To our lovely readers,
Newsflash, if your finals haven’t started yet, they’re about to. Now I know that seems a bit rough on my part, but don’t worry because I’ve got you covered this finals season.
A lot of these branch off from my first article, where I gave you guys my nine mental health commandments, but today I’m going to give you some more tangible advice.
First and foremost, with everything going on this next month, you’re going to want to find balance.
Now, this won’t look the same for everyone because it’s not about literally balancing equal parts of everything, but about finding just the right angle on the scales for yourself.
What I mean is, not everyone needs the same socialization : free time : work ratio. So, focus on figuring out how much time you need to dedicate to the things in your life in order to create a balance suited to your needs.
Second, organize yourself. And yes, I know some of us have our own chaotic system of (dis)organization while others have everything in prim and perfect order. I’m not saying you should change your system (unless you find it doesn’t work for you, but that’s a whole other conversation), just make sure to be on top of it.
Be clear on your deadlines, so you can picture what your month is going to look like in the long-run. This will be helpful for organization, but also in those times you feel that your stress is getting the best of you. Looking at the full list of tasks you have can really help make everything seem all that much easier to tackle.
The way I do this is by using both a weekly planner and a monthly calendar. I write down my important deadlines for the month in the calendar, so I can keep them visualized, and then put them down in the weekly planner as well, at the top of the list for whatever day they fall on. Smaller errands or reminders go towards the bottom.
This then ties in to my second organizational tip, prioritizing. When faced with a lot to do, it’s easy to lose track of what your most important tasks are, especially for those of us who are chronic procrastinators. In my case, I find tha making a to-do list (even if I never take a second look at it) that orders things from highest to lowest priority can be really helpful.
I separate the academic and extracurricular one and then meld them together, creating one large list that gives me alternative tasks to do when I’m feeling productive but can’t for the life of me concentrate on academic work. This also puts everything into perspective for me, so I feel like I have a clearer plan of action when I’m getting overwhelmed. It can even apply to other parts of your life, your loved ones, hobbies, extracurriculars, free time… More often than not, it all goes hand in hand.
Taking a small sidestep, I know a lot of you have left early for the holidays, so if you’re doing finals from home, make sure to have the time zones down pat. Don’t forget to sort out your sleep schedule as best as you can too. It’s especially hard for those of us in distant time zones, but you’ll function better for it in the end. Not everyone can live with a flipped schedule like that for long, so if your studies will mainly end up at night time, make sure you get enough quality time with the people around you and soak up some Vitamin D. Having a clear list of priorities can really help with this, just remember to listen to yourself to know exactly what this should look like for you.
That gives me a great segway into my third and final recommendation; make time for yourself, your friends, your family, your pets… As much as it may seem like studying and uni have to take precedence (and it’s okay if they do), remember they’re not the only important aspects of your life. It may seem daunting to have so much to uphold, but you’ll be better for it in the end. So, know when to take breaks!
Breaks during studying are essential, both for our mental health and for remembering information. According to Oxford Learning (yeah, your girl did some research for you), the brain performs its best when you section off what you learn into small twenty minute chunks of information. Small 15 minute breaks apparently make for optimal learning, rather than overloading your brain with information for hours on end (crammers beware… looks like I’ll be trying to take my own advice).
Of course, after doing this cycle several times it’s important to give yourself a longer break. Trust me when I say that there’s a lot of science going into this, but in short doing this will let the information really sink in and it’ll inspire an increase in productivity, not unlike when you marinate food. This means setting apart the time to do other activities, like grabbing a drink with some friends, watching a movie, taking a walk around Sego, etc. The information won’t just be retained better, but you’ll be creating an opportunity for yourself to relax.
This also goes into one of the points from my first article— identifying your system. If you study better in groups, find friends to sit with and study, not necessarily tutors or study buddies, but also people you can sit in silence and study around. Personally, this works really well for me because it’s easy to take short breaks, but I remain on task more easily. Finding your system, for prioritization, organization, balance and studies, can be such a huge weight off your shoulders, but it’s not easy and it’s okay if you’re still figuring things out (I know I am).
And so, this is where I wrap things up, but I hope you managed to get something out of this little piece!
My advice will always be just that, advice— it’s up to you if you take it or leave it, and it may not work for everyone. All in all, just remember that there’s always the end of the world. You’re a person before you’re a student and you have to discover what works best for you.
Wishing you the best this finals season!
P.S Don’t forget to check out my first article with some gentle reminders on how to take care of yourself during these stressful times and keep a lookout for our future pieces!