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 by Lydia Chantler-Hicks
, posted on 16 Jul '19

7 Life Hacks for Masters Students

Your Masters is going to be a busy time. You'll soon find yourself with a lot more to prepare for classes and seminars and things will only get more hectic once you’re working on your and applying for jobs or further study at the end of your degree. What you need is a set of life hacks to get you set.

As luck would have it, there are a few simple things you can do to make your life easier as you embark upon your postgraduate journey. Better yet, they're things you can get ready now, before you start – or even before you apply. Here's how!

#1 Back up everything

Everyone knows a horror story involving work that wasn’t backed up:

Whether it’s about a student who lost a USB stick containing their meticulously-collected data, or someone whose laptop was stolen the day before their dissertation deadline.

Don’t let yourself be that person.

Or, at least, if you are that person, and you do lose your laptop, don’t let it ruin your postgraduate experience.

Back. Up. Everything. Let this be your mantra.

Invest in an external hard drive or a USB stick with a large capacity, and make sure you save all your work onto this as you go along. Then put it somewhere safe, and protect it like it's your home...and you’re a young Macaulay Culkin.

Alternatively, email yourself the latest draft of your work, and save it to cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.).

Better still, do all of the above. Never just save your work to your computer, especially if you’re using a university PC, when it can be easy to lose things into the ether.

#2 Always carry work with you

Keep your work safely backed up, but don’t just leave it there:

As a Masters student, you may find yourself wishing there are more hours in the day for you to devote to your studies. With so much to fit into the space of one year, it can be tricky to know how to cram it all in.

One way to ease this problem is to carry a piece of work with you at all times.

You never know when you’re going to be stuck in a traffic jam on the bus, or waiting in a coffee shop for 20 minutes for a friend to turn up. By carrying a piece of work in your bag or on your phone, you can use this time for extra reading, or making notes for a seminar.

Even ten minutes of this a day quickly adds up to over an hour of extra work a week.

#3 Get the right amount of sleep

Many postgraduate students find it hard to shake undergraduate habits of late nights and long lie-ins. With so much work to cram in, it can be tempting to sacrifice a good night’s rest in favour of burning the midnight oil.

But don’t underestimate the importance of sleep: A lack of it can have a host of negative impacts upon your learning, mental health, and physical wellbeing.

The NHS recommends that adults get between six and nine hours of sleep every night.

It also suggests that it’s important to establish and stick to a sleep routine, to help regulate your natural body clock.

So work out what works for you – whether you’re a natural early riser, or prefer staying up late. Once you’ve established this, make sure your bedroom is sleep-friendly.

Your bedroom can have a big impact upon your quality of sleep. So keep it tidy, and make sure you turn off any bright lights and screens well before you go to bed.

Try to stay disciplined. It’s easy to feel sluggish and tired if you over-sleep. Even if your timetable is fairly free, try not to have more than the recommended maximum of nine hours.

Establish a good weekday sleep routine, and you’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for all your postgraduate classes and commitments.

#4 Clean up your online presence

Your digital profile matters a great deal today, particularly because many employers now carry out online searches of job applicants.

This can also be important for postgraduate students.

Universities won’t generally vet your social media profiles as part of your application process, but your Masters is an appropriate time to build a professional personae. After all, you’ll be looking for a job once you graduate – possibly in a field closely related to your course.

So it’s important to make sure your online presence is up to a standard that would be expected of a postgraduate.

You can easily check whether this is the case, by opening an incognito search window and then Googling your name.

What comes up?

If all you see is a glowing LinkedIn profile, some interesting tweets, and a headshot-esque photograph, you’re probably okay.

If, however, your search turns up material that you find embarrassing or cringe-worthy, and that you wouldn’t be prepared to show a future employer, you need to do something about it.

But don't worry. With a little care you can transform your social media presence from a cringe-worthy hindrance to a fantastic asset, which you can include on applications for jobs and further study.

#5 Sort out your finances

While knuckling down to your Masters, you’ll have plenty of things occupying your mind.

Money is unfortunately one of the biggest sources of stress for students. So try to give yourself one less thing to think about by sorting out your finances as soon as you can.

Take a look at our tips on managing your money as a postgraduate.

If your timetable allows, you could also try finding a part-time job to provide you with a little extra spending money.

#6 Invest in stationery

You might be thinking this is a slightly frivolous point, but it’s an important one.

Your work process will be smoother if you have the proper tools for the job.

As a Masters student, you won’t want to be reliant upon your housemate’s hole punch, or to be stuffing your lecture notes into a drawer for lack of folders.

You will need to file your postgraduate work efficiently, so that you can easily go back and revisit documents from previous weeks.

So: invest in some basic pieces of kit, and make your life a whole lot easier.

If possible, try to get a printer (and keep it topped up with ink and paper). This will save you trekking to the library just to print off work, and will also mean you can quickly make hard copies of any reading you need to do, rather than looking at it on a screen.

#7 Carry an umbrella

This is particularly relevant if you are studying in the UK, or in another part of the world where it’s highly likely to rain at unfortunate and unpredictable times.

Nobody wants to schlep around campus with bedraggled hair and sodden clothes. Especially if you’re carrying a laptop, or important books and papers, and want to at least give the illusion of being a well-functioning adult.

For a small price, you can invest in a decent telescopic umbrella. Keep this in your bag at all times, and never be caught short again.

Editor's note: This blog was first posted on 06/09/2017. We've checked and updated it for current readers.

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