Brighton School of Business and Management Student Newsletter March 2010
Contributions from you, our students, are very welcome, if you have information, advice, website links, or ideas that may be of help to other students please send them to us Student Services
In response to a number of requests from students, this month’s newsletter provides advice on studying effectively, and focuses on two aspects of this creating a study area, and maintaining motivation.
Creating a Personal Study Area
What Is A Personal Study Area?
Personal – organised and equipped to suit your personal study needs, no-one else
Study –that is specifically what it is for, nothing else
Area – a physical area, a space, designated for your personal study activities
Why Is A Personal Study Area Necessary?
It is necessary to have a dedicated personal study area because this provides important benefits to the study process. It creates a visible, physical, and personal location where your studies are carried out, providing support facilities for your study activities. Think of it as being similar to going to your workplace, where on arrival you switch into “work” mode. When you go to your study area, you switch into “study” mode.
Where Should It Be?
An ideal location would be in a small room that is specifically for study, in the style of a home office. Some students might have lofts, garages, or basements, that could be converted. Less ideal, but still suitable, would be an area in a bedroom, equipped for study, and not used for any other purpose. This would remove you from most day and evening time domestic activity (and even if you are single, living alone, it will keep you away from the television and refrigerator!).
Don’t try to study in the same room as others, or where there is domestic activity visible or audible. It won’t work.
What Equipment Do I Need?
If at all possible, buy a traditional desk. It doesn’t have to be large, or expensive (a low cost, second-hand, used, desk will be perfectly suitable). This will immediately give a “professional”, “workplace”, feel to your study area, and give you drawers and surface space to place your pc, laptop, papers, printer, pens, study books, on.
Next, make sure you obtain a suitable chair. An office-style, swivel chair would be best, but a fixed chair will suffice. No matter what style, make sure that it is comfortable to use for long periods. Again, a used chair will be just as good as a new one, if selected carefully.
For most courses of study a PC or Laptop will be essential. A mid to low range one will be suitable for most courses. Ideally an office software suite such as MS Office should be used, but lower cost, simpler packages are fine too (Microsoft itself offers a MS Office in “Student-Teacher” version, at one third of the cost of the commercial price) and the free Open Office package is excellent.
A printer is essential (a basic, low cost one will do), even if you email assignments to your tutor, there will be occasions when you want to print documents.
Lighting is important. A well-lit room is vital, and a desk-top lamp can add focus to the working area.
Having supplies and peripherals nearby is helpful. A set of drawers in the desk, or a cupboard, or wall shelves, specifically for books, paper, pens, pencils, cartridges, etc, will help you to be organised, keep your study area tidy, and to have essential supplies available when you need them.
How Should It Be Organised?
Choose a layout that suits you, but organise your equipment and furniture so that when you sit down to study you are not distracted by activity in a doorway, window, or other part of the room.
For most people, “keep it tidy” would be good advice. However, some people can’t work in a “tidy” fashion, but are very comfortable working in what others see as “chaos”. If that is your natural style, that’s fine, but even then, try to be as organised, as neat and tidy, as you can be – this will help to keep you on track with your timetable of studies.
When Should I Use It?
Your personal study area should be used whenever you have planned, scheduled, study activity that requires you to read and reflect on what you are reading, carry out research on the internet, correspond by email, telephone, or letter with your tutor, or write responses to exercises, tests, or assignments.
Don’t use it for anything else. It isn’t the place to eat a snack, watch television, planning your next holiday, painting your nails, or chatting to other family members. If you want to do any of these, leave your study area and do them somewhere else!
Dealing With Distractions
If you have family or friends who live with you or work close to your study area, talk with them and agree that when you enter your personal study area they will not disturb you. Make this a permanent, non-negotiable, rule, broken only in cases of emergency.
You can help by scheduling your study times when other people are less likely to disturb you, and by building in time to spend with family and friends when you are not studying.
If your study area is, by necessity, near a busy area where people are active, try to schedule your study time when that local activity is at its quietest, less busy times.
Keep your mobile phone switched off, unless you have to be available to colleagues from work. If you do have to be contactable at home by work colleagues, try to make contact first, to stop calls coming in when you are studying.
Keeping It Personal, Keeping It Fresh
The area belongs to you, so try to give it a personal touch, to make you feel that the space is just for you.
Some students like to have a favourite photograph, print, clock, or memento, in the study area. Flowers, or plants, are a favourite of others. Some like to have their pet dog, cat, or goldfish (!) with them in the study area as they are studying.
Study Areas In Other Locations
For some students it is not possible to have a dedicated personal study area in the home, or at least not a permanent one.
External locations are available which, although not capable of being personalized, could be regular locations in which, with regular use, you can feel familiar and comfortable.
Internet Cafes, where there is most of the equipment and furniture that you need. You can supplement these by taking carefully selected study aids such as coursework books. Internet Cafes usually do charge an hourly fee, which is usually a reasonable price, but most will give discounted prices for regular users.
Libraries, where there is usually plenty of desk space, a very quiet and studious atmosphere, and, of course, reference and subject textbooks which, if not permanently available, can be ordered and loaned for short period. Today, many libraries also have pc and internet facilities. Libraries are virtually free to use, apart from a low internet usage fee.
Your Workplace, where you may be able to use lunch breaks, and-or time before or after work, to fit in some study time. It may also be possible to arrange to use a meeting room or unoccupied office, at least on a short-term basis.
Some of our students who find it impossible to study at home, and who work in organizations that operate on a 5 day week, make arrangements to go into the workplace on weekends and study there.
Finally, some of our students have organized a personal study area in the homes of relatives or friends. One, for example, studies at the home of a friend, in that persons’ personal study area, at times when it is not being used by the friend. Another studies at the home of her grandparents, who have unused rooms, one of which has been turned into a home office and personal study area for their granddaughter.
This type of arrangement can be very effective, as it eliminates, by default, many of the potential distractions found in their own homes.
Establishing a Personal Study Area is one of the most beneficial actions that you can take when starting to study for a professional development qualification.
For advice on this, try some of our Study Advice links, such as those shown on the left, and also talk with your Personal Tutor.
Maintaining Motivation Whilst Studying
If you are studying a distance learning, online, or correspondence course, aiming for a formal qualification or purely as personal development, this is for you. If you are not currently suffering from lack of motivation, this is still for you because there will come a time when your motivation level falls. If you are currently not very motivated, and your studies are suffering, then this is for you – now!
Why Is Maintaining Motivation So Difficult?
For most students, whether studying in the classroom or by distance learning, their course of study is usually spread over many months, and in some cases, two or three years, and maintaining consistently high levels of motivation over such long periods is almost impossible. The reasons for this are many, and each of these reasons affects different individuals in different ways.
Firstly, once you have started your course of studies, this event itself changes the balance in your life.
Study time has to be planned and fitted into a pattern of life where it didn’t exist before. Family, friends, and work colleagues are all affected, to a lesser or greater degree, by your decision to study. The demands of studying, the planning, the organising of facilities, the concentration needed, the pressure of coursework and-or examination deadlines – all add stresses to your life that have to be managed effectively.
Once the initial excitement of starting the course and setting out on the road to achieving a new objective has passed, then the pressures and the workload start to have more impact on your life.
Secondly, over these relatively long periods of study, you change.
By this we mean that after one year, for example, you have gained more experience in your work role, you will have completed a large part of the course of studies. You may have been promoted, or been disappointed that you weren’t. Your work colleagues may have changed, or your manager may have been replaced with another. You may have changed jobs, moved to a new work location, or moved to a new home. You may have found new friends, or a new partner, be having relationship difficulties, or have become a father, or
You may feel unsure, albeit temporarily, that the course of studies is going to be as useful as you first thought, or the qualification as relevant to your career as you initially believed.
Thirdly, the people in your life will have changed, perhaps in small ways, perhaps in significant, major ways.
Your partner and family members will also have changed, at least in some ways. If you have children they will have grown older, and perhaps become more demanding of your time. Your friends may have developed new interests, or moved away, or changed jobs, and are not as close as before. Any one or more of your family, friends, work colleagues, may have themselves changed jobs or started a course of studies, and taken on the pressures that accompany these.
Fourthly, a long course of studies will almost inevitably include areas of study that you are not excited about, or find boring, or which you can’t see the relevance of.
One of our tutors has always struggled with subjects like Statistics and Data Analysis, and motivating herself to study these was very difficult! Some of her colleagues love these subjects but dislike what they view as vague subjects such as those around managing people – subjects she finds fascinating.
Finally, studying for a professional development qualification is hard work. Very hard work. Working full time and also studying at professional level is the equivalent of having two jobs at the same time. This means that you will inevitably become tired and listless and probably irritable, at least on some occasions, as you work through a long course of studies.
The result is that your motivation level will fall as it becomes more difficult to study effectively in this condition.
What Positive Steps Can I Take?
The first, most important, most critical, step is to recognise and accept that maintaining a consistent level of motivation is impossible.
The second, equally important step is to accept that although motivation levels will fluctuate, the extremes of high and low can be controlled.
The third, equally critical step is to plan and take positive action to counter the influences that will be attacking your motivation levels.
This action should be planned as early as possible, ideally at the very start of your studies, but it is never too late to implement such action.
What Specific Actions Should I Take?
The specific actions are, individually, simple ones, and relatively easy to implement. The difficulty is in maintaining these actions, integrating them into your approach to your studies, to your work, and to your personal and home life, so that they become part of your lifestyle, rather than occasional, irregular activities.
They should include:
Talk with your family or partner about the course of studies and explain why it is important to you, and to them.
Set up a Personal Study Area, which you can organise and use for your studies. This should be a place where you will be comfortable, properly equipped, relatively undisturbed and where you can switch into “study” mode.
Plan your studies so that you study at times that suit you, but also are times that don’t clash with times when it is important that you are with your family, partner, or friends.
Keep your family, your friends, your partner, your work colleagues, your manager, appropriately up to date with your progress.
Build in time for leisure and pleasure. Make sure that you take it! You will return to your studies fresh and reinvigorated.
Plan your studies to take into account, and leave room for, working on tests, assignments, and revising for exams if required.
Talk regularly with your Tutor.
Don’t procrastinate! Set study goals and meet them.
Don’t set yourself unreasonable targets. If you can’t study for more than an hour at a time, don’t plan to. Plan to work in 30 minute sessions. If you can’t study effectively in the early morning, don’t plan to. Plan to study later in the day, or in the evening. If you can’t actually manage to study for more than 8 hours a week, don’t plan to!
Equip yourself with the best study aids that you can afford. Your PC or Laptop doesn’t have to be the latest model, or the most powerful, and it’s not necessary to have the latest versions of software, but if it regularly crashes, or you lose valuable work, that can be very demotivating.
Make sure that you have good quality anti-virus software (this should be kept up current through regular updates). Losing completed coursework and other files and folders because of a virus can make even the sanest person suicidal! Don’t risk it, our own experiences and those of many of our students tell us that viruses are a real, ever-present danger.
Resist distractions when studying. When you are studying, as planned, don’t let anything (except for emergencies) distract you. Whatever the temptation, stick to your plans.
Help yourself to avoid distractions occurring. Make it clear to family and friends, in the discussions you have with them, that once a timetable of study has been set and they have agreed that it is reasonable, they must not try to distract you. Turn off your mobile phone. Don’t have a television set visible from your personal study area.
Take defensive action to prevent distractions occurring, such as contacting work colleagues before they contact you.
Keep fit and healthy. This is crucial. You need to take regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, try to avoid too much alcohol (!). It is well established knowledge that poor diet and lack of exercise has a very detrimental effect on concentration levels and on achievement levels.
Reward yourself. When you meet a key target, submit an assignment on time, pass an examination, give yourself some time off, or a special treat. Be pleased with yourself!
Build some of your study activities into your everyday life. For example, if you are studying for a professional management qualification, read a business newspaper or journal instead of your usual newspaper, look out for business focused programmes on the television and radio, read business and management books to gain background knowledge and understanding, talk with your manager and specialists at work to see if you can be included, perhaps as an observer, in management meetings.
Finally, work at your studies to the best of your ability. Study hard. Study effectively. This will almost certainly guarantee that you will meet your deadlines and that the standard of your work will be high. The result will be that your progress will be successful and you will complete the course and achieve the qualification.
Nothing is more powerful in raising morale and motivation levels than success!
In order to maintain your motivation when studying for a professional development qualification you need to look at this as a task, as a project, that has to be managed.
Motivation needs managing!
A recent addition to the range of nationally accredited management qualifications, the Advanced Diploma is designed to equip managers at executive, senior management, levels, with strategic management knowledge and skills.
The modules in the ADMS are: Advanced Professional Development, Managing Change in Organisations, Management Research, Strategic Planning & Implementation, Leadership of Your Organisation, Managing Finance for Strategic Managers, Strategic Marketing Management, Quality & Systems Management, HR Planning & Development.
Assessment is through work-related or research based Assignments for each module, plus an in-depth, strategic level Dissertation.
Students can progress on to an MBA, but many find that the ADMS is more than sufficient as a “management” qualification, and instead choose an MA or MSc in a specialist area, such as Quality, Public Policy, Consultancy, Marketing, or Project Management, to broaden their knowledge and their attractiveness to employers.
If you are looking for a highly respected, internationally recognised, strategic management qualification, the Advanced Diploma in Management Studies is ideal.
To see full details please visit our website http://www.brightonsbm.com/management-courses/advanced-diploma-management-studies.htm
Study Resources of the Month
There are hundreds of sectors and technique-specific books on Project Management, here are some recommendations:
Learning Support for Mature Students (Sage Study Skills Series)
by Elizabeth Hoult. Publisher: Sage
The Mature Student’s Study Guide: Essential Skills for Those Returning to Education or Distance Learning by Catherine Dawson. Publisher: How to Books
The Study Skills Handbook (Palgrave Study Skills)
by Cottrell. Publisher: Palgrave McMillan
On our website we now have a direct link to the Amazon Management Books section, to use this go to our Study Bookshops page.
Student Recommended Resources
http://distancelearn.about.com/od/studyskills/Study_Skills.htm a bit USA-focused but still very useful, our thanks to Muharrem
http://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-articles/distance-learning-success.htm a great checklist for distance learning students, our thanks to Pierre
Advice from the Gurus
Learning is a process not an event. Elliott Masie
Your ability to learn faster than your competitors will be your only sustainable competitive advantage. Arie de Geus
Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. Chinese Proverb
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler