Close your eyes and picture a typical college student. What did you see? Did it involve a mental image of a wild partier? How about a student taking part in an exhausting last-minute overnight session? One thing that you probably didn't think of was an image of the student sleeping, right?
Waking up feeling refreshed and ready to go after a nice, comfortable 8-hour sleep is not a privilege for the college student who also has a job. Combine working and studying with the additional preparation needed to take exams, and it can throw a person's sleep pattern completely off schedule. This leaves students feeling worn out and unprepared to work or learn.
Reenergizing sleep patterns are a total must for those who struggle to find balance between working, studying, and life. For any active and highly motivated person, the need for a nightly battery recharge often takes a back seat to work and school. However, with proper planning and attention to daily scheduling, you can make it through your exams while remaining well-rested and ready for a pop quiz should it arise.
Maintain a current, thorough, detailed agenda or calendar
By using any of the scheduling apps available on your cellphone or laptop, you can have a fairly detailed timeline of your life at a glance. When you begin classes, copy all the necessary details in your calendar, including your assignment due dates and tests, directly from the syllabus.
This will also prevent you from being caught unprepared for a scheduled exam or not turning an assignment in on time. These apps often have an alarm function, and you can give yourself a 2-day reminder to look over the material or fine-tune the paper.
The snooze button on the alarm is also a handy feature in case you're busy at the moment. You can always set it to remind you again in an hour or two if you're not ready to sit down with the material.
Schedule specific activity time blocks
Instead of hoping that you can catch an hour for studying, or an hour for laundry, you should go for scheduling your time blocks. This will focus your attention on that particular task, and you can also track exactly how much time you spend on preparing for a particular class. By tracking the time you spend on tasks, you'll become better at predicting how much time will you need to get the things done.
Set work/study times on your calendar
Sometimes while having a job and being a student, you'll find yourself working alternating shifts. Immediately upon receiving your work schedule, you should integrate it into your calendar program. Then you can add your study schedule blocks without worrying that they will conflict with one another. This will prevent you from scrambling to find time to study at the end of the week when you are overbooked, overworked, and overtired.
If your schedule allows, study/work during daylight hours
Several studies have shown that working/studying during daylight as opposed to cramming during night hours allows you to be more aware during the afternoon, which could possibly increase your overall productivity by negating the 2 PM slump.
The same daylight research also reports better cognitive functions on day 2 of the study, such as reasoning, memory, and attention, which are all vital to doing intense mental work like studying for exams.
Set up your virtual office
If you study at home, or outdoors, it is important to create an ideal atmosphere for learning. There should be a reliable high-speed internet connection. You need to have sufficient lighting and a comfortable seating arrangement. The background should be non-stressful and conducive to learning and retaining information. Some people prefer listening to background music, sometimes through headphones. Others need a completely silent room to feel as though they are maximizing their study time. You should close out your internet browser and put away your phone during your scheduled studying time-block.
You should also gather all the necessary study materials beforehand to minimize distractions or disturbances. Be sure to have any necessary items like industry-specific software as well, so your entire study time-block is used as it was intended to.
Use your body’s natural cycle to your advantage
You know when you feel most motivated, and also when you feel most tired overall. Set up your study and assignment time-blocks to take advantage of your body specific cycles. You will spend more time reading over the material a second and third time if you are only allotting study time after long work shifts, or when you are already exhausted from attending 3 classes earlier in the day. Set up your study blocks to be advantageous to you.
Work on one project/subject at a time
While it can feel as though multitasking is helping you get more accomplished, several studies have shown that it may actually be slowing you down. You should be reviewing exam materials for one class at a time instead of splitting your attention between various classes and assignments. Focus on one class, giving it your full and undivided attention to ensure that you are retaining all the information that you are studying and producing the best possible work for the assignment given.
Work ahead of the assigned lesson schedule
You should progress ahead of the class syllabus any time your schedule allows. When you are ahead of assigned reading or writing tasks, you will gain more from lectures and class discussions, as you have already reviewed the material that is being discussed.
Instead of waiting until the assignment is due, you should go through the chapters that you will be discussing, so you feel as though you've learned the presented material.
Procrastination can turn an easy-to-do task into an intimidating workload. This can make it even more difficult to get started. Don't allow procrastination to become a foothold in your studies. By reading ahead, completing assignments during study blocks, and being proactive during the studying process, this will reduce your overall anxiety about exams.
Learn how to say "no"
We all feel pressure to assist others when they’re in need. However, family and friends may not realize the workloads of our already full schedules when they ask us for assistance with matters. This can make you feel like a bad friend if you say "no".
However, if you use your schedule tracking to explain your time crunch, you can learn to say "no" to poorly timed assistance requests without feeling the guilt that sometimes accompanies us when being unable to help someone.
Plan some downtime
Scheduling time to fully rest and relax your body and your brain is absolutely essential to maintaining your ability to work and complete your course work simultaneously. Try to give yourself a minimum of 6 hours each night to sleep. Also, give yourself an hour or two every week to perform meditation, yoga, play with a pet, or just lay around on the couch so that you can feel recharged and ready to learn.
Stick to your sleep schedule
Whenever possible, you should adhere to the sleep schedule that you have developed. Meet bedtime with a welcoming, relaxing routine. 30 minutes before bedtime, start a warm bath or shower. This will help your body understand that the time to wind down has begun.
Also, try to write out your to-do list for the following day. It will help set your mind at ease. You will have a better understanding of the tasks you have to perform as opposed to leaving your mind to think, become anxious, and interrupt your sleep.
Transform your room into a tranquil place
Your bed should be a place solely for sleeping. Do not work, eat, watch TV, or perform other activities while in bed. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use an eye mask or blackout curtains if your work shifts require you to sleep during the daytime. You should be sleeping on a supportive mattress so that you awake feeling refreshed and ready to start your day. Keep your room tidy with minimal mess to avoid distractions while trying to get to sleep.
Exercising not only boosts your ability to learn, but it also helps to control anxiety and depression and can assist in long term memory functions. Some of the lesser-known benefits of exercising are improved concentration, awareness, and motivation.