library inspiration and realistic expectations

Posted in personal
studying in the Maughan
I went to my university library this week, for the first time since the academic year started. The last time I’d set foot in the Maughan, in June this year, I was handing in the piles of books I’d been hoarding for my third-year dissertation.

 Maughan library

This visit was about picking up some books for an upcoming mid-semester essay, and also partly about reconnecting with my love for books and literature and libraries and university. My September/October slump, which I was beginning to shake off after my Paris trip, still hovered on the edges of my consciousness, and I was determined to kick it to the curb with one big final library push.

Setting foot inside the building, and roaming its hallways, I realised that you can’t just eradicate a slump so completely and immediately from your life. It takes time. This revelation came, somewhat stupidly, with the recognition that my mid-semester essay will not happen overnight. My catch-up reading will not happen in one day. My book will not write itself in a week.

Maughan library interior
One of the things I was most proud of achieving during the 14/15 academic year were my essays, dissertation, and grades. Taking inspiration from my lovely friend Robyn (and, of course, Hermione herself), I decided to set and observe early deadlines. My essays due in January were complete before the Christmas break, my essays due in April and my dissertation due in May were complete at the end of March.

Of course, ‘complete’ didn’t mean perfect – a lot of editing and rewriting took place. But the bulk of the work was done. I began my tasks early, I took my time with them, and I gave myself plenty of time to perfect. Probably unsurprisingly, the grades I got third year were the best of my entire undergraduate degree. Partly because my standard was so much better than first and second year, partly because I’d made such a huge effort to dedicate the time and patience to my work.

Kicking my slump to the curb requires the same sort of time and patience. Setting unrealistic expectations for myself – “I will be happy and complete everything I need to and be on top of my life by next week” – is just setting myself up for failure, and then more slump as I become even more disappointed with myself.

Maughan library interior
So this post is about setting some realistic goals. Catching up with my reading – while I stay on top of future reading – will require a good two weeks. My mid-semester essay will require an hour to two hours of my day, every day, until its due date. My book will require the next five years of my life, probably. My end-of-semester essays will require a week each for planning, and a dedicated weekend each for writing.

And all this came to me as I wandered aimlessly around the Maughan, surrounded by that irresistible book smell, surrounded by the things I love most.

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  • Reply Ellen

    What a gorgeous library! I love the idea of completing an assignment well in advance so there's time to really perfect it. That's something I struggle with. I recently purchased a daily planner so I can make smaller, more realistic, day-to-day goals. Best of luck on your essay! And do enjoy that lovely library as often as you can!

    October 31, 2015 at 4:41 pm
  • Reply Larissa Scotting

    It's lovely, isn't it?! Embarrassingly, I only went for the first time halfway through first year.

    Completing things well in advance is basically the constant life dream – doing everything early is the dream. Wake up early, exercise early, eat early, go to bed early, complete assignments early…! But it's so hard actually doing it. The satisfaction at the end though is so completely worth it!! I also use a daily planner to try and plan life/goals out. Which one do you use? Mine is a Moleskine (cliché, I know…!).

    Thank you for your lovely comment Ellen – fingers crossed for the essay! Will definitely enjoy the library as much as possible! x

    November 1, 2015 at 12:05 pm
  • Reply Ellen

    Perhaps they are a cliche, but I think Moleskine planners/journals are wonderful! I did have one, but I recently purchased a planner off Etsy. It was exactly what I was looking for!

    November 3, 2015 at 2:33 am
  • Reply Zoe Diaz-McLeese

    What a beautiful library… this is probably what Borges was imagining as paradise. I've been spending a lot of time in my university's library as well this quarter since I'm writing my thesis, and for every book I check out for my thesis at least three for fun come home with me. However, I like your realistic goals. None of these amazing things we are working towards will happen overnight, and that's okay! As long as we keep working. I've been struggling with using my planner – what kind of planner do you use? I have been switching between a moleskine and a leuchtterm1917. I hope your essay turns out well!

    November 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm
  • Reply Larissa Scotting

    It's a gorgeous library, and I don't use it nearly enough. I hope your thesis writing is going well – is this undergrad/postgrad? I always try to juggle reading for college with one pleasure read, but I find it really hard to find the time for the latter…!

    I use a Moleskine planner (this one: and I LOVE it. I love having a weekly spread, and the notes page opposite gives me space to write a to-do list for that week. It's a similar layout to the leuchtterm1917 actually!

    Good luck with all your reading and your thesis Zoe! And thank you for reading and commenting too! 🙂

    November 3, 2015 at 11:22 pm
  • Reply Larissa Scotting

    That planner is lovely! I'm not a huge fan of spiral-bound at the moment though, so I'll be sticking with my Moleskines for now. And I am such a sucker for anything Etsy. The stuff on there is always so cool and fun and individual!!

    November 3, 2015 at 11:25 pm
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