How to have a productive (academic) year

Now that school is over for me and I have been able to gain full exposure to all of the exams you sit during school, have attended different kinds of schools, went through a school change, and a few other things I want to share some of the lessons I have been able to learn whilst studying.

To ensure there is some background information available I want to share some school-related parts of my life. Throughout my life in education thus far I have experienced a change of country ( and therefore a change of language) and a change of school as having finished year 11 I decided to move from a regular comprehensive to a selective school. Both adjustments have taught me lessons which I will share below, however I do believe that the adjustment I have experienced between year 11 and year 12 has been far more difficult than the one I experienced when I moved to England at the age of 11 due to the change of setting and the volume of content rather than just the former element.

1. Use your teachers but don't rely on them.
This is probably the most interesting discovery I have made throughout school by the end of year 13 with a chaotic experience during the last year of my studies. Yes, your teachers are there to help you, provide you with resources and encourage you but don't assume that they will always be there to give you a hand. They are an incredibly valuable resources, especially during lessons so do listen to the material they have to deliver and ask them for help. However, always remember that no matter how stable your school is a teacher can leave and there can either be nobody available to explain everything to you or there will be a new teacher, who might have a completely different style of teaching which in fact might not suit you. Whilst you have access to your teachers learn how they mark your essays and don't post pone your questions thinking that you can ask them tomorrow or just another day because that might no longer be available. 

2. Be organised.
It seems relatively intuitive but a lot of students miss this part and therefore don't do as well, trivial as it sounds. You can be naturally clever but if you are missing your specification or have lost your work you are less likely to do well as it will make it (a) more difficult for you to revise due to not having the material you will need to do it, and (b) more stressful for you to revise as you will eventually come to realise that you are missing a lot of work and have not really been tracking what you do and don't know. To avoid those things make sure all of your work is organised into folders at home, and you can carry a single folder to school with plenty of dividers for each of your subjects on a daily basis (it will save your back from breaking). Also, it's important to remember that organisation is not the same as having all the beautiful stationery in the world, it is more about the practicalities associated with the stationery and systems you use to help yourself keep your life as stress-free as possible. Stationery and pretty colours help however buying a lot of colourful pens won't get your files in order, so take care of that yourself.

3. Don't talk, stress or constantly think about how much work you have to do, instead just sit down and do it.
Strangely enough, you will find a lot of people who enjoy discussing how difficult the work they have been set is and how stressed they feel about all of it. Really, that doesn't help anyone, and in fact simply steals your time and makes you procrastinate even more. Firstly, try to avoid those people because they will really stress you out but secondly don't be that person because the clock is ticking and all you are doing is working yourself up for no reason. If you happen to genuinely have piles of work to do, don't worry about it but take a sheet of paper and note down everything you have to do. Then take a highlighter, colour what is due tomorrow, the next day and the things which are either overdue or are due in very soon in one colour ( red, for instance), then take the next part of your work which is due later and is less of a priority and mark it a different colour and so on. Having done that you will have a clear overview of what you need to do and will start to feel like less of a mess. Now that you have planned everything it is important to sit down and get to task rather than continue worrying about it because the former is far more productive, that's for sure.

4. Plan.
Tip 3 might have sounded like a good plan to deal with work last minute and you might think that you work fantastically well under pressure when you can feel the clock ticking. I've been there and can definitely say that whilst sometimes it can do the trick, most of the time you catch yourself not having planned out your work, not having a clear view on what you want to say in an essay or just feeling like a rushed mess. To stop yourself from feeling stressed, messy and anxious it is important to leave yourself enough time to write and then review your work - you will have more time and space to think about it and will retain more by reviewing it, which will come in handy once you reach the stage of exams. If you have an issue with planning it is important to firstly get a planner/diary/bullet journal (whatever suits you) and use it; record homework, readings, due dates, test/quiz dates and believe me you will never feel out of it. Then it is also very important to prioritise your tasks. It might be tempting to do what you really enjoy or read the chapter of the book you absolutely love, leaving the boring stuff behind, but that doesn't mean that the entire class will stop having a discussion on the part you were set. Use the colour coding system explained in the tip above and learn how to prioritise your tasks, and it will all work out.

5. Set goals - both big and small.
It seems a lot more interesting to work towards something, be that the sixth form you want to go to, the grades you aim to achieve for your own sense of pride, the university you want to go to or maybe a job you'd like to do in the future, whatever it is. Just make sure that no matter how challenging your new ( or old) environment is you keep the goal you are working towards in mind because believe me, there will always be a person or two who will ask you whether you are sure and might even try to discourage you. It is important to look past it and keep working, as practice makes perfect. Moreover, it is also crucial to ensure that your big goals can be broken down into smaller goals. For instance, if you are aiming for an A* by the end of the year make sure that you have a goal mark in mind going into each one of the mini assessments at the end of the term because the work you put in at each stage and the feedback you will receive will guide you towards your final goal. The small goal breakdown works like a miracle, I can tell you that from experience, and assure you that with a lot of consistent work and aims in mind you can go from 15/30 to 27/30. Make sure you put in consistent effort and you will not be disappointment with yourself.

Having mentioned some of the tips I wanted to share I do want to say that everything is achievable, but everyone has they own goals. It is important to have your own goals rather than be working towards the same goals as someone else, because even if you are working towards something similar you might be doing it for different reasons and one day it can start to break down. It is worth remembering to take care of yourself and know that circumstances can affect how you perform, but don't let that become an excuse, try to look past things which are upsetting and work towards your dreams. You can do anything you can dream about. Have a wonderful and productive year!