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How to achieve more

Glancing at the clock and wondering where the day’s gone?  Fretting over a mountain of work and imminent deadlines?  Wish you had more time for hobbies and new activities?

We’d all love to have more hours in the day or a time-turner like Hermione’s, but sadly we can’t bend the laws of nature and magic apparently isn’t real 😦 .  But there are many things we can do to improve our efficiency, make the work day more productive and ultimately achieve more.

As someone who’s juggled a social life, part-time jobs, society committee positions and a full-time degree, I’ve learnt a few tricks over the years to keep myself afloat and still get the grades I want.

Here are some of my top methods for maximising productivity and achieving as much as I can:

Buy a planner

It seems obvious, but having one place to note down the times and locations of your classes, meetings and other commitments really helps you stay on top of things and seeing opportunities to  fit in other activities.  Staying organised and managing your time well is definitely one of the best ways to make the most of your day.  A two-hour gap mid-afternoon might be the perfect time to catch up on an assignment or hit the gym, or that class-free afternoon you have every week might be a great opportunity to squeeze in some volunteering.

Not only does a planner help you maximise the amount of work you can get out of your time, but it can also help you maximise the number of social activities and fun events you go to as well!

Make a to-do list

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Another simple idea but still certainly one worth considering.  Having a list of tasks that you want to accomplish (e.g. ‘email Dr Thingybob’, ‘look up blah blah for essay’, ‘buy hummus’) and splitting them into smaller, more achievable targets, will help you stay organised and motivated throughout the day.  By keeping this close at hand, like on your phone or in your bag, you can easily check your list if you have some spare time and want to fill it with something useful.  I send loads of emails whilst stood in lifts or in the queue at a shop!

Take breaks and observe your natural patterns

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Taking regular breaks whilst working on a mentally demanding task is often the best way to fight off the fog of fatigue, keep the brain juices flowing and maintain productivity.

But don’t just spend 5 minutes surfing the web or texting your friends – getup, stretch your legs and have a change of scenery. This is a much better way of shaking off the cobwebs and refreshing your hard-working mind.  Maybe go make a cup of tea with a friend or step outside to enjoy some fresh air?

Listen to your body

On top of taking regular breaks, try planning your work according to your natural rhythm.  By that, I’m not talking about the magical New Age energy field governed by the movements of celestial bodies, but the typical change in your mental energy levels over the course of the day.  For example, I find that my brain is usually at its best in the morning making this the best time to do my most mentally demanding work, like thinking about a project, writing a well-worded essay, or learning a new concept.  By late-afternoon my mind starts getting tired, so I usually go for a run or a cycle to help re-energise and get some fresh air pumping through my lungs.  I then save the easiest tasks for the evening or just go out and do something fun.  By observing how you tend to feel over the day and planning your work accordingly, you can really help boost your efficiency and get more done!

Make your health and fitness a priority

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A healthy body supports a healthy mind, so devote time to looking after your body and keeping fit.  Not only does exercise invigorate your concentration, boost your productivity and help your mental well-being, but it can also be used as a refreshing break from your studies.  Aerobic exercises are particularly good as they stimulate the release of endorphins into the body – natural painkillers and mood elevators that help reduce stress and revitalise the brain.  One of my favourite breaks is to go for a run around one of Manchester’s parks – it feels wonderful to see some greenery and it provides a great excuse to blast some music or have some time to think to myself.

A good diet is also essential for a healthy brain, so support your concentration levels with lots of nutritious fruits and veggies, and remember to stay hydrated too!  Omega-3 fatty acids are also needed for optimal brain health, so treat yourself to some oily fish like salmon now and again.

Get some sleep!

The amount of good-quality sleep you have also has a huge impact on your concentration.  We’ve all heard people saying that we need 8 hours a night to be healthy, but this actually tends to range between 7 to 9 hours depending on your physiology and how mentally demanding your work is.  Ensure you get a restful night by avoiding electronic screens close to bedtime, as these stimulate the brain and can make deep sleep more difficult.  Steer clear of alcohol if you’re needing some good quality zzz’s to help you through a tricky assignment the next day.  Despite its drowsy effects, alcohol can drastically reduce the quality of your sleep meaning that you’re not rested for the next day.

So there it is – my top tips for making the most of your time and increasing your productivity.  Give them a try and achieve more!

Top tips for moving into a new home

Moving into private accommodation can be very tricky, particularly finding people to live with considering you’ll be with each other most of the time, sharing the same spaces. Here are a few tips when deciding where to live and things to do or keep in mind before making the decision. While many of them might seem like you’re looking too far ahead and they’re not things to think of now, trust me they’re very important! Small things from daily life, like (not) cleaning up after eating, can be what tires you the most when living with someone and may increasingly build up tension.

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  1. Reliability of landlord
    • If you’re moving into a house, the reliability of the landlord is very important; you want to make sure that if there are any problems they will make sure to repair them in a timely manner.
    • If possible, try and look for accommodation approved by Manchester Student Homes (or any other equivalent) and read as many reviews possible for the accommodation and the area.
  2. Area
    • Keep in mind that you need to be in a safe area. No matter how cheap something may be or how nice it may seem, if it’s down a dark alleyway or has very high crime rates, it’s best not to risk it.
    • If you’re more of a quiet person, stray away from the party-like areas otherwise you won’t be happy with the noise-levels of the neighbourhood.
    • Don’t forget to think about transport costs get familiar with walking routes, find out which buses go where and how much they cost/if they’re covered by your Stagecoach bus pass),.
  3. Bills included
    • Bills included can be a great way to manage your budget.. It’s easy to waste electricity without realising it and ending up with big bills, but more importantly, it’s just a hassle having to follow up to pay bills and splitting them each time. This gets even worse in situations where people might argue that someone uses up more electricity than someone else so they should pay more or less (respectively.) 
  4. UK guarantor needed
    • Before going to a house/accommodation viewing or getting attached to the idea of anything, make sure you’re familiar with all the requirements. Many private accommodation requires a UK guarantor. 
  5. People you’re living with
    • You need to make sure the person you’re living with is right. It needs to be someone you’re comfortable with, feel safe around, trust that they will not bring home strangers, someone who will also be responsible for keeping the house clean, paying bills, keeping up with rent payments etc.
    • Don’t confuse friendship with living with someone! While it might sound great and like a movie to live with your friends, it doesn’t mean it will be dream land. It’s okay to be best friends with someone and not think you’re suitable for living together the same way not all relationships would survive living together. giphy2
    • Ultimately, it’s better to have one uncomfortable conversation with a friend telling them you’d rather not live with them and save the friendship in the long term as opposed to living with them and getting into conflict so deep that your friendship isn’t as strong by the end of the year.
  6. Establish ground rules before getting tied down to a deposit
    • Are you okay with people having visitors? How many, for how long? Do you mind people of all genders staying with you?
    • Are you okay with house parties? When is quiet time on weekends and weeknights? giphy3
    • Is there any protocol for using common areas? Helpful rules might include cleaning up right after cooking or the latest by the next day etc.
  7. Talk about practicalities
    • Decide on things like who will do the grocery shopping, how often it will be, if you will split it each time or pay in turns, what you will be purchasing together and what will be bought individually. Also keep in mind things that need to be bought like kitchen paper, cleaning products etc. giphy4
    • Think of how chores will be divided and how frequently. For example, vacuuming, taking out the rubbish, cleaning the bathrooms etc. 

5 Relevant Points when Renting Privately

So, you’ve herded a flock your friends together long enough to finalise an ultimate clique, and with the end of the academic year just around the corner, September 2017, NASA confirms, is well within sight. And so the age-old ritual of booking, confirming and attending house-viewings has begun, but despite you and your clan’s best efforts, you have yet to commit to the one… House that is. Read on, disillusioned house (rent) hunters, for some goggling guidance and as always, a generous sprinkling of gifs, from me to you.

  1. Location, location, location

As Kirstie Allsopp preaches, it is indeed all about the location. Whether you consider yourself a Longsight local or a regular Rusholme-ian, where you decide to call home will really impact on your day to day life as a student. Most halls and private accommodation in Manchester can be grouped into being in the City, Victoria park or Fallowfield areas, and having experienced all three throughout my time at university, I can attest to their various strong points and drawbacks.

I loved the leafy green *weather permitting* hideaway that my first year halls in Victoria Park offered, and equally enjoyed my days as a Fallowfield-er, partaking in the traditions of the rush-hour bus commute and the consumption of all things Kebab King. But, I can’t think of a better place to be in my final year than Hulme, just a stone’s throw away from town and campus.

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Overtaking morning traffic on the brisk walk to uni

  1. State of Mind vs. State of Property

At first, it can be hard to adjust to the concept of living in a house that, let’s face it, might not exactly feel home-ey… There’s nothing like leaving the comfort of halls for a semidetached dwelling where the responsibilities of putting out bins and declaring yourself exempt from council tax loom large overhead. When on the lookout and browsing places, it’s important to consider them as bases, something temporary for the next 9 months, not a site candidate for grand designs. Use your discretion to be level-headed, is this a superficial crack in the paint or a sign of potentially dangerous damage to the structural integrity of the walls? Likewise, a set or two of fairy lights can truly work wonders on a beige bedroom, however, they definitely shouldn’t be employed as a mould-masking tool!

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When the search for the perfect abode ain’t going so well

3. Compromise

So, would you rather the extra cupboard space or a washer-dryer combo to go with those crumbly walls of yours? And what about another bathroom or maybe T.Vs in each of the bedrooms instead?

As a wise woman (Carrie Bradshaw) once said, all relationships are inevitably a series of compromises and this goes for student houses too. It’s important to discuss the compromises that will no doubt arise when choosing between properties and what they have to offer, and it’s probably a good idea to talk about this before even looking at any… What basic boxes do you all want checked off? Will one of you be happy to settle for the attic room? Would a 10 minute walk to the nearest bus stop be a problem or are you all avid cyclists anyway?

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Viewing a house that only has a couple of hydrangea bushes when the last one had a pond

4. Included or Excluded?

Bills… Would you like them to be included in or excluded from your monthly rent? Some landlords and letting agencies will simply dictate whether bills are included or not, others may give the option. ‘Bills included’ can often refer to just the basic utilities such as water, gas and electricity. However in some cases, this can also include wifi, a T.V license and even a weekly or bi-weekly cleaning service in the communal areas. In any case, it’s best to be clear with whoever you’re renting with what the arrangements are from the outset. Organising your own bills can have significant financial benefits, particularly if utilities are metered and you’re good at switching lights off and keeping the heating below ridiculous degrees Celsius. On the other hand, if the extra responsibility would be unwelcome and you’d rather not be hounding your housemates for that £7.12 they owe you each month, having your bills arranged is an equally valid option!

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‘But I swear I transferred you the money for the BT bill on Tuesday?’

5. Make the Most

Make the most of the opportunities at your disposal! We’re lucky at the University of Manchester to have a whole range of informative events and a supportive Union that offers a wealth of material and advice on housing, from finding a property to moving out. Accommodation fairs such as the one on the 25th of April at University Place are a great place to start and find your feet if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed!

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Don’t be shy, ask for advice – the more informed you are, the better!

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Very best of luck with all your house hunting endeavours, you can do it!

Not knowing what you want to do is okay

By: Jake Jones

Don’t know what to do after you leave university?  Can’t decide what you want to do with life?  Well don’t stress!  Not knowing your next career move is completely normal and few people have a prepared a grand career strategy ready for when they graduate.

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Not knowing your next career move is completely normal

Not many graduates step out of university and straight into their dream job.  For most of us, it takes time and trialling to find a job that suits us. It’s also common for people to change careers, travel, have a change of scenery or pursue greater work benefits.   Instead of thinking about your big career plan, it’s often more beneficial to consider what the next best step is and work towards it.

This might not be obvious, but there are many things to think about which could help you make a move in the right direction:

Learn more about you                                      

A useful first move is to understand more about yourself.  What do you like?  What are you good at?  Think about what makes you excited and how you enjoy spending your time – can you think of any job which might involve these?  Sometimes, answering these simple questions can be difficult (‘I don’t know!’ ‘All my options sound boring!’ ‘I like seeing my friends, reading and eating hummus – how can I tie these into a career?!’), but there are many ways to learn more about yourself.

During your studies or after you graduate, you’ll have many opportunities to discover more about yourself.  Perhaps try an internship, volunteer, or get a further qualification, work experience or job in a field you’re curious about.  Remember, job hopping is perfectly common. Give a job a go for a while and then change if you’d like to try something new – you’ll never know if you don’t try!

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Some graduates work in industry for a while then come back to do a PhD.  Some get an office job or casual work in Manchester to give their brains a break, save up some cash, and have time to meditate on their next career move.  Others find a job that they really enjoy and keep at it.  There are hundreds of options and you might have no idea about which is best for you, but this is completely normal and it’s fine to change!

Work out what you enjoy and identify your strengths whilst you study

There are also lots of things you can do during your studies to help you discover what you enjoy and identify your strengths.  Maybe try a part-time job, volunteer with a local charity, get involved in some student societies and projects, or get a summer work placement.  By trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll learn about your likes and dislikes, how you feel in different environments, meet new people, and also boost your confidence along the way.

Perhaps you’re considering teaching?  Participate in some outreach events at local schools, or maybe try Teaching English as a Foreign Language in another country.  Or what about research?  Talk to some academics and PhD students and ask if you can shadow them for a day.  Interested in writing?  Try blogging or getting involved with student media.  There are hundreds of things you can try to learn about different careers!

Think about your priorities

It’s also worth thinking about what’s important to you.  What kind of lifestyle do you want?  Would you sacrifice a chunky salary for lots of free-time and the flexibility to travel?  Or do you place more value on a stable salary and a good pay cheque?  Remember, it’ll probably be easier to travel and try new jobs as a graduate fresh out of uni than later in life when you might be limited by greater work commitments, mortgages and families to support.

Ask for advice

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The Careers Service offer a wealth of knowledge on your options, tips on what you can do with your degree, advice on applications and interviews, and guidance sessions with a careers consultant to help discuss your ideas.  Make the most of them whilst you’re here in Manchester, but rest assured that their full range of services are still available to alumni two years after they graduate.  Learn more about the Careers Service here.

Also, consider talking to your lecturers and academic advisors – they might be able to offer advice or connect you with some industry contacts.

Check out graduate websites, they’re aimed at giving career advice, advertising job vacancies, and providing news on various job sectors.  The most popular sites are Target Jobs, Prospects, and Milkround. These resources are a goldmine of information and job vacancy postings – but don’t feel overwhelmed.  Researching these can give you a good idea of what jobs are on the market and what graduates with your degree typically do.

Don’t panic

Sometimes not knowing what to do next can make you feel lost and anxious about your future, but rest assured this is the norm!  Most people don’t fall into their dream career immediately after graduating and it’s natural to spend a few years experimenting with different jobs, contemplating your options and trying new things.  The first steps on any new journey are often small, so start now by trying new things, exploring your options, and learning about what suits you!

5 Reasons why you should work at a Summer Camp!

By: Mary Johnson

I admit I was once a cynic amongst the converted… Those tanned, cheerful folk, returning rejuvenated from THE ‘best summer ever’. However, after experiencing it all first hand, I can truly say that spending my summer as a camp counsellor was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

So, if you’re still sitting on that white picket fence about it, trying to decide whether or not committing to a summer State-side is for you, let me give you a few reasons and a gentle shove in the right direction…

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1. The Friendships

Without a doubt, the bonds you make at camp are unique. Complete strangers become your colleagues, your room mates and your confidants, all in the space of orientation week. You see each other at your best and your worst; first thing at breakfast as you race to the granola bar, to last thing at night before you close your eyes, agreeing that the fan must definitely stay on. It’s like an impossible recipe for friendship to get wrong!

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The kids aren’t such bad company either!

 2. It will be Beautiful!

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Most camps are situated in some of the most stunning, well preserved locations in the country. As a sailing counsellor, I got to enjoy the crystal clear spring-fed lake that we were so fortunate to call our waterfront. N.B. Free up that iCloud storage in preparation for the hundreds of photos you will no doubt take of everything around you…

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The commute to work – It’s no M6 but it’ll do

 3. It’s Pretty Straightforward

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One of the things that really appealed to me when applying, was the seamlessness of the application process. There’s a great range of recruitment companies out there, ready and eager to get you employed (and take a cut of your earnings…) That said, if you’re in it for the money and less so for the experience, you may want to rethink your summer plans! #notfo’golddiggas I personally went through Camp America and found their VISA and staff application processes really straightforward.

4. FOOD

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In most cases, 90% of the food you have is lovingly made on site by your camp’s kitchen staff. However, the rest of your culinary decisions are at your full discretion on days and evenings off and depending on the local eatery scene, the possibilities can be endless… Think ice-cream huts serving virtually every flavour under the sun and endless ‘soda’ refills on trips to the cinema! *Bumps up health insurance in preparation of type 2 diabetes*

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The Maine event: lobster

 5. The Authentic American Experience

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Before coming to camp, I had never stepped foot on American soil (bar the embassy) and I can’t think of a better way to have first experienced it! From the amazing welcome I received and the total immersion in all things American, including late night Walmart trips and Fourth of July fireworks, to my after camp travels along the East Coast, it was all amazing!

 My only regret is not doing it sooner!

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Land ahoy! Next stop, Camp 2017!

What is PASS?

By: Florian Forster

“Where am I and what exactly am I doing here?” – the first weeks at University can be a little overwhelming, but thankfully we have great systems in place to ease you in. The Peer Assisted Study Scheme (PASS) is one of them and here’s how it works!

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PASS was introduced as a Supplementary Instruction (SI) in the early seventies in the US to support students in notoriously tough courses and has since spread around the world. It is an approach to learning by brainstorming with different students. To get the ball rolling, each session is led by two PASS leaders who introduce the day’s topic to a group of students.

Personally, the scheme is extremely beneficial as it allows the students to share their

thoughts on a given topic and act  as a first point of contact at university to find friends as well as support.

The leaders also benefit from the experience as they undergo professional leadership Pic3courses and have a chance to put their skills into practice at the weekly sessions. The scheme is run by a handful of coordinators in each school who set agendas, supply resources and keep improving the scheme.

The scheme also allows leaders to bring new ideas to the table, which ensures we’re always innovative with the programme. Recently, I worked with my peers on a student guide to course selection for the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science.

This just shows that schemes like PASS are not just beneficial to the students, but also to their leaders. PASS has taught me to not be afraid of taking up new projects, , making the most of the time at University and meeting new and interesting people.

Come along and get involved!

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