Study Playlist #2

Music is a massive part of my life, and played a large part in my studies.  In my first study playlist, I talked about the huge impact finding the right music to listen to while studying can have on how successful a study session is! Pick the wrong album (in my case, anything with words!) and you might find yourself distracted, singing along and getting nowhere.

Find the right music, however, and you can be well on your way to getting that essay or report out of your hair forever!

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Today, I’d like to introduce you to another three albums which I listened to repeatedly during that crazy assessment period last year! I can hardly believe it’s April again already. This time last year, I was just a couple of weeks off finishing up my classes, and preparing to lock myself in the library for what were three of the most hectic weeks of my life.  These were some of the songs that kept me company during that time – and probably kept me sane! – and I hope they can do the same for you.

Departure Songs by Hammock

Hammock weren’t a band I had ever heard of until last year, and I discovered them around the same time I discovered God is an Astronaut and Tycho. Described as having a “unique sound that effortlessly melds elements of ambient, electronic, neoclassical and post-rock, this is another instrumental band, perfect for studying without the distraction of vocals!

Go by Jonsi

Jonsi is the lead vocalist from Sigur Ros, who are one of my favourite bands in terms of this sort of music! However, I know Sigur Ros just a bit too well, and while I can’t exactly sing along to Icelandic vocals, it was reaching the point of being a little distracting. Enter Jonsi’s solo album, Go! If you’re looking for something super cheerful and uplifting, this album is it. You might recognise track one “Go Do” from a Philadelphia advert last year!

This Will Destroy You by This Will Destroy You

And finally, another post-rock band, This Will Destroy You’s music is along similar lines to God is an Astronaut and Hammock, and I love it. It’s unobtrusive in as much as it’s instrumental, but it has enough of a kick that it keeps you awake rather than lulling you to sleep like some instrumental music can start to do! I’m not sure why this album motivates me so much, but I’d definitely give it a listen if you’re struggling to find music to suit your studying!

So there you have it – three more of the albums that made studying for my Masters just that little bit easier! Even if you aren’t studying, I would recommend checking out these albums because they are all fantastic!

What albums have you been listening to lately? Let me know in the comments! And remember – there’s still time to enter my book giveaway, it closes on the 6th April!!

Lynsey x

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5 Reasons Not To Skip Class!

There’s a certain freedom associated with heading off to university.  For the past thirteen or even fourteen years of your life, you’ve been in school, with a strict timetable setting out exactly where you have to be and when, from 9 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.  If you don’t show up to class, your teacher will notice, you will be pulled up for it, and if you miss enough, your parents or guardians are probably going to receive a call from the school!
When you go off to university, however, it’s like a whole new world! You might only have two classes in a day, and what’s more, you’ll find that there’s no-one there to chase you to them.  Suddenly it’s your responsibility to get yourself to class and do the work! While some universities have a clock in system for their classes to monitor your attendance, no one really has time to run around after you.  There can, then, be a temptation to relish that freedom a little too much!

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Picture this: you’ve been on a brilliant night out with your flatmates/classmates, and you have a lecture at 9am.  You wake up at 8 o’clock feeling a little worse for wear, running on about three hours sleep and instantly regretting that bag of chips and cheese that you just had to have the night before on the way home!
Your friend texts you and says: “No chance I’m making this class – it’s fine, lecture notes are all online anyway.”
So what do you do?! Drag yourself out of bed and make your way to class, or hit the snooze button and snuggle back up for another couple of hours?
Here are 5 reasons to do the former and get yourself to as many of your classes as possible!!
1. Not everything is in the lecture notes!
The internet is a wonderful thing, and the ability to post information for students to access out of class is amazing.  Despite what people tell you, however, not everything is included in the online lecture notes.  They are usually just that – notes! Bullet points, or snippets to get you started.  It’s often when the lecturer gets properly into the discussion that some of the most useful information comes up! A question from a student can lead the lecturer to say something that makes everything click into place for you – something that happened to me in one of my first year classes! If you don’t go to class, you run the risk of missing out on that crucial information!
2. Going to class gets you noticed!
In school you’ll probably be one of about thirty children in a class, sometimes less.  In a first year English literature lecture, you might be one of hundreds of students.  Making the effort to go to your classes, your seminars/tutorials in particular, means you will be able to build a relationship with your lecturers/tutors.  This can be helpful in the event that you’re struggling with an assessment, or need a reference for a future course or job.  If your tutors see that you’re putting in the work, they are much more likely to want to help you!
3. You’ll make friends!
This one is particularly relevant if you haven’t moved away from home to study, but it applies to everyone! If you deliberately skip class, you won’t get chatting to the people who are studying the same subjects as you.  If you make friends on your course, future group work projects will be easier, and you’ll have people to turn to for help/notes if you do end up having to miss a class at some point. Regardless of that, these are the people who have applied for the same course as you, so you’ll instantly have common ground and something to bond over – don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet people who might become lifelong friends!
4. Self-Motivation is a powerful thing!
Pushing yourself to go to that 4pm lecture on the topic you’re least interested in when a Netflix binge in your pyjamas sounds like so much more fun is a great thing! Working on your self-motivation means that when you go out and get a job, or even more so, if you decide to start your own business, you’ll be used to making yourself do the work when there’s no-one else there to push you!
5. You went to uni to learn, right?!
There are so many amazing things about university – the friends you make, the confidence and independence you gain, the nights out you might go on (if that’s your thing – it’s totally okay, however, if it isn’t, but more on that another time!) and the inspirational people you’ll encounter. When it comes down to it though, you didn’t spend all that money (depending on where you live, it can be A LOT of money!), just to have fun nights out, did you? You could have had fun nights out and saved yourself a whole heap of cash by just going straight into a job after school! If you’ve gone to university it means that to some extent, you are interested in the course you’ve chosen, so don’t let that passion go to waste and enjoy the experience of learning about that subject! You might find that this isn’t the course for you and end up changing to study something else, but you won’t know that unless you go to your classes!
So those are my top five reasons why you should fight the urge to curl back up under your duvet and get yourself to that next 9am tutorial!!
What are your top tips for keeping motivated during term time?
Lynsey x
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PowerPoint 101 – Tips For Creating The Perfect Powerpoint Presentation

PowerPoint presentations are now a pretty standard part of work and student life.  Whether it’s at school, college, university, or even when you’re applying for a job (that’s right, a lot of interviews now include a presentation element!), knowing how to put together a few slides on PowerPoint* is something we all have to master.
Most of us are now taught the basics at school – how to add and delete slides, insert text or a picture and play the slideshow.  However, if you want your presentation to really pack a punch, and stand out from your classmates, I thought I’d give you a couple of tips that I’ve picked up,  to help you achieve just that!
*These screenshots were taken on PowerPoint 2010 – the setup may vary in different versions e.g. 2007, 2013.

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Inserting a Custom Background:

To insert a custom background on to your slides, you can do it the old fashioned way – inserting a picture and stretching it to fit the slide – but then you run the risk of it moving during your presentation! To set an image as the fixed background of your slide:
Step 1: Open up your presentation, and click the “Design” tab along the top of the screen.
Step 2: Click on “Background styles” at the right hand side of the screen.
Step 3: Select “Format Background”.
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Step 4: Select “Picture or texture fill” on the Fill tab.
Step 5: Select “Insert from File” and choose your image.

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Ta Da! Custom background!
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However, depending on the photo you upload (in this example I’m using one of my  Instagram photos of some makeup – let’s say I’m doing a presentation on the beauty industry!), you might find that when you try to insert your text, it becomes difficult to read.  Fear not, there is a quick and easy way to fix this!
Step 6: Jump back on to the format background tab you clicked on in step 3. At the bottom of this box, you’ll find a “Transparency” bar. Adjust this as much or as little as you need depending on how busy/dark your chosen image is!

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Now you can type as much text as you like and it should show up nice and clearly!

Editing A Text Box:

If you want to take it one step further, however, you can add an additional layer by editing the text box itself!
Step 7: When you click on your text box, the “Drawing Tools” bar should appear at the top of your screen. Click it.
Step 8: Click on the “Shape Fill” dropdown box and select “More Fill Colours”.
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Step 9: Choose from the standard colour tab (which provides all the standard set colour options on PowerPoint) or Custom. By choosing custom, you can change the RGB colour if you have a specific colour scheme in mind.
Step 10: This step only applies if you have chosen the custom colour option! Type in your RGB codes, or play around with the colour by clicking on the rainbow box on the tab!
Step 11: After all that effort getting your custom background uploaded, you might not want part of the image to be totally blocked out by your textbox.  Again, PowerPoint has a handy little Transparency bar for you to adjust, so that your image can shine through as much or as little as you’d like.

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And here’s another little tip… to repeat this background on every slide, if you make a design you are really happy with, just right click on the slide in the sidebar and hit “duplicate slide”!

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Transitions:

Finally for today, a quick word on transitions between slides! There is nothing wrong with the set transition, which just relies on you clicking the arrow on your keyboard to move to the next slide.  In fact, sometimes the simpler the better is a good rule to go by! However, if you are after something a bit fancier, PowerPoint has a few options!
Click on the “Transitions” tab along the top of the page.  Here you’ll find a number of options, from fading out of one slide and into another, to a checkerboard effect – just click the little arrow at the side of the bar to see more than the first few options!
Then, if you’d like to change the effect (from sliding left to right, to right to left etc), click on the “Effect Options” dropdown box.

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So that’s it for my PowerPoint 101 – just a few tips to help make your next presentation stand out from the crowd!
I have lots more of these (I spent A LOT of time using PowerPoint during my Masters), so if you’d like to see more of this sort of post, let me know in the comments! I might do a version on Prezi, which is a different presentation program online, so let me know if that would be of interest!
Hope you’re having a lovely week! What are some of your tips for creating a powerful presentation?
Lynsey x
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Study Playlist #1

Afternoon everyone! Hope your Monday has been going well so far!
During my Masters, I spent a lot of time seeking out the perfect study soundtrack, and I thought that I’d share some of the hidden gems I discovered along the way with you this afternoon!
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Some people study best in complete silence – I am not one of them.  Others find it comforting to have the television on for background noise, but that can become distracting if an episode of [insert-the-name-of-your-favourite-show-here] comes on! Music, then, is usually a happy medium! Different styles of music will work for different people, but for me, upbeat music with no words worked best.  I love piano music, but sometimes that just wasn’t energetic enough, and anything with words (hello Taylor Swift) just tempted me to sing along in my head.
So here, for your listening pleasure, are three of the albums that got me through my crazy assessment period last April…
1. Tycho – Dive

I’m listening to this as I type this post and I genuinely feel so relaxed and focused.  I love this album.  Wikipedia describes Tycho as an “American ambient music artist and producer”, and the tracks on this album are all soothing but upbeat enough that there’s zero chance it’s going to lull you to sleep over that jargon-filled journal article you’ve been trying to get through all day.
2. God Is An Astronaut – Origins

I found God Is An Astronaut through Tycho – this album appeared in the recommendations in the YouTube sidebar! They are known as a post-rock group, so their sound (particularly on this album) is a bit heavier than Tycho, but I found that it really motivated me.  Again, there are no words, so there’s no danger of finding yourself having a sing-along – check out track 11, “Red Moon Lagoon”, it’s my favourite!
3. Prince Avalanche – Full Soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky & David Wingo

I’m not sure I can put into words how much I adore this album.  I have to be honest – I haven’t watched the whole film (I watched half of it on Netflix late one night, but I will watch the whole thing at some point!), but the soundtrack is just incredible.  I’m a fan of Explosions in the Sky at the best of times, but this? Beautiful, soothing music, and the perfect backdrop to your next essay.  You’re welcome.
That concludes my first Study Playlist post, but I’m definitely planning more of these in the future. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope these lovely albums help you concentrate on the next task you have to tackle!
What songs have been on repeat on your study playlist lately?
Lynsey x
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