This semester might have felt a little longer than usual. With many classes taking place online due to COVID-19, remote learning starts to take its toll. Whether you’ve been working from home all semester or if you’ve managed to find ways to get involved at your school, December felt like it may never arrive. But now that it’s here, you might be feeling a little burnt out and overwhelmed, especially as finals approach. If you’re feeling that way, we have some easy tips for staying on top of your workload and maintaining motivation through the end of the semester.
Build a great study space
We’ve talked about this on the blog before, but crafting a beautiful and calming study space is key to productivity. When you have a dedicated space to work from each day, you’ll actually feel excited to start studying. Clean off your desk, light a candle, play some relaxing study tunes, and get in a focused headspace. Make sure that your study space is separate from your bed or other places where you might feel distracted.
Speaking of distractions, it’s important to limit any notifications or other disturbances that could get in the way of your study session. While social media is super addictive and appealing as a quick study break, it can quickly lead to getting off-track. Stay on-task by putting your phone and computer in “Do Not Disturb” mode. You can even download extensions on your browser to block you from visiting social media sites or blogs. As James Clear wrote in his recent book Atomic Habits, the best way to break a bad habit is by making it impossible to complete. If you set up systems to block your social media apps from opening while studying, then you won’t even have the chance to decide to check social media.
For us, one of the best parts of studying is the reward system. Each morning, plan a rewarding activity for yourself after you’ve finished your tasks. For instance, when I’m done writing this blog post, I’m going to go on a hike. I’m already looking forward to that hike, so I feel more motivated to get this blog post done and enjoy the outdoors before the evening. Whether your reward looks like a hike or a yummy snack, make it something that you’ll genuinely anticipate with joy. Furthermore, establish a reward for when you complete each final exam. These can be a little more exciting, like going out for a meal with friends or buying yourself a small present. You deserve it after all of your awesome studying!
If you’re working straight throughout the day, you’ll notice that your productivity and motivation slowly start to decline after a few hours. Avoid that slump by taking periodic breaks throughout your day. We’re big fans of the Pomodoro Method, which includes one five-minute break for every 25-minutes of studying. Find a system that works for you and follow it during the entirety of your studying session. But just as important as taking breaks is, it’s also important to fill those breaks with restorative activities. Avoid immediately reaching for your phone for a mindless scroll through social media and instead reach for your yoga mat, your water bottle, or head out for a quick walk to clear your mind and feel ready for your next study period.
Find an accountability partner
Still feeling overwhelmed? Finding an accountability partner to connect with about your feelings and goals can be the answer. While we often keep our emotions about school and work to ourselves, it’s super therapeutic to talk to a friend or loved one about our worries and overall feelings. Then, take that relationship a step further and serve as each other’s study accountability partners. You can text or call each other throughout the day to remind one another of your goals, the tasks needed to complete, and little bursts of motivation. A small text saying something like, “You’re going to crush this problem set!” or “Only an hour of studying left today before you can cook a delicious dinner!” goes a long way.
Lastly, just get started! The thought of studying for a big exam can seem really daunting, but we promise that it’s actually not that bad once you begin. With little systems in place, like rewards, breaks, and accountability partners, make these end-of-year study sessions as enjoyable as possible. And remember, you’re so close to a well-deserved winter break!