The Stressful Atmosphere of Studying

Mind Blown

«I have decided to work regularly this year. What is more, I will write all my essays immediately», «I will try to catch up», «I have to go to bed earlier», «I need to do some sports», «I will go to work in a library»… Which student did not take these good resolutions each year only to forget them a month later? It is not easy to manage your time. In high school, it is necessary to find the correct rhythm of work to survive the especially busy periods of time. In the student life, freedom is much greater, the leisure cravings are immense and the work is much more demanding. Many young people spend a lot of time working without necessarily seeing the results. Stress, failure, discouragement, fatigue … Stop this! In order to follow through with the good resolutions, follow these tips step by step.

What Are Your Priorities This Year?

A professor fills up a transparent vase with large stones up to the top and then asks his or her students: «Is the vase full?» All students nodded. After that, the professor poured a bag of small stones that filled the tiny spaces in the vase. «What about now?» We cannot see what could be added, but the teacher manages to put some sand in it, and then water on top of that! It is a well-told story where the vase is a metaphor for your time. Everything can enable you to live: studies, essays, rest, going out and even daydreaming. But what happens if you put in the big pebbles first? Thus, to get organized, start by choosing your «big pebbles»: first and foremost, there are some elements which are essential to your life, the time of sleep which is extremely beneficial, the meals (you need those to keep functioning properly). After that, you have to decide on your priorities for this year, your core activities. For instance, it can be your courses and your essay. Then, pay attention to some sports activities or the time devoted to the student job, etc.

Make a Schedule Starting with the Priorities

These priorities are what should be placed first during your planning sessions. And yes, the school-time employment is not enough. To make sure that your «big stones» are in the vase, you must plan the correct use of all your time for the whole week, from Monday to Sunday, from the time of waking up to going back to sleep. This schedule should indicate your courses, but also some personal and working time, extra-curricular activities, transportation, regular leisure activities, etc. Use the tool that is right for you: a large cardboard that you put on the wall facing your desk, a classic paper diary or a free calendar app that you can download from the Internet that you can print or sync with your smartphone. In addition to that, make sure to use different colors for your essays, the courses, the sports activities, and so on.

Make a Schedule. What Is It For?

This kind of planning allows you to allocate a right place to each activity: if your planning is detailed enough (by attributing approximately 30 minutes to each activity), you can plan for not only the big stones, but also the small ones that balance you out: one hour of jogging on Saturday morning, half an hour to read a book before bed, a Friday night movie. Finally, you realize that you can do a lot of things and you lose less of your time. Also, the schedule creates automatisms: it is easier to do an activity registered regularly in our schedule than the one which is not predicted beforehand. For some school work, it is even truer; our brain acquires some reflexes: I make the habit of reviewing some information for my English classes every lunchtime, I reread my notes in the late afternoon, write my essays on Sunday evening. This way, I have less difficulty in putting myself to work. Planning allows you to take control of your life and clear your head. Pushing back and acting without organization – and therefore, with a certain feeling of emergency – is a source of guilt and stress. What is more, it allows us to devote ourselves to each thing in the present before moving on to the next one. For one hour, I concentrate intensively on working in a library (without forgetting to turn off my laptop). After that, I will take full advantage of my free time to relax by having a drink.

Think about Your Biological Rhythms – Especially About Sleep

Get Some Sleep

The right organization is the one which takes into account not only your studies, but also your personal rhythms. Sleep is often overlooked by the students who are asked to go out, activities on the screen of a laptop or the TV and the many leisure activities offered in the evening. The lack of sleep does not go away from one day to another. In turn, that causes difficulties in concentration and memorization, which is why you have to try to keep your sleeping schedule intact no matter what. As such, do you know how many hours of sleep you need each day to get in shape? The average is from 7 to 9 hours. It is also known that the hours of sleep before midnight are the most recovering. To balance these hours of rest, consider your sleeping profile: are you in shape in the morning or in the evening? If you tend to feel better in the morning, it is necessary to give up the working sessions in the evening and night during the week (for example, no more student evenings on Thursday). Instead, it would be better to get up early and schedule personal work sessions, like writing an essay, early in the morning. And if you prefer working the evening, be careful not to shift too much because if you have to get up in the morning to attend your classes, you will not feel awake enough to process all information unless you get the sufficient amount of sleep.

Cut Your Personal Work into Slices

To be productive outside of the classroom on a daily basis, it is not enough to reserve a few time slots on your schedule by just indicating them «work». It is necessary to plan what you want to do during each session much more precisely: what discipline and what type of work will you do? The ideal way is to specify the subjects and style of the exercise. For example, before you start writing your essay, you have to reread a course, do an exercise, read a text and do some additional research. The program of a two-hour work session can look like a big burger where the meat, the cheese and some salad stack up. It would be much easier to digest things this way, would it not? Only certain exercises require a long period of work in a row: the writing of a task, a documentary research, reading a book, etc. Schedule them accordingly to adapt to this type of work. For instance, you can carry out this type of work on weekends or during a free afternoon in the library. Do not forget to take small breaks every 50 minutes to relax your eyes and stretch your legs.

Why Is It Better to Cut Your Working Sessions into Pieces?

It is more efficient to study a subject in several sequences than in one go because this promotes concentration, memorization and better understanding. Unfortunately for us, our concentration capacities are limited. You cannot work for more than 50 minutes on the same topic. Even then, this number can be less for many people. Therefore, changing the subject of studying relaxes the mind and helps us find a better concentration on another type of exercise. This enables us to avoid wasting too much time by working in a less concentrated way. The process of memorization is based on repetition. A subject is better memorized by learning it and then seeing it again several times afterwards than by trying to learn it all at once. The more you see it, the faster the knowledge returns: after spending 45 minutes on learning a course, you can look it through for 30 minutes two days later, and then glance at it again a week later for about 15 minutes. Understanding is easier if the difficulties are broken down. The brain can concentrate fully on one thing at a time. Follow this rule, and it will be much easier to grasp another subject during a new work sequence.

Do the Right Activity at the Right Time

Serendipity

It is still one of the secrets of effective work: you have to program yourself to do the right type of tasks at the right time. It is essential to carry out your tasks or duties at the moment when you will have the most mental facilities to achieve success. You understand that you have to alternate the subjects, but how do you start when you get to work? It is often said that we must tackle what seems to be the most difficult first and foremost. There is always the risk of starting with what one prefers to do and pushing the rest till tomorrow. And, as a rule, what was not done immediately will be postponed till the last possible moment. But if it is a job you are likely to block (a dissertation, an internship report, an essay or a math problem), you are going to spend too much time (to the detriment of other tasks) to get to it. Thus, you may end up discouraging yourself from moving forward.

Start with the Tasks That Can Be Accomplished Quickly

It is better to start with the work that not only requires concentration, but which can also be accomplished relatively quickly. For example: learning a lesson, reading, annotating your copy, reciting, etc. On the other hand, it can be the implementation of some application exercises either in connection with the course you have just learned or a course that you had quite a while ago. You have the satisfaction to advance, and this boosts your motivation so that you would want to continue studying. The preparation of a difficult task to finish in the days to come (like a dissertation or an exercise of reflection) may seem intimidating, but if you separate it into two pieces, you can go and get help and come back the next day. This is typically the type of work to be spread over several days. Moreover, this organizational model can be adapted to the weekly working times. Longer and quieter moments, such as on weekends, on a free afternoon or on a public holiday, will allow you to schedule carrying out the tasks that require some deep reflection. There are plenty of duties of this type: writing a dissertation, an essay, a report, a difficult assignment; reading a book or a large file; the revision of an entire chapter and the production of summary sheets. This substantive work is all the more effective as it has been prepared during several short working sessions throughout the week. So, the student chains the sessions like a gymnast chaining the workouts.

Know How to Use Every Moment

It is necessary to know how to take advantage of the certain hollow times to carry out small tasks: reread the notes or review the important data during the transport times, do some exercises during a break, read a book while traveling by train. Thus, you have to choose the type of work suited to the time and the circumstances.  Sometimes, we end up working at the certain times and places so well that we may decide to make them our designated studying spots.

Extend the Time for Reflection

In the places for receiving your higher education, such as a university, IUT or college, you are asked to exercise an ever more thorough way of reflection: knowing one’s courses is not enough anymore. As such, one has to know how to apply one’s knowledge in difficult situations, to analyze, synthesize and present his or her reflection in a well-written form. The personal work to be provided is more important (although variable according to the paths), but above all, it is necessary to give more time to the work which is based on reflection. For instance, you have to learn your courses very regularly and carry out the exercises to master the basics without any delay, identify the points that you do not understand to ask questions during the tutorials or lectures (with the reverse pedagogy, the students must read their course online before the session with the teacher), do some research in the library, read some books or documents to deepen your knowledge, keep enough time to do your homework, reports while taking care of your skills to properly express yourself in the written form.

Get to Know Yourself, Find the Rhythm You Need

These principles are valid for everyone. But of course, we still have to adopt them to our needs because we do not have the same rhythms and difficulties. Seek to know yourself better to choose the right answers to your problems. Are you absent-minded and not working enough? It is necessary to redefine your priorities according to your school objectives and to plan accordingly. You may have to give up some activities, but sometimes the sacrifice is inevitable.  Are you always late? Find out where this delay is coming from. Are you working extra hard because you are having trouble concentrating? Prefer short working sessions and change the material more often. Or perhaps you are a good student who does not express any interest in working regularly? Try working in the student groups instead, or work with a better-organized friend. Alternatively, you can set yourself some challenges that motivate you, or you can make a schedule to manage your time better. If you are stressed because you do not succeed no matter how hard you work, you may need to improve the level of concentration, study more regularly, break down the difficulties of understanding and work on your weak points to solve some problems similar to those that you encounter during your examinations.

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