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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 April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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