By now, second semester is well underway for most of you, which means a new set of classes with new professors, readings, papers, and exams. After a much needed winter break, it can seem overwhelming to be thrust back into the college balancing act of work, social life, and academics, but some of you learned first semester (some not so much) that time management is key to success. Those of you who did well first semester will need to rewire your brains into academic mode, and those who didn’t do so well will need guidance on how to better manage your time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. Here are some tips for studying and time management that you (or anyone!) can use as a reminder or to help change stress-inducing habits.
Don’t procrastinate (the big one!). Give yourself enough time to get everything done! Work always suffers when you try to cram in everything at once, as numerous studies prove there’s a strong correlation between time management and academic performance. Despite the evidence, some insist they work better under pressure, but most of the time those students have never tried tackling anything ahead of schedule. Just imagine what could be accomplished if you take the time to map out a schedule and stay on top of important tasks. You’d probably feel a lot less stressed and complete your work more thoughtfully.
Break things up into manageable pieces and prioritize. The prospect of writing three term papers can be overwhelming, so it’s important to come up with a workable plan. Make a to-do list, including deadlines. Then tackle the most important and urgent assignments first.
Face your anxiety and conquer it. Remember that a small dose of anxiety can make you buckle down and put on your game face. Cramming for an exam is bad, but not studying at all is worse. Stressing just enough to feel more motivated, determined, and focused can be a real plus. But it’s important to take action when stress starts to disrupt other parts of your life or hinder studying, which brings me to my next two tips …
Talk to your professors. Don’t be afraid to raise the white flag. Sometimes, making a plan for meeting academic demands helps demonstrate that it’s simply not possible to meet all of the deadlines. Allow yourself enough time to consult with your professors if you’re finding it tough. Most professors prefer that students ask for support before blanking on a test or freezing during a presentation. If you seek help after the fact, it may be unclear to the professor whether you’re being sincere or just trying to make up for not being prepared. And the relationships you establish by seeking help are just as important as extra study sessions.
Talk to a counselor. Counselors at your school’s counseling and academic skills centers can lend a hand in managing the triggers that cause unnecessary stress. Scheduling a one-on-one appointment, joining a discussion or study group, or simply learning a few new strategies through an informal conversation can be helpful. And the relationships you establish by seeking help are just as important as extra study sessions.
Bag the booze. There’s a reason they call it getting wasted. Alcohol dulls motivation, lessens productivity, and causes students to waste time. If you already don’t want to write that paper, skipping it won’t seem like a big deal after a few drinks. In the morning, though, you’ll be cursing yourself for not doing it.
Take a break from distractions and stay focused. While your computer is full of all sorts of fun diversions – instant messaging, social networking sites, movies, and more – turn it off when you’re trying to focus on school work. You may think you can handle writing a history paper and chatting with a friend, but your mind will be better off if you focus on the task at hand. Save the socializing for study breaks!
Follow your instincts. If there’s a voice inside you saying, “I really shouldn’t be going out tonight,” you should listen to it. If you’re going to feel guilty for going out, you won’t have that much fun anyway.
Study for your hardest classes first and study often. If you can’t remember someone’s phone number at the bar without writing it down, you’re not going to master European history overnight. This also goes back to prioritization – if you leave the hardest classes for last, then chances are you might not even get to them.
Designate study days and party days. No, “I only drink on days that end in y” doesn’t count. If you decide that your weekend starts at Thursday’s happy hour, commit the rest of your week to hardcore studying. Just remember that the sooner you get your studying commitments out of the way, the sooner you can have fun.
Catch some Z’s. At some point, we all need a break. Sleep will help you remember the things you read and help you process ideas and arguments for a paper. Having a regular sleep schedule will make a world of difference in how you do academically.
Check out your school’s exam policy. A lot of schools limit students to two exams per day. If you’re over the limit, you may be able to postpone some.
Do you have any tips to add? Write a comment in the section below.