Thursday, December 10, 2015

Keep your cool this December: Time management & studying tips for finals

If you’re at the end of the fall semester, you may have a long list of group projects to complete, term papers to write and final exams for which to study - all in the matter of a few weeks. The good news is that the end of the semester is near and a break is close. The better news is there are ways to reduce and manage the stress that is symptomatic of this end of semester chaos.

The development of stress management skills takes practice and time just like any other skill. If you start practicing this semester, you may have even better result next time midterm or final stress rolls around in the spring.
  1. Create a personalized schedule.
You are the number one expert on your own study habits, so you’ll know if you study better in 3-4 hour chunks or in shorter 1-2 hour blocks, and if you are most productive in the morning, afternoon or at night. The important thing to consider is that reading days and finals week will offer you lots of freed up times since there are not classes, but scheduling and planning will help to make sure you make the most of the time.
Setting realistic goals and benchmarks for yourself is also necessary for a good plan. If you have a 12 page paper due on Friday, decide if you can write 3 pages every day for four days and put it into your plan. Additionally, if you don’t meet benchmarks, you should change your plan so that you know you’ll need to do more pages on other days. Cramming and procrastination are linked to high levels of stress, decreased performance and lower levels of retention, so plan out as much time as possible.

  1. Take breaks.
Add breaks to your schedule in order to make them a priority. Many people have trouble transitioning from one subject or assignment to another. By factoring in 15 minutes or more of break time, you will be able to be more effective when you are working. Try using a timer like this one, which sets alarms for shorter, five-minute breaks throughout a two hour session and times a longer, fifteen-minute break every two hours. When taking breaks, it might be helpful to do any of the following:
  • Meditate for a short period. Services like Spotify offer audio guided meditations of variable lengths, or you can find these videos on YouTube as well.
  • Make some art. Adult coloring books are quite trendy right now for their mindfulness benefits. If you don’t want to buy something, you can also doodle right in your notebook.
  • Chat up a friend. Maybe you have a friend studying with you and you can plan breaks together. You could also call up your mom or significant other during your break.
  • Think about something that isn’t studying. Make your list of movies you want to watch over break, or the people you want to send holiday cards.

  1. Find the right environment.
You might hear others talking about spending all day in the library or pulling all nighters in your campus computer lab. If you don’t enjoy studying or doing research in the library, find a better option that fits your style. This could mean working at your kitchen table, working in a coffee shop somewhere off campus or sitting in a public study space in one of the academic buildings. Some things to consider when picking a place: Do you want silence or somewhere people can talk and collaborate? Do you want somewhere bright with natural light, or somewhere that has fluorescent lighting? Do you want somewhere close to home so you can go home between sessions or somewhere far that will compel you to stay longer?

In addition to finding a physical space, there are other ways to set the studying mood. Your choice of music and if you appreciate having a study-buddy, are also worth consideration.

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