There are many ways to get through midterm season: all-nighters, coffee, 8 hour long study sessions the day before an exam. I have attempted all of these at some point over the past few years. However, personally, my body absolutely refuses to function with less than 7 hours of sleep, and so I have never successfully pulled an all-nighter in my life. Sometime around the end of second year, I also started having bad reactions to caffeine. And although I can read for days straight if it’s an interesting novel, full days of work are barely productive and always make me feel drained.
Over the past year, wanting to accommodate my caffeine allergy and love of full sleeps, I developed several healthier methods for keeping up with schoolwork without getting too stressed. Last week, I shared some strategies that I use frequently: schedule in breaks; set realistic goals; ask for extensions. Here are a few more of my favourites.
1. Experiment with different settings to see what works best. I typically like to work at home in my bed, but predictably, this often leads to naps. Instead, when I need to focus for a couple hours straight in the evenings, I will stay in my room but work at my desk. During the days, when I need to devote a stretch of time for studying, I will find a library or café and set up for four or five hours of work. One reason why I love studying in cafés is the built-in breaks: instead of buying myself a latte or pastry when I arrive, I wait until I’ve been productive for a couple hours, then treat myself to a snack and break before resuming. Another quick scenery change that I love is doing readings when taking a bath, which allows time for relaxation as well as productivity.
2. Be consistent with sleep. Last year, I would get up at a different time each day, and I would feel exhausted even if I got 10 hours of sleep. When I told my learning strategist this, she immediately pointed out that the lack of routine was likely making me tired regardless of how much I slept. While going to sleep and waking up at the same time is ideal, the consistent wake-up time is the more important of the two, so that was what I decided to aim for. At first, I tried to get up 9 every morning, and then started to push that back to 8:30; then 8. I didn’t even realize how much easier it was to get up until I got the chance to sleep in and found that I didn’t really want to. After some experimentation with sleep cycles, I’ve realized that I feel most rested sleeping from 11 to 8, so that is my goal every night (and now I have to get up around 7:30 on most days anyway to take my new puppy out!). Although I don’t always achieve sleep during these specific hours, having a half hour range of set time to wake up has made a big difference in starting my day right.
3. See a learning strategist at U of T. I had always known that learning strategists were available at U of T, but I wasn’t sure if it would be worth taking the time to go. Finally, last March, in the middle of a particularly difficult semester, I decided to give it a try. Although I had only intended to stay for a half hour, I ended up staying for over an hour. I got help making study plans, took home a few helpful handouts, and got tips on sleeping, studying, and balancing overall. I found the appointment very helpful and effective for making me feel more in control of my life. While I only went once, I am definitely open to going again should I feel as stressed over my work.