This month our Marketing Specialist, Flick, gives her top tips to starting your new course. She says that “pre-start nerves are normal, but if you know how to set a plan and prepare yourself physically and mentally you can stop those nerves from holding you back”.

A lot of people are nervous to start their course. They have found a course that they want to complete, and they have contacted the provider to start and have built it up in their mind so much that now they are nervous to do it.

French bulldog sleeping

Tip #1 – The night before starting the course

This might seem like a standard but make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before. We aren’t saying that you must get X amount of hours sleep, different people function on different amounts of sleep. Our very own Sam Cook very often has only a few hours sleep a night and feels alert, awake and ready for the day. Whereas Flick is the sort of person who needs at least 7 hours sleep to feel rested.

You know your own body, and what sleep you need to get to feel rested. Whatever is natural for your circadian cycle, so that you wake on the day of the course alert and rested.

When you are tired you are more likely to get distracted and lose concentration. This is because your brain needs sleep to focus. Not getting enough sleep means that the communication between your brain cells is disrupted which can cause memory lapses and poor concentration. The solution is simple, get a decent amount of shut eye.

Apple on books

Tip #2 – Fuel your brain

When you are hungry, and we mean truly hungry, it’s all you can think about. You can’t concentrate when you’re hungry (Snickers have made an entire advertising campaign around this fact!). We would recommend a good filling meal before you start your course. Does your course is in the morning; make sure you have a good breakfast. If your course starts in the afternoon, then a hearty lunch beforehand will set you up ready for it.

If you want to, you can choose to consume brain boosting foods like fruits, nuts, eggs and avocados, but in reality so long as your stomach isn’t rumbling the entire way through the lesson we don’t care what you eat. Although we would suggest that you avoid foods which make you feel sluggish and lethargic – hot chocolate is not something Flick would drink if she wanted to stay awake!

Again, you know your body better than we ever will. If you feel awake and alert after eating a large Big Mac meal with a milkshake and mozzarella sticks from McDonalds; go for it! If you feel more alert after a fresh crisp salad, eat that instead. We aren’t trying to say what you should eat, it’s more important that you eat so that you’re not thinking of food during the lesson.

Drinking water

Tip #3 – Starting a course is thirsty work

Just as we need to fuel our brain, we also need to water it. In some circumstances it helps to think of your brain as a complicated plant – it needs fuel and water in order to grow!

We know many people struggle to drink their daily recommended amount of water (if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to get water bottles with hourly reminders on them!). We would also recommend a drink of squash over a fizzy sugary drink. Our office ladies are no different, they drink copious amounts of coffee to stay alert throughout the day, but they also have a bottle of water on their desks which they sip in between the coffees.

Drinking water before and during your course will help to keep you hydrated and alert through the lesson. There’s a reason why exams allow you to have a clear water bottle on the table, water helps your brain think.

We would also recommend that before you start the lesson that you go to the toilet. Stopping a lesson to go to the toilet can sometimes be a distraction. It distracts you as you will probably check your phone on the way to the bathroom. You will have also stopped the lesson for any others attending too.

Mobile phone and study book

Tip #4 – Avoiding distractions

There are 101 things that distract us every day. When we get distracted, it takes us 23 minutes and 15 seconds regain our focus (according to a University of California Irvine study). If you are in an hour long lesson, that’s a third of your lesson time that you lose because of distractions.

There is a simple trick to avoiding distractions, switch as many as you can think of OFF. Not on silent so that you can still feel when your phone buzzes in your pocket or on your desk. Switch it to complete silence; no vibrate, no sounds, and put it out of your eye-line. In a bag or behind you or in a pocket. If you see it you’re more likely to pick it up and check it for notifications.

The same with your laptop, especially when it’s a virtual classroom, switch off notifications coming through to your laptop. We have all seen when someone gets a notification pop up on their screen which distracts them. Simply turn them off. Make others know that they are not to disturb you during the time of your course. You will be more likely to be able to focus for the full hour.

Tip #5 – The equipment you need to start your course

It’s not a good idea to go skydiving if you haven’t got a parachute. It’s the same logic with your course; there’s no point going to a computer programming course if you don’t have access to a computer. Make sure that you are prepared for starting your course.

If you have received information about your course, you should have been told what will be needed for that first lesson. If you haven’t, or you cannot find the information, don’t be afraid to ask the question. Tutors and training providers would rather you ask them what is needed for the course, rather than turning up without something.

As a fail-safe, we would recommend attending that first lesson with a minimum of two pens and a notepad. We recommend two pens. Then if one runs out or stops working mis way through your focussed notetaking, then you have a backup.

If the lesson is being delivered online, make sure that you have tested the system that will be used to deliver the lesson. It’s no good to have to download Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or others, as the lesson is starting. Test that it works on your device before the lesson starts. This means that you will be ready to start when your tutor is.

What does this mean for you?

If you follow these top tips to starting your course, we are confident that you will be alert, attentive and focused. Following these tips won’t guarantee that you will complete the course or that you will achieve the qualification, but we are confident that, by following these tips and tricks you will have a better chance of doing so.

These tips aren’t just for starting your course, if you follow them before each lesson, you will have a higher chance of retaining all that you have been taught and completing your qualification.

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