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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

How to survive the last weeks of your dissertation

I know how awful this time last year was for me, after a year of being poorly on and off my dissertation was put to the side so I could finish my other projects (which included running my own event along with a 20,000 word report). It quickly crept up on me and I really struggled. It affected all aspects of my life and not in a good way.

It's too late for me to tell you "Don't leave it until the last minute", "Organise your time effectively", etc. What I can tell you are my tips for how to get the last massive chunk of it done and hopefully with less stress than I went through!

All images taken from Pinterest

1. Firstly get yourself to the library. And go alone. As much as its fun sitting with your friends if you are anything like me you will spend the time looking at what dresses you want to wear to your graduation ball instead of working. Collect your huge pile of books for the day & go to the silent room. If you need some noise upload some house music with no lyrics onto you ipod. This will keep your mind focused on the words in the book not the lyrics in the song.

2. Eat some good things. It was way too easy to stock up on red bull, other fizzy drinks and all kinds sugary treats when you are having a study session. I was eating at really irregular times and was definitely not getting the right nutrition. This leads to a lack on concentration, feeling more tired and worst of all... spots. I have never had a outbreak of spots like I did the last 3 weeks before hand in date and it was not a good look.

3. Sleep. Make sure you try and get eight hours. I always find I work better late at night and would stay in library until way after dark but that was just me. If I went to bed at 3am it wouldn't bother me as I would lay in a little and then get cracking again around lunchtime with a nice 2 hour break (and maybe a little 45 minute nap) around dinner time.

4. Unwind. Make sure when you do have a break you don't just watch TV or stare at another computer screen. Go out for dinner and get some good nutritious food in you. Go to the pub and treat yourself to a cider. Go to the gym. If you leave the environment of where you are studying then it will feel more like you have had a break than if you just put down the laptop to switch on an episode of Friends.

5. Never underestimate how long it will take you to put the dissertation together. Whoever invented the Harvard Referencing System is a douchebag. This will take you ages and I really recommend you do this yourself and not use sites which put them together for you in case it makes a mistake. Contents, appendices and actually formatting take ages.  I only pulled one whole nighter at uni and that was day before my paper had to go to the printers to get all these things done. I was exhausted!

6. Don't panic. I know you will but I took it too far. I made myself very poorly to the point I was worried for myself and had to speak to a Doctor. I was pale, being sick, feel dizzy, biting my tongue so hard in my sleep it left indentations for days and had panic attacks where I couldn't breathe and cried uncontrollably. For someone like me, who sailed through every other aspect at Uni and is pretty fearless and sometimes over confident, this was very scary. Yes I shouldn't have left over half my paper with 3 weeks left to go but I did. Worrying and panicking actually hindered me getting it done earlier as I remember when there were times I would sit and cry in front of my PC for like an hour. An hour which could have been spent typing. I guess it all comes down the the pressure you put on yourself and I didn't want to allow myself to get lower than a 2:1 in anything I handed in, which was stupid as I put my health at risk.

When I handed in my paper the relieve was amazing (although the first thing I did was call in sick to work and sleep after my all nighter) but I was also worried for the grade as we all would be. The day I did receive my grade is a day I'll never forget. I was more proud at that moment than I was at my graduation. The best thing was knowing that all the effort and stress I went through paid off. As it will for all of you.

 At the end of the day, you have had the chance to go to University when so many people in the world don't get the opportunity to have an education, you have made it to your final year which is huge as so many people drop out by this stage and you have actually written a dissertation. Even if you don't get the grade you are after think about these things and feel proud of your accomplishment!

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