It’s a new term and for many of us that means several new impossibly long reading lists. But what is the secret to keeping on top of that reading and still finding time to do other things occasionally? Lucy Forsey shares her advice…
As a first-year English student, I haven’t had any exams to worry about over the Christmas holidays. But the amount of reading that needs to be done is just short of making up for the lack of exams. One novel, nine poems, one essay on theory, one short story, three plays and that is all without secondary reading, sounds like a lot. And it is, whilst this only gets more intense as you get in to second and third year! But it is also manageable, and this is how I’ve (kind of) stayed on top of it over the holidays…
- Plan, plan, plan: Make a list! Sounds obvious I know, but it is so hard to lose track of what there is to be done. If you only focus on the primary texts to be read, you can easily over-relax and when you get to finding out about the secondary reading, there is no time left to do it. Prioritise the texts on your list too, and roughly plan the time you will need to read each text, just so you know that there’s a chance you can get it all done. That in itself relaxes you, and the less you stress, the more you are likely to get done!
- Start off in the deep end: Read the longest, deepest and most difficult text first. When you have more time, and you’re more relaxed (so in context of term time, at the beginning of a period before the deadline), read the longest, hardest text first. For instance, start off with the long novel. You can chip away at that, instead of rushing it at the last minute in which case, let’s be honest, you’d sit there and think “I have no idea what is going on here”. Short stories and poems can be read in a day, so leave these kind of texts to the last minute if you have to.
- Condense the jobs: Do secondary reading as you go along. It is tempting not to do secondary reading, oh so tempting… But if you do it as a supplement to the text you’re currently reading (maybe whilst you’re reading the primary text, or immediately after you’ve finished it), then it’s out of the way and you still reap the benefits of reading around the text.
- Don’t burn the candle at both ends: Rest your brain! A mandatory 7 hours of sleep a night is crucial for the brain’s functioning. Students do a lot of thinking, working and stressing, so give yourself time to switch off, or you’ll burn-out! When you reach that stage, reading is impossible and you’ll only fall further behind which isn’t a great feeling.
- Balance the introvert/extrovert you: Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing your degree. It’s easy to shrug off reading, especially as it can be hard to take out time, shut off the outside world and immerse yourself in a book when you have so many other things going on that could distract you. But remember the importance of studying, and especially if you’re English student remember your passion for reading. Tell your mates that you need to read for a few hours so you will be hard to get in contact with, and then just do it. Afterwards comes the time to be an extrovert!
Finally, just remember you can only do your best. You wouldn’t be at Exeter if you weren’t capable of studying to this level!
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