23/04/2013 09:54 BST | Updated 19/06/2013 06:12 BST

Maximising Your Potential At University

My name is James Saward-Anderson and I am a 22-year-old Ultra Endurance Athlete from Portsmouth studying for a degree in International Development studies. I have undertaken some of the hardest physical challenges on earth. And I would like to be able to share some of the knowledge I have acquired during these events with the world. This blog is dedicated to fulfilling such a purpose. I am also a keen reader and researcher who intends to publish a book in March about a 1,300 mile, 58 day run I undertook from Canterbury to Rome.

I hope to blog once per week, mostly about easily applicable motivational strategies and physical training advice which I have employed during the years I have been undertaking Ultra Endurance events, this week and next week I will be looking at strategies to help you maximise your time and potential whilst at University.

It would not be an understatement for me make the claim that our time at university is perhaps one the most important periods of our lives. If we were all buildings, our childhood would be the mixing of the cement, and our time at university would be the laying of the foundations. Yet many students seem oblivious to this fact, they spend most of their years at university in an alcohol induced haze, stumbling between studying and well...not really doing much else at all!

This way of life is consolidated on the premise that our degrees will somehow guarantee us a well paid,secure, high quality job once we graduate. But this simply isn't the case anymore. The world is becoming increasingly competitive, and the reality is there are simply not enough graduate jobs to go around. The prospect of being unemployed once we graduate is higher then ever before, over 20% of graduates are unemployed even with their shiny new degrees (BBC,2012). So what is the problem?

The answer, put simply is this; employers are looking for more then just your degree. They are looking for people who are unique. People who value their own time and invest their share of it into projects and experiences which will serve to enhance their lives. People who are motivated and self confident, with high levels of emotional intelligence and even higher ambitions set for themselves, people who are not afraid to put themselves into situations where they are making as many decisions as possible, because such decisions define who they are. These people can be influenced by the social narrative but not dictated to by it. The problem is that the student social narrative, the one which is predominately promoted within our media serves to hinder our development rather then nurture it.

As students we are encouraged by many parts of the media to partake in the somewhat concerning habitual devastation of our mental and physical well being by a confused and quite frankly obsurd cultural bias within our demographic towards the excessive consumption of alcohol. But just because the social narrative encourages it, doesn't mean that it is right. I am not a tee total killjoy, I enjoy a good drink every now and then. But regulating and having full control over what we choose to make our habits is a critical step towards the road towards self mastery. Because everything starter with a decision and decisions dictate our habits. Will you go out for the third time this week? Or will you train? Will you apply for some more internships, or will you spend your evening playing video games? Will you spend your university experience developing yourself as much as possible to become the person YOU would want to hire? Or will you squander your time procrastinating?

The best way to start reversing your bad habits is to make a series of long term and short term goals which will serve as beacons for the directions of your new habits. For example the most common habit which faces most students is excessive procrastination, in my opinion, the easiest way to overcome procrastination is by setting goals. Start with long term ones, but really focus into the short term goals. As you draw more and more to the present, make them as detailed as possible, If you have a series of manageable and rationally optimistic short term goals, then you should have enough motivation to overcome periods of procrastination.

Time is money, and if we follow this equation then we students are rich! We have buckets of the stuff, even after contact time with lectures and seminars (16 hours per week on average) we have pools of time in which we could be using to develop positive habits. So start using it wisely!

For more information on effective goal setting and habit forming, I would recommend reading the seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen R Covey, it is a fantastic book which gives a detailed overview of developing positive change within your life.And although it is aimed at business leaders, it should become essential reading for all students as they progress through their time at university. Or alternatively check out my blog by following the website tab at the top of the page!