Today’s post was going to be all about ‘how to make your veg box stretch further’ but although I’d already drafted the post, there was something holding me back from putting it up this week. I know it fits nicely in to the series I’ve been doing on meal prepping and planning recently but for some reason I couldn’t get the idea for this post out of my head. So the veg box post will go up next week instead and today I’m going to share with you some reflections about how my first month of studying has gone – the things that went well, the things I need to improve upon and the surprising lessons I’ve learnt about myself in the process.
I’ll admit that I really didn’t think starting this course would be that big a deal because I’ve three years of studying ahead of me, so how much could possibly change in a month? Well, I’m happy to say quite a lot.
The first thing I learnt was: I’m no where near as organised as I thought I was. I’m pretty good on managing a diary and a calendar (separate ones for work and home) but these alone were not enough to save me when it got to the end of my first fortnight; my first test was upon me and I realised I’d run out of time to catch up before the exam was due in. This was a major lesson learnt about the value of compartmentalising my days and weeks. Instead of trying to allocate pockets of study on fixed days as I did in the beginning I’m now changing it up on a week to week basis depending on what’s going on. So, if there’s an important social opportunity coming up or I haven’t seen my partner enough in the week then I will make time to see them and find another way to fit my study in. That’s not to say I’m prioritising play over work but learning to be flexible has really helped with study stress and anxiety.
A typical weekday will now look like:
Commute in to work = free time
First half of the day = employed ‘big job’ work
Lunchtime = study hour
Second half of the day = employed ‘big job’ work
Commute home = study time (if no study in the evening) or free time (if I’ve allocated study time that night)
I quickly realised that unless I mentally compartmentalised the day I was going to go insane. Actively being present and mindful with every task instead of always thinking about 2/3 things at once really helped me to be more productive. Giving myself permission to build in ‘free time’ was also a bit of a revelation for me. By ‘allowing’ myself time to listen to music/ podcasts or read my own books (instead of text books) I could start the day on the right foot.
Before I did this I was putting huge amounts of pressure on myself trying to study every minute of every commute but all that happened was I arrived at work anxious and stressed and not at all prepared for my actual day job. I felt burnt out before the day had begun. Which leads me nicely on to…
Realising the value in having adequate sleep and prioritising self care. Now, I’m not talking about having a bath or going for a pedicure every night of the week (although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if that’s your thing. You do you). But being stricter with myself and not being ashamed about going to bed early when I was tired (instead of trying to study with a brain like cotton wool) or giving myself an hour to read a novel, do some cooking, have cuddles with my cat, make a cup of tea, go for a walk, or even just waste half an hour on youtube made the world of difference. This past month has made me realise that when you give so much out you can’t skimp on putting back in to yourself. Think of it like draining your phone battery but not re-charging. It just won’t work.
The third thing I learnt is that people are more supportive than you think. Having to say no to a lot more things this past month (social engagements, drinks after work with colleagues, holidays etc.) has made me realise that people can be more supportive than you ever thought. I incorrectly assumed that by saying no more I’d be isolating myself and cutting off my friends but actually, I should have known that those who love and care for me will want to see me succeed. So when I can’t go out to play, it’s not a biggie. Learning that I could say no without fear was liberating. I suppose I’m saying allow yourself to be selfish, people will understand.
One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that I am more capable thank I think. This past month has been a crazy, busy, whirlwind of activity – and if you follow me on social media you’ll know I’ve not holed myself away at the expense of everything else. But you know what? I coped! And not only did I cope but amazingly I aced my first exam (not trying to brag but scoring 98% probably qualifies for an ‘aced it’). So not only am I learning practical things which help to make this study/ work/ life balance thing possible but I’m also learning that I am my own worst critic. And maybe, just maybe, I should give myself some credit because I can do this and it might just all turn out ok.
And lastly, the biggest thing I’ve learnt this month is to trust in myself and my judgement more. Signing up to this course and being honest with myself about my career, my happiness and my health was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve put so many expectations on myself over the years that I’ve never really managed to live up to them (you will be happy when you are married/ you will be happy when you become a lawyer/ you will be happy only when all your debts are paid off). But doing this course and not just scraping through but doing well and really bloody enjoying it (I look forward to revision sessions, that’s how much I’m enjoying it) has made me so, so happy. It’s taken a while but I have no doubts that I made the right choice.
And there it is. My first month done and some pretty big changes under my belt. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this rare non-foodie post. I’ll be doing monthly study updates and I’m looking forward to sharing more of the good and not so good sides of being an adult learner with you. If you have any questions for me then do comment below, I’d genuinely love to hear from you.