Introduction

What, where, when and how to study + other obstacles I have had to overcome

What, where, when and how to study + other obstacles I have had to overcome

This week, I will study every day.

Or at least that’s what I told myself at the beginning of the week and yet it was still somewhat of a painful fail. Both my finals are towards the end of the exam period, which gives me all the more time to study and yet, all the more time to procrastinate. Besides the fact that I have been dealing with flu recovery, I haven’t found the time to stick to my study schedule. In fact, the things that worked for my studies throughout the past semester have failed to bring me much productivity this week and I have been trying to understand why. Is there something wrong with my routine? Am I just burnt out? Given up? Lazy? Why does it seem like there are so many obstacles to face?

I went to an exam stress workshop at the Academic Success Centre earlier last month where I was told that most people make schedules for the people they want to be; which makes schedules all the more difficult to follow. Sometimes we tend to give ourselves unrealistic expectations. You tell yourself that you will wake up at 9 am to study for three hours and yet you sleep in until noon and have woken up unmotivated. Red bull may give us wings, but we aren’t super heroes after all.

With everyone else around me fighting “crunch time” and getting their exams over with, I am still relaxed and recovering from what an overwhelming semester of classes I’ve had. Maybe too relaxed… In fact, several of my friends are already finished their exams or down to their last few in the next couple of days. I, on the other hand, have my last exam on the last possible day of the exam schedule. Lucky me, right? Wrong.

It’s hard enough to see other people already enjoying their holidays and time off from school. Meanwhile, I am expected to be slaving away, hovered over my laptop and textbooks. In reality, my mind has programmed itself to believe that I am also on some sort of vacation since I already have over a week before my first final exam. So instead of hitting the books, I have been hitting the bass and playing guitar hero and rock band instead of studying (among other things…)

It’s unrealistic to believe that I will spend every hour of every day studying for exams. That just ain’t happening! I gotta give my brain a rest at some point and besides, not all of that material will soak in anyway. The solution for these unrealistic schedules we make for ourselves is to pay attention to how we study and focus best. Think about the time of day when you are at your most productive and able to do your most mind-intensive work. For me, that just so happens to be at around 9 pm onwards. So I schedule all of my most mind-intensive studying for that time frame knowing that’s what works best for me.

After having to deal with being bed-ridden for the past few days because of being sick, it made it all the more difficult to leave my house to study. Now that I am somewhat all right, this hermit behaviour has become a habit and I barely want to leave my house, despite the fact that I can barely get any work done here. I have recently come to the conclusion that I need to be around other people studying in order to motivate myself to study. I never understood before why people had to go to libraries to study, but now I am beginning to get it. Think of it like a mob mentality (i.e. you are in a study space designated for study. Everyone is studying and so must you). I get motivated just being around people who are in the same boat. Sitting at home attempting to study alone or in the midst of friends already on holiday, not so much.

I have never been much of a library-goer, save for this school year. Robarts Library seems like a good central choice with several floors and generous extended hours. However, I find it to be quite depressing at times. So I’ve been exploring other libraries and study spaces on campus as well as my college’s all-night study space. I have even popped into several cafes and bistros in order to find my best study spot. As odd as it sounds I’ve found that what actually works for me is being in a different location every time I study something different. It gives me a physical location that serves as a frame of reference for the material I’ve studied. I’ve heard of photographic memory and auditory memory, but what I use is some sort of location memory technique called the ‘method of Loci’.

So there you have it – these are some of the obstacles I have had to overcome in preparation for final exams. Not everybody studies the same or is under the same circumstances so you really just have to be realistic and find what works for you. On that note, happy studying and maybe I’ll catch you at “Robarts Mansion” in the next two weeks?

– Danielle

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