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It’s Finals Season: Study Tips

It’s Finals Season: Study Tips

We have all reached the end of Fall semester and felt the temptation to start our Christmas shopping. Our motivation to study is further dampened by colder, shorter days, which makes it difficult to stay focused and productive. Yet, we know we must finish off the semester strong! Here are several tips to bring out your inner book worm and get you energized, focused and ready to ace those finals.

1. Plan out your studies

We are all guilty of having books, papers, and supplies scattered all around our rooms and even all over the house, not just driving ourselves crazy, but our families and roommates as well. Prioritizing is extremely important. It is good to keep a journal or calendar, where you can highlight your assignments and the order in which you need to have them done by. Feel free to go crazy and use as many sticky notes, highlighter colors and other organizational supplies to stay on track. The sooner you are organized, the easier it is to dive into your work.

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2. Stay focused

Staying focused can be difficult, especially with all the social media we have access to. I personally find it helpful to avoid logging onto social media while working. It is always tempting and can free our minds a bit from the stress of finals, but social media should be what you turn to during your break, not so much while you are working. If you can, keep yourself logged off Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and millions of other applications while you are studying. Yes, knowing how your friends are doing is important, but not while trying to write a twenty page paper or studying for an exam, everyone can wait.

3. Stay energized and hydrated

It is important to stay hydrated and energized while working. If you want to avoid running around the house like a crazy person, I suggest having some water and snacks with you in your study space, so you are able to sit for a while and stay productive. Staying hydrated and eating food will help you focus, think and avoid feeling tired. I do not suggest eating unhealthy snacks, since those take away your energy, but rather some fruits, vegetables, crackers and nuts. Avoid sugary and greasy foods if possible.

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4. Study space

It is very important to find a space that works for you. I am the “sit on a pillow on the floor” kind of person, even though my desk is literally a foot away. Everyone works differently, but it is up to you to find out what works best. Depending on whether you enjoy working alone or with others matters in the location you choose. The good thing about libraries is they have quiet study spaces, as well as social ones. The good thing about coffee shops, is they allow you to feel focused with others around you being productive. Space is crucial, so choose wisely.

5. Timing is everything

I personally work better at night. My best work is always written from 9 pm-midnight. Everyone is different, however, and it is up to you to find a time of day where you feel your best ideas kick in. If you are someone who works during the day, but that time period is where your mind is the most energized, find a time during your break to jot down your ideas so you can come home and put them into writing. We all have obligations and cannot always work on school work when we want to, but it is all about the preparation process to get those ideas on paper.

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6. Study break

Sitting around a computer or just sitting in general is never healthy. Of course, it is important to focus and not become distracted (as stressed earlier), but it is important to take a brief pause. Instead of staying on the computer, take a walk, listen to music, take a quick nap, anything you would like. It is important to take mini breaks here and there, to avoid fatigue and writers block.

7. Get enough sleep

You are all probably questioning this study tip since finals and sleep do not go together. However, it is crucial to have enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is not only unhealthy but dangerous. I’m not going to go into the science of it, but it is necessary to sleep. It will help you stay focused, work more efficiently and stress less.

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8. Take a break

Unlike a study break, I actually mean take a break. Plan some time for yourself to go out or to spend time with family and friends. It is not healthy to keep going and seclude yourself from daily life. You should still make plans to get your mind off your work for a couple hours to a day. There is always something to do, whether it’s a long walk or jog, sharing a meal with someone, leaving town for the day, etc. Make plans and stick to them, do not panic and cancel, because we all deserve time to get out and take a breath of air.

These are my study tips to you. Stay focused, determined and know you got this. Happy studying. And now, if you will excuse me, I have a paper to write!

Featured photo credit: http://www.heysigmund.com/college-studying/ via heysigmund.com

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Nicollete Izakovic

Candidate of International Relations

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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