Follower: I’ve just started paramedic school and have been having a hard time managing my time for studying, and I’ve been getting so nervous speaking in front of class. Do you have any advice or recommendations?
Time management during independent study periods and public speaking are the two most commonly encountered difficulties encountered by university students! What is written below is what helped me from my six years at university.
When I first started university my time management was appalling. I would never plan ahead. I would begin assignments literally on the day they were due resulting in so much unnecessary stress, not to mention a rushed attempt which would end up getting me low marks. I had a passion for the profession I was wanting to be part of but I struggled with distractions!
So, I decided I had to focus on what I wanted to become more. I read, watched, and listened to content about my future job, and by immersing myself into this environment a greater passion to study grew in me.
That was step one. Step two for me consisted of listing daily/weekly tasks. I started by making a list of goals for one day. I advise you to start conservatively. Make sure you prioritise! Unimportant tasks can consume a lot of precious time better used for more important tasks! Also doing important tasks earlier is effective because that's when your brain is working better; getting early nights also really helps with this. Taking breaks and going for short brisk walks also helps by oxygenating the brain and keeping circulation going! This actively improves your cognitive power and memory! Watch this TED talk by neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki for more details:
Once you have a flow of daily tasks working well you can scale from daily and weekly to monthly task setting. This practice is strongly related to future-orientation, which is loosely defined by an individual’s feelings, plans, motivation, and thoughts about their future. Future orientation is not just an awareness of the future, but also an understanding of one’s ability to create and accomplish a relevant plan of action, and is linked to higher frontal lobe function which is associated with traits conducive to productive study such as focus, self-control, and self-discipline.1
To start with one’s self-efficacy has a lot to do with their confidence or fear of public speaking. Self-efficacy, according to psychologist Albert Bandura, is a personal judgment of "how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations". Therefore, self-efficacy is a subjective self-judgement - kind of like confidence. Common causes of fear of public speaking (or FOPS as I like to call it) are low self-efficacy, lack of preparation leading to lower self-efficacy, and a focus more on yourself than on your listeners and the information they need to learn. How can you influence others if you're completely focussed on yourself? Turn that bright spotlight around and shine the light on your listeners. They matter, not you!
I found rehearsing presentations to myself or to my friends/family helpful. When I am nervous, or even just excited, I tend to speak more rapidly, and this can make me difficult to follow. Your practice audience will tell you where you are rushing, where to improve your flow and what to emphasise or be more enthusiastic about.
And Remember to pause…. and use silence for impact.
In class presentations are generally short and to the point. However for other kinds of presentations such as graduate, conference, or work presentations, a trait that really makes successful public speaking is building rapport with your audience. A common trap to fall into when speaking to an audience is to merely convey information. Without making engagement with the audience you are in danger of losing their interest and focus. Remember, your primary task is to make sure that your information soaks into their minds! Then make the experience engaging and memorable! I had a classmate that solved a Rubik’s Cube, while doing a theatrical skit, while delivering a presentation on mental health. That’s a little beyond most of us, but you get the picture, smile, ask questions, share an anecdote or joke here or there, and deliver the message!
1.) Johnson SRL, Blum RW, Cheng TL. Future orientation: a construct with implications for adolescent health and wellbeing. Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2014;26(4):459–68