Sunday, 9 March 2014


I like lists.  I'm especially reminded of this when I try grocery shopping without one, and end up with a trolley full of impulse buys and forgetting the one thing I actually really needed.

I like them too when I'm studying.  Faced with a large assignment that seems too big, too imposing, too filled with "where do I start?" panic, I write a list.  I break the assignment down into as many small steps as I can, and list them all out:

  1. Re-read chapter in textbook.
  2. Write down main points from chapter.
  3. Work out keywords for library database search.
  4. Search library database for relevant articles.
  5. Download or print out 5 most useful looking articles.
  6. Read first article.
  7. Write notes on first article.
  8. ... and so on.
Suddenly, instead of one huge unmanageable task, I've got lots of little ones that I know I can handle, and the whole thing seems so much easier.  Now all I have to do is work my way through the list one step at a time, and I'll get the job done.

And I can use my list to plan out my time too, working out how long each step will take me and dividing them up between the days I've got until the assignment is due.  So I can be realistic right from the start about how much effort I'll need to put in, and not be tempted into thinking I can start working on a 5,000 word essay the weekend before it's due. 

But my favourite thing about lists?  Crossing stuff off.  There's just something so satisfying about finishing a step and getting to cross it off your list, knowing that part's done and you can move on to the next, seeing the list of things to do gradually shorten as the crossed-off part grows.  When you're tackling the sort of large project where a huge amount of work is needed before you can even start any writing, it's a nice way to see that you're actually making progress.  And for the boring or difficult bits, you can cross them out in your thickest, darkest pen, obliterating them from your life forever - and that's got to feel good!

Do you use lists to help you with your study? How do you cope when faced with a big assignment? Let me know in the comments below.

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