Top tips for revision

I have just completed my first year exams at university and so thought sharing my revision techniques would be a good way to get back into my blog and record what worked for me ready to read back before next year begins. I have done a lot of research over the years trying to find the ‘best way’ to revise, however eventually I realised that it’s so personal that what works for some may not work for others. Even so, here is what works for me, not just in revision but also everyday life.

I have dyslexia which I find makes reading and memorising very challenging due to having problems with processing information. This means revision is highly daunting for me and takes a lot longer to fully learn certain information. A teacher once said to me that it takes that average child 3 times to learn something but with someone with learning difficulties, it take 9. At first I saw this as a bad thing, however it proved to myself how hard I had always worked and that I was fully deserving of my academic achievements. I will write more about my learning challenges and living with dyslexia in another post. But for now, here are my revision tips that work for me!

Note Taking:

I always write notes on my laptop at university and find bullet points allow me to add extra information by indenting. This also keep me aware of how much information I am putting into each point and whether it is fully relevant. This can easily be used when writing by hand.

For example:

Or

This simple way of noting any information can easily make you feel you have achieved more. When writing a job list like the first image, it is divided up more to keep motivation high. If writing academic notes, like the latter, you have a form of subheading so you know all the information is under that bullet point.

If you start revision by having your notes divided it saves lots of time as you don’t have to sort them. Easy!

Use ‘Forest’ app to reduce distraction

Forest is an app I was recommended by a friend to stop me using my phone during revision. It is brilliant and very simple to use! Simply put in the length of time you want to revise and plant a tree in your mini planet. Once it is planted, you cannot look at your phone otherwise it will kill the tree. By revising you also get coins which once you collect enough the app will plant a real tree. This is what I loved most about the app and really motivated me to use it often. Although this app is not free, the £1.99 price is worth it and apple users only need to purchase once in order to access on all devices.

This app is perfect for all of you who spend a little too long on their phones too!

Condense notes:

This has been a game changer for me. By condensing my notes at the start I have to read through everything I have written and concentrate on what is important. It further means that I feel I have a lot less to revise and therefore revision seems a lot less scary. I often write the condensed notes on paper as this encourages me to really condense and not to copy and paste. Hand writing is also brilliant for learning and good practice for your exam where you may be having to write for a couple of hours, wherever possible I recommend handwriting for revision.

Often, this is my first time handwriting in a while and so my writing is not as neat as I like. Therefore, as a way to further condense and re-read, I type up these condensed notes. By repeating processes you are already starting to revise by creating revision materials!

Revision cards

These are a way to condense your notes further. As a history student I often use these for key dates, statistics and historian’s interpretations.

I create 2 sets:

Set 1:

I write the date on one side and the event on the other. This way I can test myself. I often chop up my cards to make them smaller as this saves paper and makes them easier to carry around with me. Any time where I have nothing to do for example the bus, I can get my cards out and revise!

Set 2:

I put all key dates on one card for a certain topic. On another I will put statistics etc. These I then get a friend or family member to test me on. By hearing the question and answering out loud I find I have to fully focus and it goes into my memory more. It also makes revising feel less lonely and you can see progress as you begin to get more correct.

Furthermore, using different coloured revision cards for different topics can help divide your revision rather than trying to learn all at once.

There is an online alternative for these, Quizlet, which is great for having on your phone and if you prefer online resources.

I often make these online on my laptop and then get the app for testing.

Mindmaps

I think mindmaps are great in order to categorise revision. For subjects that you use themes, for example in history there is often economic, political and social themes, a mindmap with each theme can be so useful when planning essays and also seeing where you lack knowledge and need to read more on.

I start my mindmap in green ink with no notes. Then once I can think of nothing else I change to red ink and use my notes to add the information I forgot. This way I have a visual representation of my knowledge and the more times I do the mindmap, the more I can compare how far my revision has improved and therefore great for motivation.

I also use mindmaps to plan past paper questions in the same way, using 2 different coloured inks.

Take regular breaks and start revision early

Although it can seem silly starting revision so far in advance it is great for learning information and helping you feel prepared for exams. It also means you don’t beat yourself up over an ‘off’ day. Although I’m not the best at starting revision early I find that doing only 2 hours a day at the start with half an hour revision break in the middle can really be productive and reduce stress levels closer to the exam. You are also making sure you know the information a long time in advance rather than cramming last minute where it is easy to forget information.

Regular breaks are also important. I often set my revision to be around 45 minutes then up to 15 minutes break. I use these breaks to get snacks and also a cup of tea which I find a great thing to drink as I feel more relaxed and it gives my hands something to do while reading. I also try to get up early, get showered and dressed and make my bed before starting. I am also more awake by the time I sit down to revise. This means I feel I have been super productive and it’s only 9am! By revising early you can often feel you’ve done lots by lunch time and your life is not just revision as you have time to do other things in the afternoon/evening. It also means your body is used to being up early so you are not half asleep in your morning exam.

Regular exercise and eat healthy

If you feel good about yourself your work will be more productive. Sitting for hours can be really damaging for your body and so regular walks or exercise can stop you from hurting yourself from revising too long. I find walking after every 45 minutes really stretches me out and going to the gym makes me feel productive, alongside being great to reduce stress. For AS levels I sat too long and ended up damaging my back which had a great impact on exams as well as my mental health. I will write a blog post explaining all soon. But this has motivated me to look after my body first and let revision come second and I have found it has helped my productivity lots. Also it means my body is tired as well as my mind and so I can get a good nights rest making revision the next day more productive as I’m not spending my time yawning.

If not ready for a break, recording yourself reading the information can mean that you take your revision with you for a walk. You can stretch out whilst still revising. Amazing!

Drinking lots of water is also brilliant for your mind while revising and a great habit to get into for everyday life. While revising I try to drink between 3-4 litres of either tea or water. It has become habit to drink while doing work and it is perfect for me to stay focused. Adding a little squash also helps keep my energy up. If this seems a lot to drink then try 2 litres. I always drink 0.5 litres as soon as I wake up and this helps me feel refreshed and starts my day well.

I hope these revision tips have been useful. I am sure I’ve missed out many but these are what I use that I really feel have changed how I revise and made it more productive.

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Finding Happiness

Finding happiness can be a difficult thing for everyone no matter how perfect a persons life may appear. I struggle with the quest often and never truly feel satisfied no matter how hard I try. Finding happiness requires analysis of yourself and what in everyday life makes you feel alone or distant. For me, it can be eating badly or not leaving the house, feeling I accomplish very little in my day and, in particular, not doing exercise. My life is not busy, fulfilling or tiring. It is full of air and emptiness that I struggle to fill.

This topic is focused on in early January with lots of New Years’ resolutions being made but often leading to a heightened sense of disappoint with failure surrounding you. Therefore, I have decided to write how I intend to find a little happiness as a basis to come back and read. It is a personal note that I hope may help others also interested in finding a little more happiness.

My life at the moment revolves around few university hours leaving me highly unmotivated for work and no strict time to do it because I have nothing else to work for. I hope to change this by increasing daily activities that frame my day so I feel encouraged to get things done and not leave them for later.

So, in my mind, productivity can come from early nights, early mornings (mornings are not my thing!) and a checklist I can do each morning.

  1. Drink a glass of water
  2. Make the bed
  3. Do a plank and some stretches
  4. Wash face, brush teeth and take vitamins
  5. Tidy room
  6. Shower and get dressed

By performing these tasks everyday I can feel a sense of accomplishment as soon as my day starts, hopefully preparing me for a productive day.

A key part to me feeling successful is exercise. When I work out I feel good about myself and a day does not feel wasted. The later I leave this in the day the less I want to do this however, so, part of finding my happiness is to identify this and learn to go in the morning. Even if this is not for long, it is a good way to get out of the house and wake up my body. I recommend to anyone worried about the gym or needing motivation to sign up to some classes. They are great as they make you go at a certain time and are a fun way to energise yourself and pick up your mood if you’re stuck in the house or at work. I’ve stopped going to classes since going to university and so another goal will be starting to book classes or maybe going for a swim. By not just going to the gym hopefully I can vary what muscles I use and keep exercising interesting and my motivation high.

I study history at university which requires a lot of reading and essay work. I have dyslexia which makes reading more challenging and a longer process than many and so I find it challenging to do the reading set or even motivate myself to start. I hope to write about this and how I may be able to help increase this motivation in another post but believe it is relevant here due to my doubts of my abilities prevent my finding of happiness. A way of finding a little more happiness may be to put a timer on and only work for 45 minute blocks at a time to increase productivity. Also setting myself up nicely with a cup of tea or changing environments such as going to the library may help with this. I often work in my bedroom which can be problematic as I easily get distracted or give up and therefore going to a library may be beneficial especially as it will get my out of my flat. I hope to do some research into different ways to work and will write what I find in hope to help others who struggle with similar problems. I will also read some blogs for this so any recommendations would be appreciated!

All of the things I have discussed do give me a sense of achievement but not the greatest amount of joy. I want to look back at my teens and think how much fun I had. Therefore, I hope to make more plans with friends, go out with them and do activities and just have a laugh. Maybe try go out with some new people to extend the people I see and meet more than just my inner circle. I want to try some new experiences to see if I can find any hobbies and I hope by meeting these people I will, alongside documenting some parts of my life to gain an online community here I will keep finding happiness. I want to be open to new ideas from anyone and even if they do not bring me as much joy as they do you I will never regret doing them but I will regret letting life pass me by.

So, some goals:

  • Reduce time spent on social media
  • An hour a day without my phone in the room
  • A healthy body but with a healthy mind as priority
  • Write more blogs to reflect on and analyse what can change
  • Do not expect complete happiness, just enjoy what you have and do more of what brings that happiness
  • Find a routine that makes you feel productive
  • Drink lots of water
  • Spend quality time with friends and make new ones
  • Be open to others ideas
  • Help others to find happiness
  • Do little things to be a good human

What it’s like to be a teenager these days

I found this drafted 2 years ago after someone had asked me what I thought. It still seems  relevant although growing up a little has made some aspects change and so an interesting topic to revisit in the future. For now, here is my 16 year old self’s view:

What is it like to be a teenager these days?

Honestly, it’s pretty great! Although there are little things that are tough like getting a job that fits college hours or trying to keep up to expectations (the dreaded predicted grades!). I feel now there is a lot more respect for teenagers and their opinions are valued more than maybe they were 20 years ago, this especially due to social media giving us the ability to portray our emotions and people encouraging others to speak out about issues such as bullying.
But, social media has it’s down sides, major downsides! I sometimes feel there is no escape from it, leaving your phone at home can feel like you’ve left a piece of you behind and there’s a constant worry of missing out on something. Being connected to so many ‘friends’ can make you feel more alone than ever… There is a need to make your life look perfect and fun because that’s what everyone else’s instagrams look like. To take pictures in big groups to prove you have friends or have that perfect selfie that doesn’t really show who you are. I can say this because I have been a victim. A victim of my own thoughts making me not seem good enough compared to what I see online, whereas in reality I am perfectly normal and everyday life isn’t seen through a filter. People never post about their average day at college or their parent trying desperately to teach them how to cook (and failing in my case!). We have an idea of what life should be like that in reality does not exist.
There are many opportunities for young people now and for that I am really grateful. We are not expected to do certain jobs, we are given choice and can change our mind, one of the best gifts we can be given. The stereotype of teenagers are that we are lazy and commit crime, the one part of being a teenager I hate! I can walk into a shop and not have the same level of service because of my age and so along with being a ‘teenager’ I get a lack of respect. But that is the reaction from only some, others listen and love the new ideas we bring. The youth learn from their elders but the elders can learn just as much from us teenagers! We come with different experiences, sometimes our minds are more open and can see things from a different view point.
Being a teenager today is tough, you’re expected to deal with all that life throws at you in a mature way yet some situations you are not treated as adults. Maybe it has always been like that and in a few years I will look back and see my teenage years as my best but with exams being made into such a big deal the stress is always being built up, if not with real exams there are mocks and if not mocks there is coursework to be done. I love learning and want to do well but sometimes I feel there is too much learning what an examiner wants to read rather than investigating what we are interested in. But we all have to do it, education is a major part of a teenagers life, whether we love it or hate it.
Childhood is often cut short, desperation to grow up and be one of the cool older teens has left the carefree child, once playing in the mud and running round naked, now watching makeup tutorials and plastering their face with cosmetics to seem older, more mature. The concept of the ‘perfect body’ changes every week making both girls and boys constantly doubt themselves, change the way they dress or eat, often leading to illnesses such as anorexia. But these issues have always been there and I am grateful that there are people encouraging others to speak out and admit to their illness and ask for help. Maybe that is what I believe is the greatest change for teenagers now compared to 20 years ago. We are more able to speak out and get help, less afraid as we can find others who are in the same position. The internet has good and bad sides and I believe controls my generation.

Empty

Emptiness I think is the hardest feeling to understand and get through. It leaves you not caring and unable to sympathise. It left me ruthless and unable to deal with friendship dramas in a mature way. I struggled to consider how my words may affect others and after hearing “I don’t get why everyone is going to the funeral, it’s not important” from my so called friend I had a cause to aim my anger and hurt. At a time where bitchiness was an everyday occurrence and other people stirring made problems a million times worse I had my time to reflect what was going on in my life taken from me only to focus it on something else. In the long term I would be thankful for that, thankful that it was such a distraction.

This distraction was only temporary though, with something else to focus on I didn’t process the harsh reality of what was happening, turning my emotions off and only letting them seep through occasionally. This led to me, on the day my mum passed away, comforting my friends who amazingly showed up on my doorstep, poured into my house and engulfed me in a mass hug of tears. I felt overwhelmed with love and happiness the opposite of what I thought was right. I was in a constant state of pushing my emotions away thinking they were wrong, not letting myself grieve the way my body wanted. After they left I decided I wanted to prevent any feelings of sadness or hurt so I focused on organising and helping my dad with all the arrangements. I went with to the undertakers to decide what coffin and helped pick the outfit for my mum to wear. We sat and planned funeral times, the date, music and I made tea while my dad called old friends to tell them what had happened. Constantly distracting myself and giving my mind something better to focus on.  The first week was busy and nonstop meaning I was only alone when in bed. I was coping and proud of myself for all I was doing. It was only at night I’d allow myself to cry, I’d sob till I was exhausted hoping to prevent the nightmares I knew were to come. People deal with difficulties in the life in different ways, my body decides to create dreams that are more real than life itself. Every night they would come and when the morning came I’d wake and for half a minute I’d be ok, thinking she really had just been away on holiday and walked back through the door, big smile on her face. Every morning I’d wake still feeling the way she trapped me in her hugs, protecting me from the harsh reality. The problem with such happiness is that it can’t last and the fall brings you so low it takes the air out your lungs, crushing and bruising your insides, a black hole of grief sucking away the life and hope inside you. I thought I was fine, I thought I was coping and honestly I was, I was just coping in my own way.

People always say just get through the funeral and you will be fine. They have no clue. The funeral is the easy part, you’re allowed to be suffering, people surround you and support you, showing their love and helping celebrate the life of such a wonderful person. Everyone is aware of what is going on, they are saying their own goodbye. The hardest part is the day and weeks after. The build up and planning is done, the hype ended. The reality that this is your new life is so scary. People believe this is their time to give you space, they carry on with their lives the way they were, suddenly expecting you to go back to normal. I felt like reality really hit at this stage, when I felt most alone and struggled to come to terms with what happened. People began to forget and I felt it was not ok to be upset anymore. I had comforted them when they were hurting and now when I needed it I was too late, I had waited too long to realise what was really going on.

Fortunately I never felt alone. I had my dad who was my rock and a friend who had lost her mother to cancer made me feel it was ok to talk about it and hearing her stories and feelings made me realise I was not stupid for being jealous I got less time with my mum than other people because I was so much younger. She taught me that big life events are daunting to go into without your mum by your side but the times you would really struggle are ‘normal’ days. Loneliness would come at random, one day waking up and just wishing when you came downstairs my mum would be sat there reading her book. My friend was right and I am so grateful to her for all she did. We both still suffer and always will but we can talk and share happy memories without the awkwardness that often comes with others who don’t know how to act. Sometimes I feel more sorry for people who haven’t had to deal with major loss, they struggle to understand that talking about the people doesn’t mean we are going to break down, it means that we are sharing the memory of them and helping them live on. I hope I can relate to people who have lost ones they love but I also hope through reading this I can help people who don’t understand to get an idea of how it can sometimes feel. Grief is different for everyone and therefore it is so important to be accepting of the way that person is feeling, no matter how many years it had been, to always make them feel they can come to you and talk about how they feel, memories they have or photos that make them smile. Grief is forever but so is love and that love is so much more powerful and fulfilling.

The C Word

Cancer.

A word that brings shivers to anyone. Everyone has been affected in some way by this dreadful disease. I say ‘disease’ but the word just doesn’t seem to fit, to me that seems that someone has put themselves at risk or tried chance at getting it, when in truth it can capture anyone at anytime, transforming their own world and everyone they know.

Every year I run the race for life and each year I am more overwhelmed with the vast number of women there supporting each other and trying to fight back. I must confess I am not a fan of running (that’s putting it a little lightly!) but what spurs me on is every time I pass someone I get to read another persons sign on their back. I get a glimpse at the harsh reality that cancer brings. It affects grandparents, parents, siblings, friends and children. No one is safe. However, what surprises me most is that it brings me new purpose and sense of happiness. In the last 40 years cancer survival has doubled in the UK, people are more aware and educated on what symptoms to look for and strangers are coming together and showing their support and love for those suffering and those caring for them.

When I was 7 years old my mum was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. At the time I thought my little world was crumpling down around me too fast for me to ever pick up the pieces or hold them in place. I had only heard the word cancer related to death and so automatically assumed my mum had been given the card of death. My parents decided it was important for both my brother and me to understand fully what was going on and the reality of how it would affect us. We were taught the basic science of it and what different treatments did but we were never fooled into thinking that it would one day just disappear. Ovarian cancer is one of the hardest to detect and so unfortunately we did not find it early enough and my mother was told she had 3 months. She spent a week in hospital after her operation and started chemo.  I was always aware of when she was going to hospital or even for a check up and when I was having a bad day my mum would hold me close and explain every worry I had multiple times till I understood. We dealt with her illness as a family, supporting one another and preparing for what life may throw at us. That is the main thing I believe that helped me through it. I was not treated as a kid who couldn’t understand, I was an equal and my feelings mattered just as much. The 3 months past and she was still with us, as many friends said ‘still fighting on’ but my mum never saw it as a fight, she once told my dad that it was not her battle with cancer, it was her journey.  That truly represented who my mum was, a selfless woman who accepted life as it came and was determined to help. She did this by participating in many drug trials to help find a cure and some of those drugs are now being used today and saving lives.

Sadly, 3 days before my 13th birthday my mum passed away. However, this was after many loving, happy years supporting us through every day life. I wanted to write this blog to explain the little things I never fully understood as a child and share my journey of acceptance and finding peace. I wanted to keep the memories alive as they are what I treasure and feel blessed to have. There has not been a day in the last 4 years after her death that I have not thought of her and there never will be a day that I do not, but now when I think of her I am filled with happiness and warmth. Grief never leaves you but it is how you deal with it that makes you a stronger person, never expect it to go but use it to make the most of life.

Where to start…

I have to admit that I have never read a blog or ever thought about starting one but today I decided that in a few years I’ll want to look back and see how my life had changed, how I’d grown as a person and how my opinions of events evolved and changed the more I understood. I am writing this for myself but in the hope that if anyone reads it they’ll learn more about who I am and possibly relate to situations or feelings experienced. It aims to be something that I wish I found years ago, when I was struggling with such a mix of emotions, something that shows it is ok to feel sad, angry, lost or empty, but most importantly it is ok to be happy.