After a break of eight months, here I am, back on the school benches. Assignments and lectures are already coming up, so I thought I might share with you some of the best tips I have learned with time as a student.
Like most kids, I wasn’t a school enthusiast when I was younger. I remember one particular year when I had no motivation left for the end of the school year. To help me find some motivation, my dad had printed a zebra (my favorite animal back then) in front of a race court. Then he told me to see the end of the school year as the last miles of a long race.
About ten years later, I still use this analogy to help me go through every school year. Like someone running a whole marathon, there are proper techniques and organization tips to put in place to complete the challenge.
A marathon runner won’t go at their fastest pace in the first kilometers. Instead, it will use all its energy and resources equally during the race to make it to the end. It’s the same for school! So here is how I keep myself organized during the school year and use my resources to make it through semesters without too many blisters.
My first tip, and probably one of the most important, is to get yourself an agenda. Your agenda should be used as a tool to liberate your mind so you don’t have to worry about forgetting an assignment or exam.
I suggest writing all your assignments, lectures, upcoming exams, work shifts, outings, and appointments. Thus, everything is planned so you won’t ever feel the feeling again of “there’s something I had to do today but can’t recall it.” I also strongly suggest using a color code for each class to make the task easier when you search for one particular piece of information in everything you have planned.
Also, your days are probably not filled entirely with classes if you are in university. Thus, there’s also the study time that needs to be organized. So to help with productivity during your significant gaps between classes, I suggest planning your study sessions in your agenda. For example, you could decide that on Mondays you study for a specific class and on Tuesdays for another one. This way, you will feel like you are making great use of your time, and when you are done with your study session, you know the time left is for you!
2- To Do List and Zeigarnik Effect
My second tip is to get a notebook for your To-Do Lists. To-Do Lists are great for helping with productivity and giving our minds a break from the Zeigarnik effect.
What is the Zeigarnik effect?
You know when your head is full of all the exams you still have to study for? Have you ever noticed how it always pops in your head and stops to do so only when the exam is done? Or when you go to bed after a big day, and your brain keeps telling you about all the assignments that are still not done? This is what we call the Zeigarnik effect. It’s our predisposition to remember better tasks that are incomplete than the ones that are completed.
So how can you deal with the Zeigarnik effect? By making a To-Do List! Writing down all those things that pop in your head and aren’t done will give your mind a break.
According to Sonali Bhattacharyya from the Oxford University Press, you can use the Zeigarnik effect as a productivity tool. Indeed, since the brain tends to be tormented by our incomplete tasks, we can use the effect as a tool for creativity. For example, if you have an essay to write and do not know where to start, start the task by writing down a few sentences or some ideas you could explore and then put it aside for a while. Then, since you begin the task, the Zeibarnik effect will create its magic, and ideas will pop!
3- Eat like a runner
Let’s go back to our marathon runner analogy.
A marathon runner eats food that will give them fuel during the race. Indeed, when one decides to run a marathon, it is recommended to eat a lot of carbohydrates, which are the main source of energy for our body’s cells, tissues, and organs (MedlinePlus). And breaking news: the brain is an organ.
List of carbohydrates
- Bread and pasta
- Fruits and nuts
- Pulses such as lentils and beans
- Milk and yogurt
So it’s not because we spend a lot of time sitting that one should eat less. Being focused for long hours required fuel too. The first weekend after starting school, I noticed that I was much more hungry than I usually was. I had been studying for a few hours, so my brain needed more fuel!
4- Have a routine
I talk about the importance of having a routine in my post about how to survive online school. There are many similarities between a university schedule and online school since both require us to be autonomous in our studies.
5- Find motivation in your goals
Why are you studying? What motivates you to go to school? What do you want to become? Having a goal or a meaning behind our studies is the best way to find motivation. Try to list your goals or reasons that motivate you to pursue your studies.
Making a vision board is another way to motivate yourself by clearly focusing on your goals and what you want to achieve. Then you can put it as wallpaper for your computer or hang it at the top of your working station, for example. So when you are studying for an assignment, and can’t find any motivation, look at your vision board and keep going!
You can get free goal-setting templates in this previous post.
6- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Finally, my last tip is to not be afraid to ask for some help. I used to not ask for help whenever I struggled with an assignment or while studying for an exam because I wanted to succeed by myself only. However, I realized later that I am not losing credit for my work by asking for some help. So if you have a friend or a family member that can help you, go for it! Having another point of view can only help, and it doesn’t make us “less good” at what we are doing.
This is it for this post; I hope you enjoyed it and gave you new tips to help you go through this semester. Like a marathon runner, don’t forget that what matter is to be constant. There is no need for a sprint. Keep a constant pace of effort, and this is what will get you to the finish line in one piece.
Carbohydrate Food List: https://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/MEND/CarbList.pdf
The Zeigarnik effect on procrastination: https://www.onlineteachertraining.in/blog/teacher-tip-8-the-zeigarnik-effect/