With spring break officially in full swing for most students, it’s that time of year when exam period is fast approaching and motivation is nowhere to be seen. And no matter how I try to avoid it, I always seem to fall victim to procrastination. I mean, this blog is just one of the results of locking myself away from society, for hours at a time, in an attempt to kick myself into action and knuckle down with studying for my exams. So for the last few days, I’ve been browsing the tinternet for the best tips to help aid my revision and get me to crack on with studying as well as reflecting on things that I’ve done in the past that have helped and I thought I’d share them with you guys in case you were in the same boat as me – a boat that was going absolutely nowhere and at high risk of sinking.
These tips are pretty much applicable to every student, regardless of what level of education you’re in, whether it be high school, college or university (undergrad and postgrad) – which makes them even better!
I have two huge guilty pleasures when it comes to studying – stationary and organisation..
Nothing makes me happy like new stationary. Growing up I’d always be looking forward to the last week of August before starting a new school year so I could raid Staples and WHSmiths for new pens, pencils, books, folders etc. etc. etc. Even just typing about them is making me so happy. (You don’t need to tell me I’m sad – I already know). But I do find having stationary that you enjoy using makes me more motivated into studying. So even if you’re not a stationary freak like me, go out to the shops and buy a new notebook or a folder or even just a pen because you’ll probably find that, if you really like it, you’re gonna want to use it, which is going to motivate you into studying. Clever, eh?
And when it comes to organisation, there’s no doubt in saying that I am definitely on Monica Gellar’s level. I love, love, love making to-do lists. My whiteboard is home to most of my to-do lists. It helps me organise what I’m gonna do and I have a terrible memory at remembering things. I also find that making a to-do list helps you complete the tasks that you don’t necessarily enjoy doing as well as the ones you do like doing as you can switch them up and everything gets done in the end. It’s also the best feeling at the end of the day when you can tick (or violently scribble) everything out that you’ve done, leaving you feeling like you’ve actually accomplished something with your day.
As well as having day-to-day to-do lists, I have to-do lists that can span over months at a time, especially when it comes to huge deadlines, such as with my dissertation or for my final examinations. I don’t enjoy these as much as I rarely get to cross things off them but when I do, I feel so relieved.
Talking of deadlines, organise your deadlines or exam dates somewhere you can see them regularly but not constantly, i.e. don’t put them up right in front of your desk but maybe at the side of your room or, like I have, on the back of your door. If you can see them all the time, you’ll just work yourself up about how much time there is left, whereas keeping them somewhere you can see a few times a day means you get a reminder but without all that stress. I like to keep mine on the back of my office door on a little whiteboard as it means that I see them every time I go to leave the room. Again, it’s a great relief to scribble them out as each one passes!
During my A-levels, I had a habit of creating revision timetables but never stuck to them. Things would come up, meaning I couldn’t study certain things on certain days, so I’d spend more time redoing the timetable than I was revising. So I found during my first year of university that it was more useful to create the to-do lists and allocate a certain amount of time each day to studying. I wouldn’t specify what I’d be doing each day but I’d make sure that I’d get a set amount of hours each day revising. I didn’t set myself ridiculous amount of hours either – I’d have an hour a day for each subject I studied for the first few weeks and then for the final two weeks before the exam, I’d up the hours as much as I felt was doable without overdoing it. This semester, since I do two exams, I have two hours a day studying for those and then two hours a day working on my dissertation. It’s good to have a small amount as it means I can do more if I want but is also manageable if I want to make plans too as I only have to do four hours in the morning or make sure I’m home in the evening to do four hours before bed. I then work through my to-do lists and once something is crossed out, I don’t redo it until the last few days before the exam. Simples.
It’s also important to be in a comfortable surrounding that you can sit, undisturbed, for the set amount of hours you’ve decided on. This could be an office/study, a desk in your bedroom, the family dining table (so long as it isn’t going to be interrupted with meal times) or even a library. I also find it’s good to have a change of setting ever so often so like to head down to the local coffee shop with a few books and my laptop to study. The worst thing you can do when studying is watch a movie or television shows. Up until last semester, I’d whack my Friends or Desperate Housewives boxsets on (or other boxsets I’d seen billions of times before as I thought it’d be safe for me to just have them on for background noise), but found myself laughing at Chandler’s jokes or crying at (SPOILER ALERT) Mike’s death for the umpteenth time so it was distracting me from what I was supposed to be doing – studying. Now I’m settled in my own office space (which you can see a tour of here (lil selfless bit of self-promo)), I put an easy-listening Spotify playlist on and put my phone on silent in a drawer to minimise distractions. This playlist is perfect! I’ve even disabled the notifications on my Mac so I can’t stray to the dark side when a Candy Crush request comes through.
Then there’s my favourite thing of all when it comes to studying.. pyjamas! Well, it doesn’t have to be pyjamas but I find that everything is better when you can wear your pyjamas. And it’s best to wear clothes that are loose and comfortable when you’re studying so you have less annoyances as studying itself is the biggest annoyance, ever. That’s one thing I hate about studying in the university campus’ library. I’m one of those people who cannot step foot in university with no make-up on and lounging clothes on so studying in the library for me is my idea of a nightmare – it’s much better to study at home, where I don’t get judged for being in my Finding Nemo onesie with my hair up in space buns, looking like a four year old. Oh, that’s another point. If you have long hair, it’s probably best that you tie it up in a hairstyle that means your hair won’t be in your face as again less annoyances and all that jazz.
And I think that’s all the tips for before the hell that teachers call ‘studying’ starts..
TIPS FOR BEFORE STUDYING:
- Get stationary that you need and love!
- Write a to-do list of what you need to achieve (either that day or before the exam)
- Organise your deadlines
- Allocate a set amount of hours to study each day (four at the most)
- Get into a comfortable surrounding with minimal distractions
- Get in ya jim jams (or other comfortable attire)
When I first started my degree all those years ago (okay, it was two and a half years ago but feels a lifetime ago), we had an induction day when we got bored to death with all the rules and regulations and all that yardy yar. But one thing that I do remember for those eight tedious hours in that lecture theatre was the head of the law school telling us that he didn’t believe in saying ‘studying for a degree’ or ‘studying for a qualification’ but he believed in saying ‘reading for a degree’ or ‘reading for a qualification’. And at the time, I was like ‘yeh, ok, mate, whatevz’ and was more concerned in wondering what I was gonna wear that night for our final Freshers night out. But now I actually see what he was meaning. Studying is essentially reading. For the first two years (well, majority of my degree), I bought the textbooks recommended to us at the start of the semesters with all intentions of reading them all but in reality, the only thing I used my textbooks for was as a doorstop (see below). But now I’ve started reading them and can see why they are useful. I’m not gonna profess that I read every single word printed and understand it fully – it’s more of a skim read – but they do help me understand it a lot more. So if your teachers or lecturers have told you to read something, read through it. They’re not trying to ruin your social life, like I thought they were doing to me in first year. They’re trying to help you. Honestly. And if you’re like me and hate reading, use something as a reward for when you finish a section. Haribos are great, FYI.
Studying can be a right ballache, especially if you’re really strict with yourself and lock yourself away for hours at a time without no breaks. That’s why breaks are so important when you’re concentrating. My concentration is like a goldfish’s memory and lasts about twenty seconds at best. But if I really crack down, I can do about half an hour of hard studying before I get restless, so for me, it is important to take breaks regularly. For the first few weeks of studying when it would be a couple of hours every day, I just have breaks that would last for a few minutes at a time (ten at the most). Then when the studying gets more intense, when I could be sat at my desk for nine or ten hours a day, I’d make the breaks longer. First year of university I’d reward myself by intending on having a nap or watch an episode of my favourite show on Netflix, but then when the nap would turn into a full blown eight hour sleep or the one episode on Netflix would turn into an entire season, I realised it wasn’t helping me at all. The break is supposed to help you reflect on what information you’d just studied and give you a refresher while it all sinks into your brain so last year I spiced it up a bit and rewarded myself by cleaning or cooking. Now, I know what you’re thinking right now and it seems boring but in the long run, it gave me a huge break from studying, let me have time to myself to think about what I’d studied and was productive. It wouldn’t be huge tasks. I’d do an hour or so of studying then maybe clean the bathroom (not a full hand and knees scrub as me and my housemates kept it relatively clean anyway but just bleach the toilet and run a mop over the floor) then go back to studying for an hour or so, then break for lunch, then go back to studying, then hoover the downstairs while pretending to be Freddie Mercury, and so on. BREAKS ARE SO IMPORTANT. YOU ARE STILL A HUMAN AT THE END OF THE DAY, NOT A MACHINE. And even machines breakdown when they’re over used.
Drinking water is also vital as it helps you feel refreshed and stops you getting dehydrated. This is pretty self-explanatory so I won’t jabber on about it, but it’s also a good idea to maybe use ‘getting water’ as one of your short studying breaks.. just saying.
Enjoy yourself too. It doesn’t always have to be work and no play. If your favourite song comes on, dance in your chair and sing your little heart out. If you feel a little reclusive, look at your phone for a bit and creep on Twitter. If you’re getting a numb bum, stand up and go run around the garden, chasing your dog. And if you don’t have a dog, go find someone with a dog and pet the dog. Dogs always help. If I ever ran for Prime Minister, I’d make it mandatory for every student to get a puppy as puppies are great.
LOOK AT ‘EM. LITTLE BALLS OF FLUFFY CUTENESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
TIPS FOR DURING STUDYING:
- Read what you’re supposed to read
- Have short, productive breaks regularly
- Drink water
- Don’t forget to have fun too
Once you’ve finished your studying for the day, don’t even think about it again. Don’t plan for tomorrow’s session studying. The day is now yours to enjoy. Don’t stress. Don’t work yourself up because your deadline is dooming. Don’t think ‘what ifs’ or ‘what buts’ (is that even a phrase?). Just relax. Take a bath. Pet more dogs.
And if you are stressing so much to the point that it is physically impossible to relax, even if you’ve petted all the dogs in the neighbourhood, write all your worries down on a piece of paper. This way, tomorrow you know what to tackle first. (What a surprise, I’ve recommended writing yet another to-do list..) Overworking yourself will mean you’ll spend more time worrying about what you can’t do, instead of studying what you can’t do and turning what you can’t do into something you can do. Never stay up ridiculously late to study either. Get an early night and after a good night’s sleep, you’ll be more refreshed, more focused and less stressed to battle on.
So these are the tips I’ve picked up and started using myself throughout the years and hopefully they help you guys if you’re stressing with studying and revising too.
We can do this. And if not, friendly reminder that these jobs actually exists..
- ‘Professional Binge Watcher’ at Netflix
- Panda Nanny
- And, most importantly, Zac Efron’s personal water sprayer