author, tips, University, writing

10 Tips To A Successful University Semester

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Oh the grind of University! It’s very different with a child in tow but I find that tips are pretty universal – sometimes you just have to work around a baby!

1. Attend your classes (even if they’re online videos)

It can really suck attending classes, and sometimes the lecturer is the most boring person alive. However, classes are very important to attend. Useful questions are asked and confusing concepts are clarified during classes. It can be hard finding the motivation to attend, especially when your classes are online, but it is incredibly beneficial.

2. Find a quiet spot to study

“Wisdom grows in quiet places.”

Austin O’Malley

This is an essential factor for me. I can’t study when it’s noisy or busy around me. I need a nice, quiet spot to focus my mind and get me into the zone to study. I didn’t think noise or actions around me would be so distracting, but boy they are. A quiet zone is peaceful and perfect study space!

Obviously for me I can’t study while bubba is awake – it’s way too noisy. I try to study while he’s asleep and get a quiet space to study and attend my classes (mainly our study).

3. Finish assessments early

It sounds kind of lame, but finishing assessments early is amazing. Not only do you feel productive, but you also have time to go over those assessments again and revise them. Most people have experienced an all-nighter, I certainly have, but it is incredibly beneficial to spend extra time editing and revising days before an assessment is due.

4. Planning

For me, planning is soothing. I enjoy being able to plan out my day, week and month in advance. It helps me keep track of what I’m doing and when I need to have things done by. It is really helpful to plan out your days or weeks in advance so that you know what you need to do in the week and when you have time to study. It also helps to keep track of assessments and know what is due and when.

5. Take notes, and then re-write said notes

This is something that really works for me in my psychology degree. I take physical notes during classes and then I re-write those notes onto my computer after the classes. I find it’s a good way to revise topics and imprint these concepts into my mind. It helps remind me of what I learnt in the class and I can look up things I didn’t understand while writing out those notes.

6. Take breaks

Breaks are super duper important for productivity! It’s useless to spend hours staring at books or computer screens and continuing to study the same thing over and over. You need to take breaks to rest your mind and your eyes in order to remain productive.

7. Get plenty of sleep

Orange Cat Sleeping on White Bed

On that previous note, sleep is so incredibly important during University! Your body and brain needs sleep to rejuvenate and refresh. You need to get good sleep in order to keep your brain functioning and able to understand new concepts. You also need sleep in order to remain healthy and able to study and attend classes. Lack of sleep leads to lower immune systems and, put bluntly, disaster!

8. Try not to procrastinate

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”

Pablo Picasso

It sounds stupid to say, but sometimes it needs to be said. Procrastination is a useless venture and, I admit, it is a hard habit to overcome. It’s quite easy to become distracted with other things and out off your work until the last minute. It is so important to catch yourself when you’re doing these things and force yourself to go study or do your assessment. Procrastination gets you nowhere, you need to focus and try to remain focused until the semester is over!

9. Take care of your mental health

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.”

Glenn Close

I am 100% a major mental health advocate (must be something to do with the psych degree). It is so important to take care of your mental health, especially during a University semester. Uni can be so stressful and hard that your mental health might decline, which is very common. It’s important to eat well, exercise and see a professional if you feel your mindset slipping. It is hard to get through Uni, but even harder with mental illness weighing you down. Make sure you take time for yourself and know your limits!

10. Coffee, coffee, coffee!

Cup of Coffee on Saucer

For me, coffee is life. I love my coffee, it is the breath of life into me each day. But, my main point in this is to find things you enjoy. Find joy in your University life and enjoy each moment spent on campus or doing online classes. It is a long haul, but University is a short stint in your life and you definitely need to enjoy it! For me, I find my joy in having multiple cups of coffee from my favourite cafes on campus. Brings joy to me!

“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.”

John Maxwell
author, tips, writing

10 Tips to Writing at Home

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

Pablo Picasso

Most writers usually work at home, or in a corner of a café. It’s just what we do! It is, however, difficult to work from home when you have others around you or, like me, you have a 7 month old at home to take care of.

It can be difficult to write when you have distractions, such as a child (or children) or a partner who now has work from home options. It’s important to maintain motivation as you can and try to stay productive! Here’s my tips in 2022 to staying productive with numerous distractions at home!

1. Noise Cancelling Headphones

These are honestly the best thing I have invested in. I find it’s easier to focus and do my work more effectively when I can’t hear what’s going on around me. I usually put some music on, from my specific writing playlist, and focus on the task at hand. Not being able to hear things around me lets me get into the zone and get writing! Now, I don’t use these during the day when my husband is at work, or working, since I obviously need to be able to hear my child! However, they are really useful in the evenings to block out noises and focus.

2. Set Up Rules With Others at Home

“I love rules and I love following them, unless that rule is stupid.”

Anna Kendrick

You need to set time for work, and work is writing. You need to let others know when you’re disappearing to do your writing, and when you need to be left alone.

I needed to set this up with my husband and tell him when I was doing something that I needed to focus on. Working at home together than be tough when it comes to distractions, but it helps to set those boundaries and let others know when you need to step away and focus on work.

3. Have a Morning Routine

It is so important to have a healthy morning routine and stick to it. Not only does it help your mental health, it also helps your productivity. Try to get up around the same time each morning, get out of your pyjamas and eat a healthy breakfast. Include whatever you want into your morning routine, but try to stick to it each day and push yourself to have that healthy morning routine.

My morning routine is drastically different now than it was a year ago. Now, when I get up I have to entertain a child! I try to set the same kind of routine for each morning, even with my son. I get up around the same time, feed him, we both get changed and then it’s play time until he goes down for a nap. I have breakfast and exercise when he goes down to make sure I start the day right!

4. Exercise Every Day

Following on from the last sentence, I usually incorporate exercise into my morning routine, but sometimes I just go for a simple walk in the afternoon. Exercise really helps your mental health, and you need to take extra care of that mental health in the current world.

Whether it be a high intensity workout, going for a run, doing some yoga or going for a walk, it really helps to take the time out during the day to get your endorphins up and stretch your muscles. It helps your mind muscles to strengthen and improves your mental health, which positively impacts your writing ability.

5. Make a To-Do List Each Morning

I find this helps me to stay focused and know what I need to do each day. Since I do University and take care of a 7-month-old, I include things like time to study, when my classes are each day and when my boy needs to nap or eat. It helps to have this planned out in the morning and know what I need to do during the day. I can plan my writing around other things and it helps keep my focused towards my study goals and my writing goals.

6. Set Deadlines

“If you work on something a little bit every day, you end up with something that is massive.”

Kenneth Goldsmith

It really helps to set your own deadlines and try to stick to them. Things like ‘write 500 words a day’ or ‘finish 2 chapters this week’. It really helps to have deadlines to meet each day, or each week. It helps keep you focused and fighting towards your end goals.

7. Have a Dedicated Workspace

I never saw this as overly necessary pre-COVID, but once the pandemic hit and we were home bound, I came to the realisation that a dedicated workspace is so crucial. I still have my desk completely set up even as the world moves past COVID and it really helps me to focus.

It is important to take that specific time during the day to write and focus on work at a dedicated working spot. Occasionally I will change positions and write on the couch or outside, but I find the dedicated workspace works really well for me.

8. Minimise Distractions

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winston S. Churchill

It can be hard to stay focused at home with animals, family, food or social media. I can’t get much done when my son is awake, but even once he’s down for his nap I still get distracted and can often find myself having accomplished nothing by the time he is waking up!

It’s important to minimise distractions as you can, using things like social media lockouts and noise cancelling headphones. By doing this, you can stay focused on your task and be done sooner than you would while being distracted.

9. Have FUN

Don’t forget to have fun! Writing is always a fun activity, even if sometimes it’s tedious or exhausting. Try to have fun while writing or break up your writing day with some fun activities! Play a game, go for a walk, write something different! Just try to have fun because writing shouldn’t become a chore!

10. Be Kind to Yourself

You need to take a step back and remember that we’re all human and days can be hard! It’s okay to have off days and it’s okay to spend a day bludging and accomplishing nothing. The important thing is to not let this be every day, and to keep pushing on where you can. You feel bad, so take a day off. But get cracking back into the next day. Try to not push yourself too much, we’re going through a lot right now and it is okay to feel horrible and have a day, or a few, off. Just take it one step at a time!

“Believe in yourself, take on your challenges, dig deep within yourself to conquer fears. Never let anyone bring you down. You got to keep going.”

Chantal Sutherland
author, tips, Writing

10 Tips To Successful Writing

1. Write What You Want To Read

This is so incredibly important. You don’t want to write something that even you wouldn’t be interested in. There’s no point writing a ‘popular genre’ if you don’t actually like that genre.

You need to write what you’re interested in. Write what you enjoy. The audience will come, you don’t have to chase after the current fad. Always write what you want to read, then it will be interesting and you will dedicate more time and energy to it.

2. Write As Often As You Can

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

Ernest Hemingway

It’s hard to set out specific times to write. “I will write between 6pm and 7pm” isn’t always feasible. I always have a notebook on me, and the notes app on my phone is always open. I never know when inspiration will hit, and it’s important to write it down as soon as an idea comes to me.

I also like to write when I am in-between something. I write during my lunch breaks at work, I write in the passenger seat of the car and I even write while cooking dinner. It’s useful to write whenever you can, and you can come up with some amazing ideas while writing in these small windows.

Of course, it’s not always completely feasible – but definitely give it your best shot and try to write as often as you can!

3. Write Intentionally

Try not to write just for the sake of writing. It is important to have some sort of idea or goal that you’re headed towards. It is very useful to jot down all sorts of ideas, but when you’re adding to your novel you need to ensure that each addition is intentional.

Make sure you know your characters and your setting. Intentionally write each scenario and how each character is feeling. It’s important to be intentional with your writing, and not willy-nilly. Don’t throw robots into a medieval novel because it needed some drama!

Be intentional. Find time during your day to sit down and focus on your writing. It will help your creativity and keep your novel in the right direction.

4. Create A Writing Space

I love my desk. I love being able to sit down at my desk, open up my document and get to work. It is an environment that relaxes me and enables me to be productive.

It’s not always possible to sit down at my desk, but it is so good when I can. I find having a specific space for my writing is calming and helps me focus.

Dress up your writing space with whatever you need! Plants, photos or pens – add what you want to keep you focused and in the zone for writing!

5. Don’t Expect Your First Draft To Be Good

“The first draft is black and white. Editing gives the story color.”

Emma Hill

First drafts are rarely that good. It takes patience and a lot of editing to perfect your novel and get it to where it needs to be.

When I first started writing, all I thought was that my first draft would be great and publishable. It definitely was not. It can be frustrating and feel like a slow process, but you do need to edit your novel and ensure that it makes sense and is good.

The first draft is like an outline of the novel, giving an overview of everything that happens. When you edit it, you include more character development and go far more in-depth into the story. You can’t be disheartened when your first draft isn’t as good as you thought it would be: just keep pushing forward and edit that baby!

6. Get Feedback

I admit that I find it really hard to ask for feedback. I get embarrassed over my work and don’t want others to critique it. Unfortunately, that will always happen. Especially once it is released to the public!

I find it useful to get friends and family to read my novels. They will be honest, but also kinder than a reviewer. It’s nice to get positive and constructive feedback on your work before it’s out there for everyone else to critique.

If your family and friends like it, and they think it’s good, then it helps immensely to boost confidence. It’s really important to get feedback from people and edit accordingly.

7. Set Goals

“I try to write a certain amount each day, five days a week. A rule sometimes broken is better than no rule.”

Herman Wouk

Goals just work for me. If I don’t have a goal, I often get a little lost and off track. For me, it helps to set small goals and small rules and try to meet those. If I break one occasionally, it’s not the end of the world. But it helps to have that guide around.

I set a general goal of writing an hour each day. Sometimes I meet that, sometimes I’m under and sometimes I don’t write at all. But I try to meet that goal because it is there. It helps to have that direction and drive to meet a goal.

I also set goals for writing timeframes and editing timeframes. I try to make sure that I have a goal for when I want to finish a novel and when I want to finish editing a novel. I don’t always hit these goals, but I get close because they are driving me forward.

8. Create Some Form Of Outline

In addition to goals, it helps to have some sort of outline for your novel. I kales sure that my characters are developed, and I know the basic storyline before I start writing my novels.

It helps to have an outline, because you can then determine what happens and how your characters get to where they need to go. I always outline a basic structure, of how characters meet and what their end goal is. It helps keep me focused and know exactly where I want the story to go.

9. Write Like You Talk – Make Speech Believable

When you’re writing dialogue, try saying it out loud. Sometimes you realise how clunky dialogue is when spoken. Written word and spoken word are very different, and you need to make sure that the characters are speaking realistically.

Think about mannerisms they have while speaking – do they touch their face a lot? Do they stutter? Do they twiddle their thumbs? You need to add those kinds of mannerisms into your novel and show how a person speaks.

People have different speech patterns and different speech mannerisms; you need to show that in each individual character to create a diverse character pool.

10. Read, Read, Read

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”

Jim Rohn

This point has never been an issue for me, as I love to read. But you definitely need to read books and continue to read as often as possible! It keeps your creative juices flowing and it helps to draw inspiration and learn new techniques.

Plus, reading is a fantastic escape into fictional worlds. It’s nice to be able to get away from reality for a while and absorb yourself in a good book. It will help your mind and soul to keep on reading!