Is it just me or is this semester racing by at an unprecedented speed? We are already almost halfway through the winter semester! That means that this is the time of the semester when the workload begins to pick up. The bulk of our grades are going to be decided within the next few weeks, so creating a plan for success is going to be vital.
What should that plan entail? Well, that’s where the winter term has an advantage. We have the ability to look back at the fall semester and understand what we did well and where we could have improved. What do you think could have helped you be more successful during the midterm season in fall 2021? Write 2-3 ideas down on a sticky note and put them in front of your desk so you never forget them and actively strive to resolve an issue or achieve a goal.
When I asked myself this question a few days ago, here’s what I came up with:
- Having a consistent sleep schedule
I can’t lie, there isn’t much else in life that is better than sleeping in on a cold winter morning. The fact that I slept in on a daily basis during last semester’s midterm season was alarming since I am much more focused in the morning. I realized that by sleeping in often, I missed out on this precious time last semester. This also caused me to stay up late at night. Thus the cycle continued until I was going to bed as the sun was rising. I have been trying to create a better sleep schedule. Here is what has worked for me so far:
- Using an REM calculator to know what time I should sleep to be less tired when I wake up.
- To fall asleep faster, I finish my day by reading a book and limiting the use of any technology an hour or so before I want to sleep.
- Sleeping at the same time and waking up at the same time: this builds a habit and makes it much easier on our bodies to wake up after the first alarm.
Want to better your sleep habits too? Our colleagues at Health Promotion offer healthy lifestyle appointments where you can discuss your habits and goals then receive personalized advice.
2. Organize your study materials
Do you already know that your math questions will require a calculator? Or do you know that you will need to use your textbook to complete a chemistry lab? If so, prepare your study area with all the needed supplies and equipment before you start studying. Nothing is worse than when you need to halt your amazing momentum to look for a single sheet of paper for 10 minutes. Once you settle in to begin your study session, you will be ready to focus right away! For me, organizing my materials also helps my brain feel more composed. There’s just something about an organized study area that hits the spot!
3. Use distractions as motivation!
Do you love studying with music? How about putting on a TV show in the background as you do your work? If you’ve read my previous blogs, you already know that I love to watch Netflix and play video games. In fact, one of my goals last year was to actively reduce my watch time on Netflix and the time I spent on my Xbox. While we are all prone to do doing this, try to focus all your energy on just one thing at once. Not only will this help us finish our tasks faster but it helps us make connections between course concepts, which helps prime the brain for test day. Even better, I know from my experience last year that I can use so-called distractions as motivation. When I know I have a lot of work to finish, I can set a reward for myself (for example, when I finish all my work, I could relax by watching an episode of my favourite or playing video games with my friends). I’m going to revive using this strategy this exam season because it takes away the distractions that prevent me from doing work, transforming them into an amazing reward
4. Active studying
You can further reinforce your focus by using active recall study methods, which ask you to actually test yourself as you go, rather than just re-reading or highlighting information. Such study methods are my go-to study because they replicate test-like situations. Some of my favourite active recall strategies include:
- Doing practice tests (go to the Queen's Exam Bank to hunt down midterms and finals from previous years!)
- Using flashcards smartly
- Creating a question bank with friends during a study session and quizzing each other
- Teaching friends a certain concept. If you can teach it, you really understand it!
Now is a great time to kick it up a notch and chase your academic goals for the year. But remember that setbacks are a natural part of life. It's how we react to those setbacks that will shape our future, so use them as motivation and learning experiences, and don’t forget that SASS’ Academic Skills team can help you out if you’re stuck or want to discuss your plans in detail! Good luck with midterms and assignments, and I will be back with another blog in a few weeks.