What I Did When I Was Supposed To Be Studying

It’s that time of year when things start to get serious. New Year’s Resolutions lose their shiny appeal, diets plateau and the job market fizzles. We’re forced to accustom ourselves to the awkward ambiguity of Spring–shorts or trousers? This crucial choice made bleary-eyed at 7 am in the morning will decide whether you seize the day or later rue it–and suddenly it’s everyone else’s birthday. The simple pleasures of Christmas are long-gone. Now we are faced with the hard fiscal responsibilities of the First Quarter, the mid-year realities of work and study and the slow realisation that summer is still two long months away.

For UK university students, it’s a particularly stressful time. We are on the cusp of exams, exams that will for some set the trajectory of their oncoming years. If you, like me, are a final year student, you’ll know that the exams we’ll be taking in a few weeks time are probably some of the most important exams we’ll take in our entire lives.

Uni staff are aware of this, and they try their best to prepare us for the two-hour torture sessions that await us in May with toothless, bland advice:

When revising, bring a snack!

Don’t revise in front of the TV!

Be creative with your revision tools! Make up a rap out of your notes! Have fun!

We all know this is silly nonsense. If you have fun while revising then you’re probably drinking at the same time, which may not help with knowledge retention in the long run.

I’ve been a uni student for three years now and I think I’ve got a good grasp on the realities of revision. I know all the ins and outs of the cruel library environment and I’m not one to gloss over the harsh truths of studytime with multi-coloured post-it notes and hands-on learning. You’re here to revise, not turn the periodic table of elements into a play.

I can still help. It’s never easy, but there are some things that you can do to increase your chances of turning that wasted weekend into a successful cramfest. It’s not going to be easy, but together we can do it. It’s all about getting the work done but not taking yourself too seriously. You’ll find it all below, in

Luke’s (Realistic) Guide to Getting Sh*t Done!

1. MAKE THE LIBRARY YOUR BITCH. This is the most important aspect of good revision or work techniques. The library is now a permanent fixture in your life. She is your mistress, she is your friend, she is your rival. She receives you at your strongest and most confident, and if you are not careful she will spit you out weak and soggy like a crumpled A4 page of scribbled revision notes. She shows you no mercy, no love, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t reciprocate the same sentiments. Make the library your bitch. The second you enter those glass doors, the fight has begun. She’ll throw everything she’s got at you: lazy friends who want to ask you about your weekend, Internet connections that creak under the strain of so many open browser tabs, tables packed with hundred of jarring student elbows. But you ain’t gonna take that crap. This is your house. Carve your way into your own study warren. Once you’ve found your cubicle or table space, decorate it with your own accoutrements: discarded outerwear, your pencil case, a fortress of textbooks and binders. Kick off your shoes. Make yourself at home. Get comfortable. Bring your lunch in a tupperware box and eat while you revise (cannot stress how satisfying it is to watch jealous peers covet my homemade mac and cheese, while they make do with old Mars Bars from the vending machine). When it finally comes to leave the library, do so with your head held high. Because while the beast behind you has conquered thousands, she’ll respect your arrogance and fortitude. And she knows you’ll be back again tomorrow.

2. BE REALISTIC. You know that feeling, when you’re teetering on the edge of sobriety and okay-sure-just-one-more-beer!, when your whole degree hangs in the balance, when your ability to answer question 13 on the exam next week depends entirely on whether or not you decide to spend the evening revising or queueing up outside a club? That decision is yours to make, but make sure you make it on truthfully. It’s easy to restore your own confidence by enthusiastically swearing that you’ll be in the library by 8 am tomorrow, but it does no one any good when it’s obvious you’ll still be drooling into your pillow by 10. Be realistic. If you have to, take long pointless breaks, but make sure you keep track of them. If it’s a quarter past and you feel like you deserve half-an-hour off, take it. If you’re going to be lazy, though, at least be regimented. Rather than have thirty guilty little breaks an hour, concentrate the guilt in one long timeframe and equate the guilt with numerical values: 2 hours of guilt on Monday, 45 minutes of guilt on Tuesday. You can bully yourself to efficiency.

3. HATERS GONNA HATE. LOOK FOR ALLIES. You’re settled in, you’re getting comfortable, you’re an hour in and the momentum is cascading you through your studies. Then suddenly someone sits down next to you and instantly they are transformed into the worst human being on Earth. It’s the way they obnoxiously thump their laptop onto the table, the way they flout the library rules that strictly ban food and liquids, the way they engage a friend in whispered conversation for a solid three minutes. You sneak a cheeky peak at their screen and smirk with satisfaction at the Facebook page they’re on, satisfied with the hard work and effort you’re putting in in comparison. Suddenly you realise, though, you’ve spent twenty minutes mentally bitching about the stranger sitting next to you, and the only person privy to your witty remarks is yourself. The moral here is, basically, concentrate on your own game. Sure, The Librarian never works alone, and a little sshhh-ing here and then, and maybe even a pointed cough or two ensures that the general student body are all working in a collectively quiet atmosphere. For the most part, however, you are your own boss. Focusing on how your desk neighbour is tapping his foot in the most frustatingly inconsistent rhythms helps no one. Instead, look for allies. You know that pretty blonde girl tapping away at the computer across from you? Remember when her phone rang and she stood up quickly and didn’t answer it till she was far enough not to disturb anyone? Remember when that friendly guy sitting next to you picked up your pen when it rolled onto the floor? These are your buddies, your comrades. On this long boring road to good grades, they’re all you got.

4. BRAG ABOUT YOUR SACRIFICES. One of the best things about revising efficiently is rubbing it in the faces of those who don’t. So what if your friends hit the bars and you hit the books? They’ll wake up in the morning with a hangover and an empty wallet, and you’ll wake up with bragging rights. Brag about your sacrifices. If you like, fine, go ahead and employ a little tact, especially among those who may be struggling with the workload. If possible, try to accidentally get caught on your way to the library as much as possible. Bring books with you everywhere. Yawn a lot. All these signals will cue your friends and family into seeing how hard you’re working and in the process help to remind you that maybe you actually are.

5. CURSE MARK ZUCKERBURG. Damn you, Facebook. Damn you! The site is probably the greatest invention so far of the 21st century. 500 million people have active accounts. It has triggered revolutions all over the Middle East. It’s worth more than US$50bn. The only problem is, it will eat your soul and dance on your academic grave. Curse Mark Zuckerburg. He has stolen created a platform that, if left unchecked, will transform the most studious of studiers into the most status-hungry of stalkers. That is why it is so important not to go on Facebook while revising. The same goes for Twitter, Youtube and STFU.com (I can see the data! I see you loitering!). It’s always the same. You think to yourself, hey, is that party on Friday or Saturday night? I’ll just check. Next think you know, three hours have passed and you’re flicking through the Christmas photos of the older sister of that girl you had a lecture with two years ago. Facebook is like a long series of increasingly more addictive drugs. You start off liking photos, then suddenly you’re smoking crack. Keep out.


I hope all of the above helped somewhat. Even if you’re no longer at university, I’m sure you can find parallels in my guide to help you get sh*t done!

Getting so close to swearing like that has put me in a rebellious mood. I originally heard this song from my sister, who described it as ‘Paul Simon-ish’ and I initially agreed. Now, though, I’m thinking it’s more ‘folk-rappish’. Alexander is the solo effort of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes frontman Alex Ebert, and you’ll notice straight away that this style is a little different from his stuff with the band.

This song has attitude. It doesn’t take crap from nobody, and if you listen to it you’ll be protected by its ultra-cool vibes. Today, as I left the library after five hours on Facebook a killer six-hour session, I plugged in my headphones and whacked on this tune. It felt like I was walking in slow-motion.

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5 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. SH says:

    If anyone thinks they don’t know Luke Burns, you do now after reading this blog entry.

  2. 2

    I think “A Million Years” (by the same guy) is the one I said was Simon & Garfunkel-ish, but I do have a soft spot for this song too — it’s the first one I ever heard by him and I listened to it over and over again while we were laying the kitchen tile, which now makes a) me think of my kitchen tile when I hear this song and b) Sean hate it with a vengeance because it reminds him of all that backbreaking work.

    Nice guide to non-procrastination! But wait, if you’re eating your mac and cheese while revising, aren’t YOU flouting the library’s no food rules? Ooh, touche!

  3. Jessica says:

    Haha, I thought of the exact same thing when reading about the library rules. Pish posh! Eat what you want as long as it is not something too aromatic that makes my stomach toss and turn while hitting the books! Great song. I am still stuck on the song Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes though this is a great addition to my repetitive song library. As for loitering.. this is most definitely one of those sites for me. I check it everyday (along with the demon FB) instead of focusing on my chem homework. Tsk tsk.

  4. Carlien says:

    Brilliant piece! I don’t know Luke Burns at all, but with such wisdom beyond your years (I assume your years are still few) you should just be handed a degree on a platter, no questions asked. And then that would free up the remainder of your student years for things like writing brilliant blogposts – guilt free!

  5. Liberty says:

    What a great rseoucre this text is.


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