How do you reward your study spurts? With ten-minute washboard-ab workouts? Ten-minute zombie zone-outs? Or ten-minute roasted prairie dog pig-outs? I’ll opt for all three.
But rewards mean little when lacking structure.
During my undergrad, I studied steady: 30-minute sessions; 15-minute breaks. I scored the highest grade in most every math class. To quash resentments, I reassured classmates I had no life. I revealed I’d visit a nursing home Saturdays followed by Greek pizza. And study. Nothing else.
When cramped in a cubbyhole studying seems easy, organizing easier. I’d peer at the same calendar, the same books, the same four walls. Steady.
But then I joined a ballet troupe, which led to weightlifting, boxing, and cycling to school. Plus, I began part-time work. Pressed for time, my near-perfect GPA dipped. And my study time turned cram-session.
Some of us thrive on last minute. One barista wrote five papers in one night. She researched her papers before the cram, but typed them all in one sitting. She got A’s and B’s—even an A+. One of her high school teachers taught brilliant English, she said. Worked for her. Wouldn’t work for me.
Brimming with extracurriculars, I barely ended with a master’s degree.
But that was over a decade ago. Now that I’ve returned to school, I barely find time to focus. Instead, I work freelance, seek full-time work, and exercise. I exercise over an hour each day, my fitness routine inching toward two hours. My reward for pre-bedtime study? Ten-minute ab workouts. Nothing like nighty-night hard abs.
In other words, I’ve got little time for study. I focus on readings and projects, but assignments get sidelined. The day I add full-time work, I won’t need hard abs; I’ll need a facelift—to my study time.
Thomas R. Klassen and John A. Dwyer help us focus and stay organized in their book How to Succeed at University (And Get a Great Job!): Mastering the Critical Skills You Need for School, Work, and Life.
- A student’s biggest obstacle? Motivation. So, choose courses you love.
- Don’t waste time. Instead, (1) get a routine, (2) schedule exams and assignments, (3) focus on biggest priorities, (4) review progress every week, and (5) “aim for steady improvement rather than perfection” (p. 34).
- Schedule exams and assignments, breaking them into subtasks, estimating the time each subtask takes. The more you plan, the better you estimate.
- Dream up rewards for each completed subtask.
- Leave no assignment unfinished.
- Read and research beyond the texts assigned.
- Befriend likeminded people—the ones spending countless hours studying—just like you.
- Make study-time off-limits to visitors. Let the crew know the gate shuts when the books open.
- Avoid cramming. Cramming never reaps your best work. “Would you like to be operated on by an overly stressed and exhausted surgeon who does her work while mainlining coffee?” (pp. 33-34).
A while back, I bought a paper day-planner, but it sat untouched. Instead of dogging the paper planner, I downloaded two A-class study apps:
(1) The Productivity Challenge Timer app, timing 25-minute study sessions and 5-minute breaks, and
(2) The School Planner app, organizing study schedules, deadlines, and tasks.
Now that you’re armed with apps, prioritize. All-nighters versus nighty-night hard abs? Surely, steady studies beg for washboard bellies.