Sometimes studying can be really painful. After an intense trimester of placement, writing essays or practicing ensemble pieces, the whirlwind of expectations and pressures can be almost too much. It's not only exams that can be worrying, but everything that comes with it—the practice, the revision, and finding time to do it all.
Instead of fretting, here's some study tips to help during the exam period and the burnout you feel as it all comes to an end. Gleaning the best tips online and from the resources of personal experiences, these tips will help you centre yourself and your work in order to get the best results possible.
Study Tip One: Revise in a language or "learning style" that works for you.
Throughout high school, you are taught and conditioned to learn one way—with words. Languages like colour, sound and touch are often left behind the pack, and are not taught as skills but as compliments to words. This can be best seen in our note-taking, where you're encouraged to highlight key words and use colours to code your notes. Applying colour to words—or written language—can be helpful, but is only the touchstone of unlocking a learning style that works for you.
Learning styles are often categorised into three main scores: auditory, visual and tactile. You can be a mixture of more than one category, so it's about taking time to reflect on what works for you and your learning. Do you find it hard to remember something if you don't write it down? You're probably a visual and tactile learner. If you have to listen to music or read notes out to register them, you're probably an auditory learner who recalls through sound. It all comes down to the individual, and you need to use these tools to help your brain remember. Learning should never be a "one-size-fits-all" situation, so get to know yourself best.
Study Tip Two: Set times for work and times for rest—it's okay to step away!
Time management is difficult to practice and even harder to implement, but timetabling your life for a week or two can save you a lot of stress, anxiety and worry long-term. While you can create a physical timetable or planner, online tools like Asana, Google Calendar or Trello can help you prioritise your responsibilities and remind you about due dates, times and events. Whether it's digital or physical, setting times for studying is essential for allowing yourself to register when to focus, and to create healthy routines around studying, working and sleeping. It also takes the pressure off you to remember everything, which is a luxury you will benefit from.
After scheduling your time, setting three to four hour periods of studying can be a great starting point to excelling in your studies, but do a length that works for you. And most of all, take breaks. Breaks are so important, and can help you keep on-top of your health to avoid burnout, digital eyestrain and sickness. A handy hint is the “20/20/20 rule”, where every 20 minutes, look a few meteres away from your computer for 20 seconds and blink to avoid straining your eyes. And of course, stepping away from work all-together is fine too—it's important to set times for breaks and for times to return back to studying.
Study Tip Three: Find the right music that won't distract you or bring your energy down.
If you're like me, conversations can be distracting and straight silence can be a little frustrating. Finding the right music to study to or be proactive can be a key tool in bettering your results and centering your mind. It's scientifically proven too—according to the Huffington Post, experiments by Maria Witek and colleagues reveal that "there needs to be a medium level of syncopation in music to elicit a pleasure response and associated body movement in individuals." In short: you need to find a music that is upbeat enough to melt into the background and that you genuinely enjoy to hone your concentration.
If you're needing a study playlist, you can check out the one we made on our Spotify. Otherwise, collating your own playlist that's full of semi-bangers or whatever you like will also do the trick. Music is a useful tool in blocking out distractions and provides us with pleasure, so knowing what songs effectively neutralise the distractions around you will allow you to focus deeper and learn faster.
Study Tip Four: Snack on the right things and stay hydrated.
It's really okay to snack. As long as you're not eating junk, snacking and staying hydrated are handy tools to keep your mind sharp, body happy and productivity at an all-time high. In fact, there's many articles that link healthy eating to productivity, acknowledging the nutrients, antioxidants and all that other good stuff to help you with your work ethic. Foods that often get recommended are dark chocolate, blueberries, avocados, nuts, green tea and leafy greens, championing foods with high antioxidants.
Of course, these can be pricey and if you're a student, the chances of you being able to afford a punnet of blueberries or dark chocolate may be stretching it. Great (and cheaper) alternatives are bananas, roasted chick peas, carrots and general trail mix, with the benefits of protein, fibre and natural sugar a great way of boosting concentration between meals. That being said, following snacks up with healthy meals and water is critical. Setting a reminder to drink water is also super handy, and if you type "Drink Water" in your app store there will be a heap of apps dedicated to this. Drink more water, forever!
Study Tip Five: Get sleep—or know how much you need—to function with a clear mind.
One of my favourite things to do after a long day is sleep—and it should be yours too. Burnout is a real thing, and it can creep up to you without you registering it simply because you don't give yourself time to relax. Symptoms of burnout are something we all experience in varying degrees, and it can be tackled through a number of preventative measures. While we may feel helpless, overloaded or unappreciated, reframing your point of view can be directly linked to finding balance and putting it back into your life. Sleep is a huge factor to this, where sleep cleans out your brain and systems to refresh both your body and mind.
There's a great Ted-Ed video (a vertical of Ted Talks) on how sleep works, alongside a two-minute Vox video that can teach you how to sleep better. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep to function properly through these cleaning cycles, and sleep debts—the missing periods of sleep you might miss after a night out partying or studying—do accumulate and cause tiredness, exhaustion and memory loss. You might think staying up past midnight to cram will help you, but the next day you will be too exhausted to have perfect memory recall for it to even matter. So try and sleep earlier, longer and deeper—it's really important and science agrees.
Want more insights into Collarts Life? Follow us on Instagram or check out our courses to study something you're passionate about in 2018. Words by Monique Myintoo, who did very well in her undergraduate and snacks on carrots almost every day at Collarts.