You’re here because you’re procrastinating. You can’t get the info to stick in your information-saturated brain and now you’re scrambling because you have midterms next week. After reading article after article after blog post after blog post, you’re seeing the same bullshit everywhere. And it’s not working for you.
Maybe you were a gifted high school student who didn’t need to study. Maybe all the methods shoved down your throat in school just don’t work or you can’t grasp the intricacies of the method. Worst of all, maybe you’re just trying to find something that actually works outside of what everyone else has been doing since the dawn of higher learning.
So here’s some tips from me that I found work for me.
- Spend 30 minutes every day unwinding. This seems counter-intuitive, I know. But if you just spent 6 hours learning and running around, you’re overloaded mentally. First thing I do when I get home from classes (unless I have to work right after class), is take off my shoes, put on a pot of coffee, grab a snack, and do some quick little chores, like the dishes or starting a load of laundry. These are all mindless tasks that you don’t have to spend any real thinking time doing. It also helps set you up for the next few hours. You have coffee (or tea if you don’t want to drink coffee that late, or milk or water or juice or whatever you drink) to keep you going through your homework, your dishes are done, you have clothes started for tomorrow.
- Set up your desk. Don’t count this time as part of your break. This is your pre-study prep time. Set up your desk with all the things you need, like you pens, your notebooks, your textbooks, your notecards, your laptop, your drink and snacks. Get your computer up and running and the online homework portal up. This is were everyone else shirks away in their tips; there is no way for you to do your work 90% of the time without being on your computer. 90% of homework is completed or submitted online so you will need your computer.
- ‘Eat the Frog’ This is a tip I saw floating around on the internet. It’s basically just starting with the thing you hate most. The thinking behind this is that when you do the thing you hate most first, you won’t push it off, you won’t half-ass it, you won’t ‘pretend’ it doesn’t exist (I’ve been there, don’t lie to me). This isn’t exactly what you want to hear, but you still have to get the work done. So if you have to work on Lit, Math, and Chemistry, and you love Math but hate Chemistry, then work on Chemistry first. Channel your energy hating it into beating that stupid class into submission. Then to reward yourself, work on your favorite class last to give your brain a little break.
- Give yourself a montage. Something that oddly inspires me to work hard is pretend that I’m in a movie. So play some music in the ‘background’ (headphones please, not everyone shares your taste) and pretend that Speilberg is filming a dramatization of your life in a Legally Blonde-esque montage of you doing schoolwork and putting your nose to the grindstone. Don’t act all embarrassed by this, you do it in your head already when you’re on a bus ride. So just channel Elle Woods and pretend you have to put your ex-boyfriend in his place by being better than him at his own game.
- Google is your new study buddy. Everyone acts like your teacher or your textbook hold all the answers to the class. But that’s utter bullshit. Your teacher may be an expert in the field but sometimes it’s hard to communicate ideas to each other. It’s the drawback of language and human thought. So don’t be afraid to Google a concept or find a Youtube video explaining it. Not everyone learns the same way, so you’ll have to do some legwork on your own to find what works best for you to learn a difficult concept in a week. And Google is very useful for finding practice exams from other professors across the world, or presentations, or study guides.
- Avoid brain-drain. You know the feeling; you’ve been staring at the same page for an hour and nothing is soaking in. This is your indication to take a real break. Now, people preach about taking breaks every hour or so, but I take breaks after I finish a flow. A flow is when you get rolling on a project or a section of reading and it’s all just rolling along. So why break a flow when the timer goes off, instead of riding it to the end and keeping the productivity going? But when you get to brain-drain, call it night. Only go back to the desk if you will absolutely fail tomorrow. So when you ride a flow to the end, get up and refill your cup, grab a handful of trail mix or something, and switch projects.
- Plan time Do this at the end of your study session. Pull out your planner and update your assignment tasks. Personally, I put vague notes in my physical planner, like ‘Lit class, reading sess, essay revise’ and in my digital planner I put all the details, like page numbers, upcoming projects, essay to-dos. When I plan, I cross everything off that I did accomplish for the day and plan for what I need to get done tomorrow excluding things like pre-assigned reading or homework that needs to be completed daily. This helps me to stay on track with my studying and lets me plan for the next day, including where I can study between classes or what I can push off if my homework runs late.
- Work, School, Play. In that order exactly. Everyone brags and boasts how they were able to go to school full-time and work full-time and all they did was prioritize, blah, blah, blah. I take my priorities into account by the hierarchy of needs by Maslow. If you don’t know what this is, Google is your friend, remember? So I spend my time working more so that I can eat and sleep in a real bed. Then I study to get myself ahead in the world. Then if I have anytime left, I plan for dinners with my family or date night with my boyfriend or movie night with my friends. But they don’t get my priority. If you really feel lonely, you have a magical device that allows you to contact people anytime, anywhere.
Some of these topics I may cover in depth later, but please take to heart that you don’t have to do things like everyone else. If you still need answers, or you’re just frustrated that you can’t get this whole school thing to work, hit me up. I’m an open ear if nothing else and maybe all you need is to just talk your problems out.