In secondary school I had a tendency to cram and work for hours in a row without stopping, which quickly led to either intense burnout or long periods of stress-induced procrastination. The advice that finally worked for me was to take frequent and regular breaks between assignments. You can work for 50 minutes and take a 10 minute break, 40 minutes with a 20 minute break – try a couple of different methods and see what works for you! Also, try not to spend your entire break on your phone. What is often intended to be 5 minutes of scrolling can easily turn into 10, and then 20, and next thing you know the day is almost over. Try to get up from your desk and stretch your legs, even if it’s just a couple of laps around your room. Even better, get up and make yourself a cup of tea or get a few minutes of fresh air.
Organise your environment
No one likes working in a messy space: the more distractions that exist physically the more likely it is for you to procrastinate. Make sure your desk is relatively tidy before you start work- remove anything you think might distract you. Studies have shown that having a bit of greenery in your line of sight increases productivity, so grab yourself a houseplant or position your desk so you’re looking out onto the garden and do your subconscious a world of good. And whatever you do, don’t study from your bed…
Make achievable goals
Set yourself achievable targets and don’t try and cram too much into your day. This means you might have to start your study plan a few days before if you were cramming, but the sense of accomplishment is totally worth it. Maybe you’ve set yourself a few pages to memorise, a few formulas to learn, a few quotes to recite within an hour: always overestimate how long something will you and it will leave you pleasantly surprised. Overloading yourself will lead to feeling increasingly overwhelmed and, as I have learnt from experience, unable to do anything at all.
Have someone else to hold you accountable
Tell someone else about your goals for the day, or make a study group with your friends where you can share notes and study tips. When I was writing my dissertation I had a study group with some of course friends. Although we were all focusing on very different topics, we’d call once a week to chat about where to find essay sources, word counts, formatting, and the best lecturers to go to for different types of advice. Chatting to other people in the same position as you can help relieve stress: two heads are always better than one!
Treat yourself and you’ll work better! Buy yourself a coffee or a snack after you reach one of your daily goals; use a certain amount of phone time as an incentive; schedule a lunch date with a friend or go for a walk and a chat. It’s a great way to use your break and one that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for another bout of studying.
Happy studying and good luck in your exams!
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