You’re at the beginning of a new semester, and collecting all the materials and textbooks you will need for your subjects. Many of your resources will be given to you as part of the subject itself – not only the book of readings supplied but also in the form of podcasts, videos and lists of references for further reading.

If this is your first semester, it could be tempting to ‘start off right’ and buy a slew of wonderful stationery, colourful and fresh, to help you to stay organised. Let me tell you: if you are not already organised, pretty stationery will not automatically make you organised. It just looks good (so it does work if your aim was to simply use stationery that looks good!).

I know. I’ve been there. The pages are soooooo clean; they are just waiting for fantastic ideas and amazing insights to be laid down upon them – building blocks for the greatness that will be my work! Um. Well, they look nice.

They are also amazingly expensive, and take money away from the important stuff – textbooks and reference books. Now they are expensive, but they are far more useful. You can write your notes on a sixty-seven cent writing block from the supermarket just as easily as in a leather-bound notebook, but there is NO substitute for the recommended textbook/s your subjects require. If you are not referencing the texts in your assessments your tutors are going to be asking ‘why?’.

The fastest way to get an overview of the material is to set aside a day or two of your spare time to read through the readings (skim through to get a feel of them if there are way too many), the synopsis of your subject and the textbook/s. No, you don’t have to read the whole textbook!  The easiest way to get a grip on a book’s subject matter is to read the table of contents. You can also read the index and, if the book has one, the glossary. The glossary in particular will give you a good idea of the keywords, professional jargon, language and tone you are to use in your assessments.

Read through the list of assessment tasks (if you get them ahead of time), so you can manage your study and research activities more effectively. In this way, your use of time will be structured and focussed.

Getting set up to attack your work in this way will take effort and organisation, but will be well worth it; you will be to pick up on the information that will assist you towards your goals (gathering material that will aid you in passing the assessments).

Remember the old adage – ‘Well begun is half done’.