Nele Wessels, MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management 2020-21 2020-21, student at Imperial College Business School

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Every student knows it's coming and every year it happens again – exam period. It seems like a never-ending story and every year it hits you like a wrecking ball - completely unexpected of course. Exhausted? Lost? Stressed? I feel you – but this year it’s going to be different! I promise.

Ever heard of LAMP listing, Tetris blocking or the Wellness Wheel? Well, here are my top tips to get you through this busy phase in an organised and feel-good way without sacrificing yourself or your friends. It certainly helps me stay on track on the MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management programme.

1. Sleep

Although it is one of the most difficult things to follow, sleep is key. Get the recommended hours a day and you will feel refreshed as if you have just returned from a spa weekend. Everybody is different, some people are most effective at night time, others early in the morning – listen to your body and find your time but be disciplined. Try to establish routines that your body can adapt to.

2. Eat well

Did you know that omega 3 fats can improve your learning and memory? Or that avocados can help reduce stress? Not to forget that dark chocolate and cocoa can boost your mood and enhance memory function as well?

As you can see there are a few levers that you can use to enhance your performance. Apart from that, you can also make food the highlight of the day or week, by finding an evening to cook with your friends or family or use the Sunday to treat yourself with a nice brunch at your favourite café (or delivery in bed in case of COVID restrictions).

3. Study

Studies show that the brain can only focus roughly six hours per day. Well, we all know that the closer it gets to a deadline, the more hours we suddenly find ourselves stuck to our desks. But is that always effective? Often we can get lost along the way and don’t know what to prioritise when it all comes crashing down.

One method to structure your week by is Tetris blocking. Never heard of it? Simply structure your day by blocking hours for every topic you have on your desk. Your calendar might end up looking like a fully filled out Tetris game and that’s just what you want.

By blocking it with personal events or assignments you make sure that nothing is missed. Make sure you take sufficient breaks every now and then: go out, breathe fresh air, run around the block! Lastly, include time you need per day for any unexpected events or administrative work that could distract you from your core work.

4. Work

Whether you are founding your own startup or applying for jobs, it can seem like running a marathon at times, especially when executed simultaneously with university studies. The key here again is to structure your process. In case you are planning to apply to different companies or looking for investors, set yourself a LAMP list – the acronym for List, i.e. name of the company, Alumni, Motivation, Posting – and write down 20 companies that you are interested in.

Then, apply and wait for responses. Sometimes all interviews or startup events happen to be at the same time, so you feel like there’s no time to breathe. I gotcha. But, keep in mind that you can’t always tackle too many challenges at the same time and that is OK. Don’t be too hard on yourself but instead ask: What do I get out of this and does that add value towards achieving my overall goal? If it doesn’t: skip and prioritise, you have better things to do.    

5. Rewards

Yes, we need rewards. They are not only a great motivator, but also increase self-esteem. Whether it is planning ahead for a spa day, a cinema night or an afternoon shopping. The choice is yours! Set yourself rewards every week to keep yourself motivated.

This can also take the form of self-hugs – I know it sounds a bit weird and in the beginning, it may even feel that way, but giving yourself a hug is a method used in psychology in order to imitate the presence or reward of somebody else. Often you will find yourself alone while studying, but giving yourself a hug now and then, can help to boost wellbeing and reduce overall stress.

6. You-time

Ever heard of the Wellness Wheel? Well, with the help of it you will be able to better balance your life and increase overall wellbeing.

It consists of seven categories, emotional, physical, environmental, financial, social, intellectual and spiritual and makes you reflect on each of the dimensions in your life in order to improve the overall balance. Truly analyse yourself and your current situation. One of the things most of us forget during stressful times is time for ourselves and to reflect on ourselves.

However, it is probably one of the most important things to keep track of. My tip is to block a minimum of one hour per day just for yourself.

Whether that means doing one hour of yoga or jogging in the morning before you start off your day (try it out you’ll feel energised) or you take that hour to meditate – it’s up to you! The most important thing is that you do it.

7. Socialising

Yes, we tend to sacrifice our social lives once under stress. However, we must not forget that friends can help you to de-stress. Taking a break from your studies every now and then and meeting with your friends or family for a coffee or a pizza night will help you boost your mental health a lot.

8. Social Media

The hardest one to resist, right? On average you are distracted 40min per day by the buzzing and beeping of WhatsApp, Instagram and co. Did you know that it takes roughly 25min to get refocused once you have been distracted? I guess we don’t have to do the maths here to see that it takes a huge chunk of your day.

Why don’t you try to shut down your phone for the 6 hours that you really can focus? Put it in the wardrobe, underneath the bed or ask your family to keep it for you in a secret place. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that really helps.

9. Repeat

I guess this is self-explanatory. Make sure you get a routine with everything you do, and you will feel less confused and stressed after all. Lastly, don’t forget to smile, laugh and strike a power pose every now and then as this helps to relieve tension and stress tremendously and gets you motivated for the steps ahead. 

 

Nele Wessels, MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management 2020-21, student at Imperial College Business School

About Nele Wessels

MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management