As a student myself, I know how difficult it can be to stay motivated and organised during midterms or final exams. These are five things that I find useful in my own process as I try to balance the work. Students are used to multitasking and being connected, so if you’re going to have a mobile, tablet or laptop with you most of the time, it’s worth exploring ways to make them work for you instead of against you.
Students use apps for nearly everything. Instead of letting technology be a distraction, why not let it support you? There are many apps designed to make the most of your time instead of wasting it, such as:
Forest, with the tagline ‘Stay focused, be present.’ Users are encouraged to ‘plant a tree,’ and cannot touch their smart phone for the time it takes for the tree to grow. The longer you leave it, the better the tree and the more trees you will grow. Recommended for students particularly, this app along with some will power helps to encourage you to stay off your phone and focus.
Coach.me, which breaks down long-term goals into short-term steps and provides you with coaching and reminders. There is also a community element, where you can see other people working on the same goals as you and compare your progress.
Carrot, ‘the world’s first to do list with a personality,’ rewards you for things you do, and punishes you for things you do not complete. It is based on simple to do lists, but also features a virtual pet that you want to keep happy.
Arranging study dates can be productive if you go about it the right way, by including with people who motivate you and that you trust yourself to work with. Having course friends close by allows you to ask questions and compare notes. Also, by not always isolating yourself to study, you will not feel the need to be on your mobile texting friends, as they’re in the room with you!
Instead of letting technology be a distraction, why not let it support you?
Creating a somewhat structured environment creates a good study culture; it is useful to see other people being productive and join in. A lot of creative collaborative work can happen this way, both online and off.
Because of that, it can also be a good idea to integrate technology directly into assigned group coursework. WhatsApp is great for discussions and coordinating planning meetings, and private Facebook groups even allow you to share files so that all members of the group can access them in one place. Students tend to check their Facebook pages more often than their uni (university) email accounts, so it probably means a faster response time as well.
Students rarely go anywhere or do anything without headphones on, and study crunch times are no exception. There are many options for creating a personalised study playlist on sites like YouTube or Spotify – which is also available in ‘offline’ mode to eliminate unwanted texts or notifications - or many that have been made and shared by others to choose from. Making this part of your study routine will save a lot of time and distraction spent constantly skipping through music and deciding what you want to listen to, which defeats the purpose.
For those who are sensitive to sound when concentrating, an alternative is putting on classical music with no lyrics, or even ‘white noise’ tracks on YouTube to diminish outside noise if you’re studying in a cafeteria or noisy dorm.
With back-to-back deadlines for essays and exams, staying organised is key. It’s good to have a to-do list in whatever way suits you: using an app, a whiteboard or old-fashioned pen and paper. It can be as simple as adding things to the Notes page on your mobile.
Having an online calendar can be convenient because you can access it from anywhere and on more than one device, so you can always check in and remember what you have planned, as well as making sure you don’t give yourself too much to do at once. Shared calendars can be useful for group work also, as it allows you all to have a visual idea of who is free when, or when you will complete tasks, and a real-time record of what’s being completed.
Everyone loves it when they find that sweet spot of productivity, but too many marathon days in a row will take their toll. Ensure that you remember to eat and drink regularly, and find time during the day to step away from the computer screen.
Set a reminder alert for yourself to do things like pack snacks and that important USB stick before you leave the house, or an alarm to go off after a certain number of hours that reminds you it’s break time.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s especially important to support yourself mentally with some human contact. Visit your family, go to a concert or hang out with friends in a non-digital capacity. Movement and fresh air will help you truly disconnect and ultimately help you concentrate better the next time you get back to your work online.
Cover image courtesy of Flickr