15 August 2016

Guest Post - Yo, sound the bell. School is in, sucker. - Emma

First off you get points if you can name the song I stole the title from!

Hi I’m Emma, I used to write at a now very abandoned blog – hopefully one day I will revive it! But for now I am taking over Philofaxy again (if you didn’t see my first post you can catch it here. Today is going to be an extension or an update of that blog post.

It’s that time of the year again when us students sigh and begin to think about preparing for another year at our studies. Naturally, we are all full of the enthusiasm of being organised and ready for the academic year and it’s important to try and sustain that throughout the year and be prepared for exams. I am normally really keen at the start of the year and then towards exams tend to panic – so it is important to get organised early so you can help remove some of the stress.

A5 vs. smaller?

This is the big debate. I cannot use bigger than A5 personally – I hate writing notes on A4 paper and always have. So I do write my notes in an A5  However, I need to carry a LOT of books, often on a four hour round trip on public transport and to me the carrying on a quite heavy A5 with the books was just painful.

So I used to leave my A5 at home unless I really needed it. This year I have decided to try a Filofax Clipbook as they have the bonus of being a5 but are also lighter than my A5 original. I love the blank inserts which means I can begin to set it up for September/October when my academic year begins.

It also means being blank that I don’t have to fill in all the weeks and only use the pages during the academic year. I usually always carry a smaller personal sized planner with me – but I’ve taken the plunge and gone for an A6 which I am in the process of setting up and playing with. I will be trialling new styles of inserts and giving them a go.

At the moment I am thinking of a day per page but we’ll see how effective it is, usually I am more a get tasks done by the end of the week rather than the end of the day type of person. I am also going to consider writing academic dates in the A5 and the A6 (which will also house personal appointments). This will mean I have the potential to leave the A6 at home and take the A5 instead but we’ll see.

What should I put in my Filofax?

Well that’s a good question but I really recommend:
  • A personal plea in your Filofax saying this contains your academic life, notes and potential valuable research so if you are holding it – you’re clearly not me and therefore I need it back – contact me here and I will reward you handsomely. I’ve know people that have lost their academic work – it’s NEVER pretty.
  • Deadlines. Academics seem to like to put evil and never put these in one easy to access and convenient place. So I suggest you do it yourself. Write down every date – in order with times. Triple check it’s right and then check it weekly to make sure you’re not going to miss ANYTHING.
  • Timetable - you can print this out as well as write it in weekly. Be sure to spot those weird start week 6 workshop changes.
  • Sign-ups – there may be times you need to sign up for classes as well. These are usually first come first serve so the popular classes go quickly. Make a note and make sure you get the class you want.
  • Reading lists – always a good idea to have a copy particularly if you have essay questions related to reading lists. I always find it easy to take a page out of my filofax and take it to the library to raid the book shelf. Set a reminder in your diary to get your books early because they are always a limited supply and others also raid the books.


It takes skill to write good academic work and sometimes it takes time to jump levels (GCSE > A level, A level > Degree). Reading feedback is key and sometimes it is good idea to have a feedback tracker.

Where you can pick apart your feedback into what I do well and what I can improve upon. Then when you prepare for your next assignment you can start at this page and go from there.

Even if you are a first year at Uni it is NEVER too early to think about your dissertation in the final year. It will go by so quickly and you’ll be sitting there having to submit a form and you may not even know what you want to write on.

Sometimes lecturers make off-hand comments or you yourself ask a question someone cannot answer. These can be the basis for excellent research ideas. My dissertation came from an off-hand lecture comment and not only was it highly original it was exciting to research and it was well received by my department. So put the effort in early and you will be rewarded later.

Random advice.

Did you know that there is a form of dyslexia that only become noticeable when you’re at University. If you are struggling a little it’s always good to pop along to your Access Ability (or equivalent student support service) and get tested.

Also I am dyslexic and I use a Dictaphone. I found it invaluable for recording lectures and I have an archive of lectures I regularly look back on for references. So if you struggle with writing notes and sometimes find them unreliable maybe consider investing in a Dictaphone – or getting an assessment from Access Ability – often you will be given a Dictaphone as part of your package.

If you have any questions comment below. I have only just begun to set up my academic planner so I don’t really have enough to show you what my planners look like at the moment but I can come back and do another post if people would be interested in that.

Maybe there is also the potential to organise a Sunday Philofaxy Skype chat dedicated to getting organised for the new school year and we could do this at the end of August (28th?) or Early September if there is enough interest. Comment below and Steve and I can organise something.

I wish you all the best for the upcoming year and may your deadlines be well spaced and your stress levels be low!

Thank you Emma for a useful post with the new academic just around the corner.  


  1. Regarding deadline management: You should think about at what time you would need to start working at your deadlined tasks in order to meet the deadline. If you only take a note of the deadline as such, chances are that by the time you are alerted, it'll be too late. For that you need to consider your other obligations and deadlines - the fewer time you can dedicate to your projects per day or week, the earlier you need to start.

    1. I do factor time management into deadlines but time management is worthy of a blog post within it's own right. However I do find that University life can get quite stressful and I have always found it beneficial to mark deadlines together and alone in a visible place that is checked regularly to make sure they are met. Once you know when the deadlines are you can factor them into your current monthly or weekly setups.

  2. Hi Emma! I love your blog! It's been my go to for resources to try for learning German!

    1. Hi Michele,
      Thank you although lately it's been deader than a dodo. I will try and revive it!

  3. "Can't touch this" by MC Hammer... and I'm a 60 year old grandma~
    Great post for all you back to school students!

    1. You are the coolest Grandma ever Valerie. I hope the Grandkids appreciate it!