By PLA Timea
It is hard to believe that we are already starting February 2013. January seemed to be all about making resolutions and looking ahead to the new term, all about change and excitement. Unfortunately, as everyone shifts into full-on mid-term mode, it seems that some of this positive energy might be wearing off.
Yet, with so much of the term left, this is definitely a key time to focus on keeping healthy and avoiding the dreaded early burn-out. Like a marathon runner, you have to be wise about how you expend your energy. You have to train yourself to keep everything in perspective. Well – easier said than done – that’s for sure.
I’d like to claim that I have a fool-proof formula that made my studies at Queen’s an absolute breeze, but I most certainly do not. What I do have for you, however, is several years of busy schedules and mid-term taking under my belt. So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Tips for helping your run this half of your academic marathon in style, and emerge barely breaking a sweat:
1. The biggest piece of advice I can give: know yourself, and know what de-stresses you. If you love to dance, dance. If you love going to the gym, make time to do so.
2. Don’t forget to reward your hard work! This might seem obvious, but with such busy schedules it is easy to forget how important breaks are. Even in your studying, breaks are crucial for a fresh mind. Who says you have to sit poring over your paper for two hours straight? Try the 50/10 method: work for 50 minutes, then break for 10, out of every hour.
3. Use your found time! It adds! What do you do when finding yourself with 20 or 30 minutes to spare? Instead of wandering aimlessly or getting in the Tim Horton’s line, think about what quick task you can strike of your to-do list. Editing (yes, editing) your notes is a worthy contender, as is any personal administration – those things that just “need to get done.” Having clear notes, for example, will reduce your study time during exam season.
4. Pick something to look forward to. Getting through a week of assignments, tests, and presentations becomes so much less daunting if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For those of you having a hard time thinking of something now, I have two words for you: reading week.
5. Study groups really CAN work! They have to be set up carefully and you must do your own studying beforehand, but study groups can help you remember the content you are trying to retain; explaining something to somebody else is the best way to engage your brain.
6. Make a plan, but be prepared to tweak it. Having a schedule to follow is incredibly helpful – a wall calendar, a daily planner, or a running list of “to-dos” – can all help you visualize how your days, weeks, or months ahead will look. At the heart of any plan, however, is the ability to be flexible and critical about what you have in front of you. Planning is difficult, and sometimes life ignores your well-intended efforts. Let life happen without fretting too much about changing things around, even last minute.
7. Learn to say no! I struggle with this sometimes. I like to help out, and I love being involved on campus. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day and everyone has a limit to how much they can take on. If you find yourself swamped, don’t be afraid to have these conversations with your housemates, classmates, and friends. People are often more understanding than you expect.
8. Limit distractions. Electronics are a huge here: Facebook, twitter, smartphones, and other devices can be extremely dangerous to your productivity. Put them aside for use only during your breaks. There are even apps available to block you from specific websites when you wish to dedicate yourself to your studies!
9. Healthy eating, exercise, and sleep. Repeat. Repeat. This point may seem obvious, yet these things are often the first thrown out the window when students become stressed: it’s common to hear students boast about having pulled all-nighters, and those who claim to be running on energy drinks alone. In my opinion, creating your schedule in a way that places health and well-being should be top priority. It will keep you on track, and running through the finish line.
10. A valuable piece of advice I only learned in fourth year: at the end of every day, pick at least one thing that went well and take time to reflect on it. This doesn’t have to be something big, nor does it have to be something academic; yet, this type of practice can make an impact as part of your daily routine. A positive mindset goes a long way! Why not take the time to reflect on what is going well instead of on what isn’t?
And there you have it, my recommendations for a less stressful term. While these tips may not offer a magic fix, they certainly correlate to a healthy mindset and approach to studying and academics. But if reading this didn’t brighten your day, then this surely will: only 15 more days until reading week! Thanks for reading my post and happy studying 🙂