Making the most out of reading week
And breathe! You’ve finally hit reading week, congratulations! Here’s how to make the most out of it.
Firstly, I would always start reading week by taking a complete break from academics, just for the weekend. You might be feeling a bit burned out so this will give you the chance to completely switch off, guilt-free, which is so important. Make some plans with your friends to de-stress and reward yourself for completing the first half of term. Balance is key.
Once you have taken some time for yourself, now it is time to crack on with your ‘reading’. For me, the aim of reading week is to ‘review and preview’, and this is what that should entail:
Plan, plan, plan. To ensure you get the most out of reading week, it is vital to make a plan. Work out exactly what you need to get done and assign everything to a day. You will not get everything you need done, done if you do not plan it, trust me, I have been there many times! Try to make this plan realistic. If you genuinely will not have enough time to do everything you need to, do not plan to complete everything because you will feel rubbish when you do not. Ensure you identify your priority tasks and make sure you do these first. Flag up any tasks which would be ‘nice’ to complete but can wait until exam season if necessary. Make sure you schedule in time away from your academics as well.
Catching up. If you have any large outstanding tasks from the previous teaching weeks, completing these should be your priority and you should get these done first. This may be an incomplete assessment (which should not take up your entire week!), unattended lectures/seminars or important readings you have not done. Try to get these done within the first couple of days of reading week so you have time to ‘read’.
Reviewing. Next you should refresh yourself on the work you have completed in the previous weeks. If you have time, you could find making some condensed notes or revision materials useful, and you will definitely thank yourself for this when exam season hits and you have forgotten everything you learned. Reviewing the term’s content will also allow you to identify any gaps in your understanding which you may not have identified before. Take some time to fill in these gaps, whether this means rewatching the relevant sections of a lecture, revisiting your reading/reading notes or reading supplementary/recommended papers for a different perspective on the topic. It may also be worth emailing a professor or speaking to a willing course mate to explain the areas which you are struggling to grasp. Try not to leave these gaps in your understanding, because it will only become harder to understand these concepts the longer you leave them. Ideally, this should be the bulk of your week.
Looking ahead. Look at what you are due to be doing after reading week. Familiarise yourself with upcoming deadlines and write them in your calendar, make a note of what topics these assessments are on and thus what you need to ensure you attend all your teaching for. It may even be worth planning out a week which you will dedicate to each upcoming assessment to prevent any stress further down the line when your deadlines all suddenly approach. See what you are due to be covering during the rest of the term and what reading you will need to complete. Get organised and ensure you get any textbooks from the library which are not available online before they go! I used to take printed out PowerPoints to lectures and annotate them, so if you do anything similar, make sure you have the upcoming term’s resources organised and ready to use. This will mean you do not have to think about any of these basic organisation tasks whilst you are in the full flow of university and this will eliminate unnecessary stress going forward.
Careers. If you have any free time, reading week is a great time to have a look at any opportunities which may be available. Go to any careers fairs which your university may be holding during reading week. Lots of universities have great careers services which allow you to book one-to-one appointments with a careers advisor, so trying to set up one of these appointments during your reading week could be really useful. You could also apply for some relevant Spring or Summer placements/internships, touch up your CV and LinkedIn profile or even do a bit of research into what is available on the graduate job market to help guide your career search.
Most importantly, make sure you are looking after yourself. Make yourself some balanced meals, do some meal prep, get enough sleep, have a relaxing bath/shower, do some exercise, and clean/organise your spaces. This will mean your mind and body are in the best place going forward into the coming teaching weeks. Do not burn yourself out during reading week before you are even going back into university again! Hopefully this has given you some ideas about how to make the most out of reading week.