2016 is now upon us, and students up and down the country are slowly waking from their post Christmas break slumber and getting ready for the second semester of the academic year. The dawn of a new year tends to see many of us resolving to make certain changes in our lives over the course of the next 365 days. We may be almost two weeks into the new year already, but it’s still the perfect opportunity to make 2016 your best year yet.
Some of the most common resolutions made at the start of the year are to lose weight, get fit, and be better with money. These are all worthy of being on anyone’s list, but as a student there are a number of equally vital resolutions that you should be making. So without further ado, here are our top ten New Year’s resolutions for students...
- Be more organised
- stop procrastinating
- Join more clubs and societies
- cut down on socialising
- Spend less money
- limit your use of social media
- cut down on tv
- keep on top of housework
- get fitter
- eat healthier
Proper organisation is the key to most things in life, but it’s particularly useful for a student who is trying to juggle lectures and coursework with a part time job and running a house. Here are some great ways that you can add a little more organisation to your life:
- Write up clear notes after each lecture.
- Do the set reading before the seminar.
- Label and organise your notes to make revision easier.
- Allow plenty of time for sourcing textbooks.
- Plan your meals weekly and do a big supermarket shop online.
- Spend a Sunday afternoon preparing meals for your freezer for quick eats during the week.
- Use a calendar app to help you manage deadlines for coursework, rent, and bills, as well as planning your social life too, obviously!
- Keep your room tidy so that you can find what you need quickly.
We’ve all been there; your deadline is looming ever nearer, and you know that you have to get this essay finished, yet somehow you’ve spent the last four hours on YouTube watching videos of cats being afraid of cucumbers... The first step in tackling your procrastination problem is to identify what your go-to thing is when you start wasting valuable essay-writing time. Are you a Facebook fiend? Hooked on Netflix? A bookworm who will read literally anything apart from the course texts?
Another question worth asking yourself is: “why am I procrastinating so much?” Is it because you’re struggling with the subject of your essay? Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do and you’re finding it hard to focus properly?
Understanding why and how you procrastinate is the first step in putting a stop to your time-wasting, unproductive habits. If you spend too much time on social media why not consider deactivating your accounts, or at least logging out fully from the apps, when you have a big deadline due? If you regularly binge-watch shows on Netflix on your laptop, why not use the computers at the library to type up your essay instead, that way you won’t be distracted by Breaking Bad or Jessica Jones when your dissertation is due.
If you’re already an active member of several university clubs, then keep up the good work! If, however, you’ve got some free time on your hands after lectures then you should definitely think about joining a few clubs. Societies and clubs on campus are designed to allow you to indulge in a hobby, learn more about something, or provide you with something useful to put on your CV, plus they’re a great place to meet likeminded students and increase your social circle.
If you’re on a journalism course or interested in any aspect of the media then getting involved with the university radio station or newspaper is a good idea. You can include it on your CV to show potential employers that you have working experience in the media industry despite being a new graduate, which may well set you apart from all the other graduates applying for the same position!
Other worthy clubs and societies to join include those where you can give something back to the local and wider community; or those where you can get involved in fundraising for a nominated charity. Sports teams and fitness clubs are also good choices as they’ll help you to take care of yourself and provide you with an outlet for stress!
The bars and clubs on and around campus tend to offer low prices and great deals on alcohol, so it can be very tempting for students to go out partying seven nights a week if they want to! However, whilst the social aspect of university life is fun, you need to remember that ultimately you are there to learn and develop in order to carve yourself out a successful career after graduation. Also, you’re probably racking up the debt of a Third World country just to be there too, so don’t blow it for the sake of a few too many nights out.
We’re not saying you have to become a hermit who lives in the library 24/7, only emerging to eat and sleep occasionally; but it’s important to try and choose your nights out wisely. Celebrating friends’ birthdays, letting your hair down after handing in an assignment, or limiting your socialising just to the weekend can help to prevent you from burning the candle at both ends.
Not only does too much partying take its toll on your physical and emotional health, it also takes its toll on your bank balance. Learning to say no to social invitations will help you to be more frugal with money, as well as helping you to meet deadlines and achieve the grades that you deserve.
When that student loan lands in your bank account you suddenly feel like a millionaire! It’s almost like free money to spend as you wish, and for a few days you’ll probably live like a king. £20 on a takeaway? No problem! Shopping spree in Topshop? Why not! But it’s important to remember that you loan won’t last forever, and you will have to pay it back.
It may seem like a lot of money when you first receive your loan, but unfortunately it needs to be spread rather thinly throughout the year. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and stop your finances from being a source of worry:
- Draw up a budget of all your essential outgoings each week/month – remember to include rent, bills, food, travel expenses, socialising, your phone contract, and any direct debits or standing orders.
- Don’t forget to allocate enough money for any course materials that you may need throughout the coming year.
- Do your food shopping online and buy things like pasta and rice in bulk as they are often cheaper that way. Considering doing a joint shop with your housemates and splitting the cost of the delivery.
- If online shopping isn’t for you, try to buy things like fruit and veg from a local market, and make use of budget supermarkets like Aldi, Netto, and Lidl.
- Reduce your meat consumption and eat a mainly vegetarian diet; meat is expensive so have it as an occasional treat rather than a daily staple, and pad meals out with vegetables and grains to make them go further.
- Switch your energy supplier to one that is offering a better rate; and aim to cut your energy use by switching off lights, turning the thermostat down slightly, and cooking meals as a household rather than individually.
Smartphones are one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century, but they’ve also made it much easier for us to procrastinate and avoid doing what we should be doing. The ability to access all of our social media accounts easily wherever we are has only served to make us more antisocial! How many times have you been on a night out with friends and chronicled the whole evening in selfies which you instantly upload to Instagram and Facebook? Then after uploading them you keep checking back to see how many ‘likes’ your photos have had.
Those three years as an undergrad will be over before you know it, so stop wasting time on Facebook and concentrate on the faces that are right in front of you! Here’s how you can wean yourself off social media:
- Deactivate your accounts and ask people to sponsor you for staying off Facebook or Twitter for a month – not only will it help you to kick your habit, you’ll also be raising money for charity!
- Don’t think you can do a whole month social-free? Set half an hour aside each day for checking your accounts, and stick to it!
- Use your time more productively – if you’ve got a deadline looming, try switching your phone off so that the temptation to check Facebook isn’t there. Even if you don’t have a deadline to meet, try to spend your free time doing something that will add value to your day, such as reading up on the news, reading a book, enjoying a hobby, or phoning your parents.
Television is yet another way in which students procrastinate, and, unless you’re a media studies student, you shouldn’t really be spending most of your free time binge-watching boxsets and films on Netflix! Yes, watching TV is a good way to relax and switch off after a long day in lectures; but it’s all too easy to adopt the ‘just one more episode’ mindset, and before you know it you’ve watched all of Firefly and your dissertation is nowhere nearer to being done.
The beauty of subscription services like Netflix and Amazon’s Prime TV is that the shows aren’t going anywhere. Whether you watch them right now, or after handing in your essay, you’re not missing out on anything. Investing in a Freeview box that records TV shows, or a Sky+ or Tivo box is another way to ensure that you never miss your favourite shows and can still meet your deadlines.
Students are renowned for having some of the messiest living quarters known to man. With all that studying and partying, who has time to clean the toilet regularly too? Living in a clean and tidy home can help to aid your concentration, prevent you using cleaning as procrastination, and it’s better for your health if there are fewer places for bacteria to grow!
Keeping your bedroom and the communal areas clean and tidy is really not as hard as you think:
- At the start of each semester spend a day cleaning, tidying, and organising everything to start you off on the right path for the rest of the semester.
- Sit down with your housemates and draw up a monthly cleaning rota; this way the bathroom, kitchen, and living room will stay clean but it’s not just one person doing everything.
- Keep on top of cleanliness by making sure you wash up after yourself when you’ve prepared food, and put everything back in the drawers and cupboards so that it’s readily available for the next person.
- Do one cleaning task in your room each day; e.g. empty your bin on a Monday, fold your laundry on a Tuesday, vacuum the carpet on a Wednesday etc. This way it won’t all build up into an impossible task that you keep putting off for weeks!
This is at the top of most peoples’ lists of New Year’s resolutions, but it’s quite a good one to have on there for a student. All of those late nights studying or partying can take their toll on your body, causing your energy levels to drop when you need them most. Taking regular exercise helps you to sleep better, keeps your heart working properly, and improves your circulation; all of which can help you to feel more awake and energetic during the day.
Many university campuses provide low-cost gym facilities on site for students to use, but if the gym isn’t for you, here are a few other ways in which you can get fit:
- Walk or cycle to lectures instead of taking the bus. Walking is an excellent weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise which won’t cost you a penny! It helps to promote strong bones, improves your circulation, and strengthens your heart, helping you to cope with the stresses and strains of university life.
- Join a sports club on campus. Even if you’re not particularly athletic, you should still find that your university offers various sports clubs for beginners, allowing you to get fit, have fun, and meet new people.
- Take up yoga or pilates. There are tonnes of videos and tutorials online, so all you’ll need is a yoga mat and some comfortable clothing and you can practice yoga in the comfort of your bedroom for free.
This tends to go hand in hand with getting fitter for most people, so it warrants a spot in our list of New Year’s resolutions for students. It can be difficult to eat healthily on such a tight budget, but it is doable! Being a student doesn’t have to mean living off ramen noodles for three years; we’ve got a few great tips to help you eat a healthier diet without breaking the bank:
- Start your day right: Starting your day with a good breakfast of slow-release carbs sets you up perfectly for a day of lectures. A 1kg bag of porridge oats will set you back around 80p in most supermarkets; mix 50g with around 350ml of milk or water, and microwave on high for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. Top with your favourite tinned fruit, and enjoy! Or how about overnight oats to grab and go in the morning? Mix 50g oats, 100g yoghurt, and 100ml milk in a tub and leave in the fridge overnight; the oats will plump up and make a tasty, filling cold breakfast!
- Eat a balanced lunch: Opt for more healthy carbs at lunchtime like a jacket potato topped with beans and grated cheese, or get a good protein hit with a homemade egg mayo sandwich. Leftovers from the night before also make a great lunch option with minimal fuss!
- Make pasta work for you: Pasta is a cheap and versatile food, and is a staple for most students. Make your own tomato sauce by frying a couple of chopped onions in some oil until soft, add a couple of cloves of garlic and fry for a minute. Then add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a splash of balsamic or white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, and some basil; simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced a little, then serve it chunky or blend it up.
- Make your own soup: Making your own soup from seasonal vegetables is another way to eat healthily on a tight budget. A good base for a soup is to fry a chopped onion and some garlic until soft and aromatic, add in some flavouring such as curry powder, and then add in chopped carrots, leek, cauliflower, parsnips, swede, potatoes etc – whatever takes your fancy. Fill the pan with vegetable stock so that all the veg is covered, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, then blend and serve. You can even add in a cup of red lentils for extra protein, making your soup really filling and tasty!
- Make good use of your freezer: Soups, pasta sauces, leftovers etc can all be frozen, so invest in some plastic tubs and freezer bags. Bread also freezes really well, and can be toasted straight from frozen, or split into slices and thawed on the worktop for 20 minutes before using.
Happy New Year! 2016 is upon us, and, being a leap year, it provides 366 days to get organised, tick things off your bucket list, lose weight, get fit, and whatever else you resolve to do!