Effective working

Those of you who are part of an academic institution may be reaching the midway point of your first term! With this you may be beginning to feel stressed about the oncoming workload, or something along the same line of thought. But fear not! In today’s post I hope to put forward some practical steps you can follow which will allow you to organise your learning so that you can maximise your time and 减少压力 🙂 I too will need to be following these more closely as I embark on my fourth week of University.

This happens to be one of the topics I have been somewhat planning for quite a while in advance and simply had to wait for the appropriate time to convey. Unfortunately I have misplaced the points I had noted down in preparation 所以I will write this as I go along; which may be more sincere anyway~ Lastly, I wanted to point out that this post will be beneficial for your general learning techniques but is not specific to studying Chinese. Therefore I may compose a separate post about ways to revise Chinese in the near future. For now you will notice however that the points will be numbered in Chinese for the sake of passive revision of Chinese numbers.

一 Firstly, the reason I have posted this at the start of the academic year, now that you may have adjusted to your new learning environment is because effective learning starts from ‘day one’. I’m sure you may have heard this before as it is very sound advice, but you essentially need to not leave things till last minute. Easier said than done, trust me I know. When you are set a task, perhaps record it on your planner to make yourself aware of the time you have to finish it. You could also set yourself a deadline earlier than the actual due date in order to tackle procrastination. But even simpler than that and something you may not have been told is that you should just start. Put pen to paper and just write (depending on the task of course). Your work will only begin once you start, and if you attempt the task early on you will leave yourself time for development. It would also be very satisfying to have finished a task prior to a deadline which gives you time to do other things. It’s okay if the result you reach is not reflective of your highest standard because you will be giving yourself time to improve its quality. Do heed this advice and try at least once to start the task you are given early on and then continue from there. A teacher once told me to “not think and just start”, but I would alter this and advise you to not overthink and just start.

You may reflect on some of your past days as being wasted, however that is also not the case. Credit yourself for the work you have done and skills you have gained to prepare you for the rest of your course(s). Is there a task you have been too anxious to begin? Give yourself some time after reading this post to start jotting down some ideas and just do it!

二 Another point I think is very important is to remind yourself that it’s okay not to be okay (-thanks Jessie). It’s completely natural to experience stress and although I have talked about this in a separate post, just remember that it’s fine to feel low sometimes and it’s not a sign of weakness. Certain stress could indicate that you have been working too hard, and if that’s the case then take a break and resume your work once rested (there will be more on this below). Once you have taken time out of working to reflect on your personal well being, use your stress to propel you to work harder. There are constructive ways of going about it, but at first you can use your stress or frustration to motivate you to complete your work so that it’s simply put behind you (in ‘the dustbin of history’).

三 A smaller point to bear in mind as you work is to prioritise certain tasks over others. Some tasks will require more time than others to complete due to the nature of the task, but you will also need to decide what to dedicate your time to depending on your own personal reasons E.g. Having difficulty processing thoughts may mean that you will allocate more time to completing an essay and less time creating a summary poster for a recently completed module.

四 Following on from this, it’s a good idea to try working in different settings to figure out where you work most effectively. It’s probably best to get this out of the way at the start of the year because of Point One in this post, but if this advice is reaching you a little late then that’s okay too because you can now find a new environment to work in to change up your routine and keep things interesting. Working in a different space every now and then can also be helpful in keeping your brain engaged in your work. It’s also a good tactic for refreshing your mind as an extension of Point Two. Don’t use this point as a distraction from actually doing your work, but do try to venture out to a few different spots to see where you work best. Some examples include:

  • Library
  • Café
  • Park
  • A desk at home
  • Common room
  • Lecture hall/classroom
  • A friend’s house/dorm
  • Random (safe) hipster building

五 One good exercise to try when working is to keep a pen in your hand with some scrap paper. You don’t need to write anything intelligible, simply write what comes to mind without thinking or just scribble (if it works properly it’s also a great to find out what’s been occupying your thoughts!). The movement of your hand will stimulate your brain as you will be working more actively. This is especially effective for tasks that consist solely of reading.

六 One of my past teachers once told me that an effective way of maximising your revision is to engage multiple senses. This can be achieved in different ways of course, but so you get a sense of how to go about it, I’ll list some techniques below that you can try for each sense…

  • Touch – Try step five.
  • Hearing – Try listening to this on low volume on the background as you work. Mozart is a good option too. Try Point Seven。
  • Smell – Get some fresh air and leave the window open for a while if you are able to. Try burning oils when studying. A good combination is rosemary, basil (three drops) and peppermint (two drops). The scent will be associated with your revision and therefore should be burnt out at the end of a study session. For your exam you can also put the same scent on a tissue or your sleeve to act as a memory trigger.
  • Sight – Try using different coloured pens and papers for different pieces of work
  • Taste – Eat healthily and drink water as you work. Lentils and fish are supposed ‘brain foods’, but basically do not neglect your greens and try to vary your diet. Certain foods will slow you down, and being hungry can demotivate you to work so try not to skip meals (我的情况也是这样的).

七 Something I tried during my A-levels was recording my revision notes. 例如 I asked a few friends to record certain quotes from my literature texts that I was expected to know from memory to help me remember them. We recorded the scripts in various weird accents that made the quotes more memorable, and I would say it was quite effective. What’s more, you can make audio recordings of long pieces of texts that you need to be familiar with (like a model essay for instance) and then listen to them when you have nothing to do whilst travelling, on the treadmill at the gym, need to fall asleep…and well you get the idea. Subconsciously at least you will definitely pick up some key information.

八 In this penultimate point I wanted to talk about a method of motivating and inspiring yourself if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by work, or feel that all hope is lost. This is something I created myself towards the end of last year and I recommend you to try it for yourself, although you may be apprehensive at first. What I did was write down a few motivational messages on small pieces of paper, fold them up and put them in a small box. Simple right? The plan was to randomly take one out of the box if I ever needed an extra push, but a strange mental stigma usually prevented me from doing so. However knowing that they existed did the trick anyway. For this to be effective, you should write down messages that are personal to you, rather than the typical quote you can find in search engines that are later used as photo captions. You can remind yourself of a certain person who has faith in you, a phrase that keeps you going, or simple logic like ‘if so many people get through this each year, so can you!’. Simplicity is key with this, so once again don’t overthink but try to note down some meaningful sentiments. Write your notes in different colours for extra appeal and then store them in a jar or a box and take one out when you feel like you really need it. Lastly, try not to refer to the notes too often so that they are more potent in your rare moments of despair.

九 A lot of the points I’ve put forward are likely to aid the system of work you have already put into place for yourself. Therefore assuming that you already are, or soon will be into the swing of work, you also need to make sure to 休息 –rest. If you overwork yourself you will eventually ‘burn out’ and prevent yourself from sustaining a good pace of work. Try following the advice I have given, and don’t become so engrossed in work that you neglect your physical and mental needs. 不要睡眠不足! Try to get enough sleep, and give yourself time to relax.

As this has been a slightly lengthy post I hope it has given you time to reflect and has provided you with some practical advice you plan to put into practice. Let me know if you try any of the points I have discussed, and feel free to ask questions about the topic.

If you want to work more effectively, good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Warrior Spirit – Life Stress

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离我上次的帖子已经过了很久!

我最新的帖子是关于如何减少生活压力因为我希望帮助那些有些似困扰的人. [这些仅代表个人观点].

My most recent posts have been quite different to what you may be used to if you have been following my blog and I think it’s been quite interesting to experiment with styles. My A2 exams (a pre-university qualification in the UK) will be finished by the end of June, and so I have planned to post more about Chinese culture etc in July 好吧? I’m actually quite excited because I have quite a few projects I’ve been waiting to work on once I leave college. With regards to this blog, I have a list of things I want to write about but I think it would be better to share them after I’m rid of the stress from exams. There are a few in particular I am quite keen on sharing so stay tuned~

When looking at my blog statistics there’s a trend I cannot fail to ignore, and this is the popularity for the post titled ‘Being busy and idioms to help’ Whilst I’m certainly pleased that so many of you have found it engaging, it’s also quite saddening to think that a majority of those who have read the post may be finding it difficult to cope with a busy schedule, as I can imply that you sought help from the title as it offers “idioms to help’’ (I had an English exam this morning as well so I am feeling particularly analytic today). 其实 I noticed the trend a while ago, but I delayed providing my advise because this has been a particularly stressful year for me myself, and also because I hope to offer something that will be meaningful.

There are a few ideologies I have created or adjusted which I refer to during stressful times to keep the bigger picture in sight. Of course, these will be based on my opinions so do be aware of that, but I think they could be helpful. 虽然我用了自己的看法和例子,但我明白每个人情况不同。

One of the thing’s I believe is that ‘everything happens for a reason’. We may not come to learn the reason or understand it immediately, but in times of stress I don’t see how it would necessarily improve how we feel towards a situation. What I take from the saying is that every action has its purpose, and this justifies events we may see as bad. For instance when something I perceive as bad has happened to me I may be frustrated, but eventually I realize that there is a purpose behind it and this makes even some of the bad or stressful situations we face have a degree of meaning.

Another famous saying I have stated in another post is ‘the glass is half full’, 杯子是半满 in Chinese. In essence this reminds me that it is often more fruitful to have an optimistic attitude towards an event rather than a pessimistic one. In practice, I try to outweigh the negatives of a situation with the positives. In doing so, you may feel a lot better towards a stressful situation as you may realize there’s not much to be stressed about because it’s not as bad as it seems.

Something else I think that is very important to remember is that you cannot change the past (regardless of what Jay Gats may believe). Whatever you may have done in the past (near or far) has already happened and you cannot undo that. But that does not mean you cannot learn from the situation or move on by preventing yourself from committing the same mistake in the future. I think that adopting this attitude will help you to get rid of feelings of regret, because each time you learn from your mistake you will be lessening the potential mistakes that will be committed in the future. I should add that the ‘mistake’ may not necessarily be one (由于subjectivism) so don’t be too hard on yourself especially because mistakes are in fact normal and necessary to life.

I almost left this point out, but I’m glad I suddenly remembered it. Something that may give you hope in general moments of stress or demotivation (in the simplest phrasing) is to think that there will always be someone who is worse than you, as well as someone who is better than you; and given the size of the human population, this is highly plausible. Let me illustrate this in terms of intellectual capacity. A student who may feel demotivated for an exam should point out to themselves that there is someone in the large world that we live in who has less knowledge than themselves. The comparison provides reassurance and comfort that the student does in fact have knowledge, which even surpasses someone else who exists. However, the student should also recognise that there also exists a person who has greater knowledge than they do, as this will prevent them from becoming complacent and motivate them to work harder to reach a new goal.

You may notice that my ideologies have a common theme, but I think that life is centered around happiness. Whilst some may dismiss this as naive, my future career aspirations are not based around money but happiness because I think that’s a better guarantor for long-term satisfaction. It’s subjective to each person and not necessarily identified by a smile, but happiness is a feeling of content that only you can identify within yourself. Generally speaking, I think it’s good to do things that make you happy, but do not bring harm to yourself or conflict with the safety and happiness of others. I guess that’s a bit philosophical though, so moving swiftly on. Something else I realized regarding happiness is that it’s a state you choose to be in. When something bad has happened to us, it’s natural to feel sad etc, but it is essentially our choice to remain sad for the sake of it that will determine our happiness. It’s fairly commonsensical when you read it like that, but sometimes its more comforting to go with the former (of choosing to stay sad). Therefore sometimes when you feel stressed out, don’t repress your feelings (talk to someone, engage in a hobby etc) but remember that it is also your choice to stay on the path of happiness.

Lastly, the ‘ideology’, which I ironically misspelt as ‘dieology’ (…it will make sense in a few seconds) that is most meaningful to me is the one that ‘people are dying’, because I think it’s completely my own original thought this time, as I think the previous example of a person existing who is better and worse than you yourself was too (–you heard it here first). The statement that ‘people are dying’ is by no means something that I find comforting because of it’s literal meaning. In stating that ‘people are dying’ I put my grievances in better perspective because my problems will seem less significant in comparison to people who are facing the ultimate trials of death. Not to say that all of our problems are insignificant, but comparing them to the struggles of human suffering reminds us to be grateful for the good things we have in our lives. Moreover in comparison to something as extreme as human suffering, we may realize that we are taking a problem out of proportion or that it really isn’t worth the stress. For instance comparing something as small as not receiving mail in time to someone who faces imminent death may highlight our selfish tendencies and remind us to be grateful for our situations that may seem bleak, but are full of hope.

Initially I had written this post by including tips to help decrease exam stress, but I decided it would be better to distinguish the general life advice I wanted to convey to you, from the exam stress relief that I can pass on another time. There are several reasons for this, but most importantly because exams only occupy a small portion of our lives, so it is more important to understand how to maintain general happiness before battling exam stress or other stressful situations you may be experiencing. 虽然考试在我们的生活中占有很重要的地位,但是除了考试压力以外我们还有很多其他的生活压力。

You may also be wondering about the peculiar picture at the start. Earlier this week a teacher from Brighton came to my college to help my Chinese class with the Literature element of our Cultural exam. I won’t disclose too much, but his Chinese name is 高老师。I also went to Eton college for a few hours yesterday for a similar session (and was at awe in the presence of their impressive collection of Chinese literature!). The picture at the start is of a certificate 高老师 awarded me and my classmates at the end of our lesson…we even had to bow (and he was more than happy for me to include the certificate in a post). The purpose of the certificate is to reward the efforts of deserving students of Chinese, who have the “warrior spirit” as they have survived the ongoing quest for knowledge of Chinese. 真的不断。

Although the ‘warrior spirit’ was explained as recognition of academic resilience, the concept can metaphorically be applied to having a strong will in times of adversity, which is something I hope you can take away from this post. As a follow up of course, I will still share with you the ‘tips’ I have to help you with exam stress for the next academic year (which you may follow if it is of relevance to you).

I hope this post has unlocked the warrior spirit within you, or has caused you to realize that you have a better grip on the things that may be stressing you out than you had imagined. This took me longer to write than usual because I genuinely wanted to be able to share meaningful advice, with the hopes that you can take some ideas away as applicable advice to your own situations. I shared a lot of my personal viewpoints and tried my best to explain my own philosophical ideologies so do let me know what you think, and I hope this was helpful 一起加油.

If you are coping with stress, good luck 世界。

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Being busy and idioms to help

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A lot has been keeping me occupied lately which is why I haven’t been so frequent with my uploads. Being busy is a good sign of progress in my eyes, as I believe that there is always something for a person to be doing. There is definitely a lot in store for me (as well as other fellow students) for the rest of the year, but I do not wish to mark this as excuse. Instead I want to outline that I am not abandoning my blog and leaving it dormant, but that I would rather devote time to write posts that I am pleased with once my timetable is more…concrete? I have in fact prepared a list of topics that I wish to cover, and it seems like the list is forever growing. It’s quite beneficial to take a moment to reflect on your progress and then accordingly build on your strengths and weaknesses (like how you may encounter target setting in a school environment); therefore I feel that the past two weeks have allowed me to prepare greater resources and additionally organise separate endeavours. Since this current academic half term I have been acting as a confidant for a few friends, and also helping students manage the stresses of University applications. Because of this I have been particularly focused on future goals, and I hope that this short message can act as food for thought for you during the busy period that you too are experiencing.

Bearing in mind the theme of this post I thought it would be appropriate for me to unveil the grandeur of Chinese idioms by sharing idioms related to being busy and striving forward. Idiom in Chinese is 成语(cheng yu). They are not exclusive to China and can be found in almost all cultures. The word ‘idiom’ has Linguistic usage, however the idioms that I am concerned with are short phrases with a moral that can be learnt from its explanatory story. I suppose the best way for me to define an idiom is by describing that they are like short fables. In order for me to elaborate allow me to give a few example of phrases you may be familiar with that are in fact classed as idioms: ‘’Hit the books’’, ‘’When pigs fly’’, ‘’Scratch someone’s back’’ and ‘’Don’t judge a book by its cover’’. These idioms all remain quite popular and so it is likely you may have you heard these being used. I personally find most English idioms that I have come across to be rather strange, especially when I cared to compare them with the few Chinese idioms that I have learnt. For example to ‘scratch someone’s back’ is not designed to convey an unsightly image of a person scratching someone’s back; but is actually meant to communicate that a person is willing to help someone with a task, so long as they return the favour!

Chinese idioms interest me because their teachings can be implemented into our daily lives, as well as the fact that the stories are so inventive and can be appreciated by people of all ages. There are a couple of idioms that I have learnt in greater depth which I can share on a separate post, however as promised here are some idioms that could motivate you to strive on with work.

今天的第一个成语是(today’s first idiom is): 脚踏实地 (jiǎo tà shí dì). The literal meaning of this is ‘to step on solid ground’. Logically it follows that walking on ground that is solid will be more stable than ground that is cracked. In the same way the idiom illustrates that people ought to work hard and proceed with work in a steady and stable manner. For example, a student should plan or organise their tasks in advance so that they can eventually carry them out with stability.

第二个是 (the second is): 全力以赴 (quán lì yǐ fù) which has the literal meaning of exerting all of one’s strength. The messages in Chinese idioms are based on common ideas. To exert one’s strength is to say that a person should try their best in a task or to work towards a goal. This particular idiom has a tone of formality, but is still used in everyday speech. It should also be noted that it is usually used when discussing actions that are yet to be completed. For example it could be used to say that ‘The little boy should try his best to finish reading the book’.

最后第三个是 (lastly, the third is): 半途而废 (bàn tú ér fèi) literally means to walk half the road and give up half way. This is an example of a negative idiom, which aims to show you how you ought not to behave. The idiom is about starting a task without seeing it through because you leave it incomplete halfway through the task. In the instance of a negative message, the idiom would be understood by telling someone that they should not ‘walk half the road and give up’. In the simplest terms this would be conveyed by using the word 不 (bu) which means ‘no’. So for this particular idiom you can say ‘你应该不半途而废’, which means that ‘You should not leave a task incomplete’.

I tried to include idioms that weren’t too random and fitted in with the theme of being busy and involved in tasks, but still working hard. I hope that you were able to relate to what I discussed and that you can use the idioms to motivate you.

If you find yourself wanting to leave a task unfinished but strive to complete it; good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.