Many problems and challenges university students face during the academic year can be overcome with efficient organisation and planning, says UKZN alumnus and Industrial Relations Consultant, Mr Tsepo Mkhwanazi.
Mkhwanazi (23) of HRTorQue Outsourcing in Durban offers students the following advice to get the most out of 2017:
When studying, working or having to do both, demands are high so scheduling tasks is vital to get the job done and the study work completed successfully. Downtime is crucial but if you don’t plan your own downtime, you will probably never get much!
If you expect to have a good day and the day becomes challenging, you may struggle to get through it. However, if you accept that it is quite possible that the day could be dreadful and it turns out to be much better than expected, you will be able to take full advantage of the situation.
My schedule is: 12am to 5am – sleep; 5am to 6am - jogging; 6am to 7am - shower and leave for work; 8am to 4:30pm - work; 5pm to 6:30pm - change and leave for night class; 7pm-11pm – night class.
I try to stick closely to this schedule, adding extra hours of sleep on weekends and on public holidays.
Mental and physical health are enhanced through regular exercise so make sure you do at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
When work pressures start to bear down on you, learn to prioritise tasks and pick up the slack by trading sleep for naps.
There will, without doubt, be days when you feel very flat, lacking energy and drive. Those are the times when you need a friend, a confidante, a family member to confide in and help and encourage you to build yourself up again. In my case, I always turned to my girlfriend or my mother who is a very strong but empathetic woman.
I did my honours degree while working to pay tribute to my late grandfather who always encouraged me to do better. I also did it for myself, to prove I could do whatever I turned my mind to and to prove to people who told me it couldn’t be done that in fact it was possible. I have very strong faith in myself and my abilities.
If you work while studying, you will probably not have a lot of time to socialise and may end up losing friends. However, true friends will stick by you through thick and thin.
With always being on the move and working on numerous projects, it is sometimes easy to procrastinate which is a thief of time. I believe there is a big difference between being productive and being so called “busy” which can be a form of laziness.
If you study while working, you will struggle if you do not have a good relationship with colleagues and lecturers.
For example, in instances where I couldn’t attend lectures due to work commitments, classmates covered for me and lecturers helped as well.
Being part of a study group can have huge benefits as long as the leader is informed and efficient, otherwise it could be a case of the blind leading the blind.
On the issue of how to operate during times of student unrest on campus, Mkhwanazi had this advice:
‘Everything in life depends on how you look at it. Students should take advantage of the days the University closes due to unrest. If a deadline gets pushed back because of problems on campus, you get the advantage of an extension and the opportunity to focus on your projects without a distraction. That is where you need to be disciplined and strict and take advantage of the situation.’
On the issue of staying focused, he says this: ‘I know how hard it is to attend university with a disadvantaged background - the odds are stacked against you. You will have problems with housing, finance and other necessities. It pays to always remember why you came to university and get on with your work.’
And the final word: ‘I always wanted to be able to tell my mother to stop working and hand her keys to a brand new house and car. My mom always did her best to make sure we got a good education but that sometimes meant having to go to school on an empty stomach. I grew up wanting more, I knew there was a better life. I wanted to live by the beach, have a good job and give money to my mom every month.
‘I now live near the sea, have a good job and although my mother does not need financial help from me, I do my bit to make her smile as often as I can. That is faith and that is God!’