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Hello to everyone out there who’s getting ready for some serious exam revision soon.

Hello to everyone out there who’s getting ready for some serious exam revision soon.

And an even bigger hello to everyone who knows they should be revising, thinks they ought to be revising or is sure they’re going to get round to it soon, probably! I remember that problem very well. I’ve sat (and got good grades in), more exams than I can count, and I still struggle to get going. ‘Procrastination’ is one of the most fearful words in the English language. In case you don’t know, it means ‘putting off until later’. It’s very hard to battle against, but over the years I’ve collected a few weapons and I think it’s time I shared them with all you students who are fighting hard against the urge to stay in bed or just watch one more teensy little tv programme before you get out the text books.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at different ways of helping students focus on their work, and the obvious starting point is organising their working environment to minimise the distraction factor of all those home comforts

Weapon number one: Get yourself a base camp.

Make it somewhere that you want to be. I have tried two approaches, and both worked well. The first, when I was revising for A-Levels, was to get the bus into central Leeds and go to the huge city library in the town centre. Once there, there was nothing else I could do except revise. No noise, no tv, no kitchen. There were also lovely oak lined booths with huge desks, where I could sit and feel very important. Obviously, you can’t all go to Leeds to revise, but you could look for a public library with a quiet study area.

A more immediate solution, which I hope is open to everyone, is to set up a base camp in your house. So where, exactly? Some students work at a table in a downstairs room but for most, their bedroom is the obvious choice. And it’s probably the better option: there will be fewer people coming and going, and you won’t have to pack up all your study materials at the end of each work session

The trouble with the bedroom, though, is that it’s got a bed in it, and sitting cross-legged on a bed, laptop on knees and surrounded by books and papers, is not the best way to study. It hurts your back, and also carries the obvious added risk of unscheduled snoozing! What you need is a desk. A decent-sized desktop allows you to organise your study materials, but more important than that is the psychology of it. A desk is quite obviously intended for work and nothing else; and when you plonk yourself down at it you go into work mode.

No-one’s saying it’s that easy though. Before even thinking about studying I had to make myself want to go and sit at that desk. So, I put on some music I liked, lit a scented candle, made a coffee and put out a couple of biscuits, (or more…) Once I had lured myself to the work station thus, I was able to open the books and get started.

Finally, a word about TV: no, no and once again, no! Music is okay provided it’s both quiet and slow – 60bpm, according to recent research, actually helps you to focus; anything over 100bpm interrupts your concentration. So Bach, fine. Death Metal, definitely not.

Why not print out your work station plan, sort yourself out a good base camp today and get started. Step number two will be posted shortly.