achieving my goals (e.g., pick up the dry-cleaning; buy stamps). I keep all these lists of goals to key steps to next actions, plus my don’t forget list behind a tab in my filofax, just ahead of my diary.

Key steps to next action list (with estimated time to complete)

Okay, many of you have these lists. Is there a key to fitting all these things into so little time? What do I do to get as much out of the day as I can?

Well, I choose my priorities. I once did an exercise where I had to put all the areas of my life (other than work) in order of priority and say what proportion of my spare (non-work) time I wanted to spend on them. I then had to record, for a week, what I actually spent my time on. Unsurprisingly, they did not match!

According to how I had spent my time, my major priority in life was watching TV, closely followed by browsing aimlessly online and playing Tetris. No wonder I didn’t achieve my goals!

It was clear to me that spending time with friends was more important than watching Friends; writing a blog post was at least as important as reading others. I needed to realign my priorities.

What I do, each week, (almost) without fail, is to book an appointment with myself. I go through all my lists of things that need doing and decide where in my ‘spare’ time they are getting done. Sometimes, that’s just allocating a day to it; sometimes that’s allocating a specific time-slot too.

An example of my weekly list (using scrap filofax pages!)
Colour-coded tasks, plus stuff from ‘Don’t forget’

I keep a filofax with two sets of diary pages in it – a week to view where appointments go (so I have an overview of the week) and a day to page where my day-planning goes. Appointments get transferred from the weekly pages to the daily pages during my planning session. If you work more electronically, you don’t need to do that transfer, just switch views from week to day. Colour-coding my tasks makes sure that time spent on areas reflects the priority they have.

Day-plan, colour-coded to areas and with a list from ‘Don’t forget’ allocated too
Some time-management gurus will say that you shouldn’t allocate specific time to a task in case you get it wrong. I’ve tried that but just putting a list of ‘things to do today’ on my daily schedule usually means I overload myself. I also like to see the size of colour blocks so that I can see where I am spending my time.

Anyway, that’s how I fit my ‘things to do’ into my available time. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this and I would love to hear what tips and tricks you all have.

1 Sept 2011

a year as a minimalist / / part five


This ties in with the previous part in which you have to figure out your income and essential spends. Then the next step is to figure out other outgoings such as the weekly grocery shop which may differ in how much is spent each week.

After all this, any extra money can be put into a savings account with a decent interest rate. My aim is to save £2,500 throughout the next twelve months from September 2011. This equates to £48 a week which might be possible if I factor in the money and vouchers I make from survey sites I'm a part of and if I scrimp a bit more on grocery shops. Obviously, I'll have the ocassional treat too - one of which is a goal to eat out once a month (made possible by a Taste card I have - free from the Carphone Warehouse of course, not bought!). This goal to eat out once a month ties in with my Happiness Project.

P.S. It starts today! As does my spend monitoring via the use of self-made spreadsheets!