"Welcome back from Thanksgiving break! I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing holiday."
We’ve all heard this phrase from our professors and of course, the next thing they say is usually which assignments and exams are coming up. Now that we’re in the last three weeks of the semester, there is no better time than now to introduce a couple of study techniques to help you catch up on those upcoming assignments and prepare for incoming exams.
While there are many ways to study and manage your time, here are three techniques that I’ve found to be fairly interesting and to be feasible for those of us who have a shorter attention span but still need to get things done. The three techniques are the 60-second strategy, the Pomodoro technique and the time energy grid.
The 60-second strategy begins where you would try to do as much as you can within a minute. Then, afterward, move to a five-minute race; then move to a 15 minute one. At last, work in a 30-minute burst and continue if you’re “in the flow.” This strategy was explained by Shanon Marks as a way to “turn negative emotions into a reward loop.” By setting a goal and giving yourself an objective, it's a simple way to gamify your life and make tasks that you dread doing a little more fun.
Work in 25-minute bursts and take a five-minute break, then repeat the process. Francesco Cirillo invented this technique in the early 1990s named after the tomato-shaped timer that he used in university, according to Med School Insiders. I have been using this technique for a while now even before I knew the name for it, and it's helpful in terms of scheduling and blocking out parts of my day. It almost feels like a mind trick when I tell myself that if I could work for 25 minutes, I could take a break. My recommendation for this, however, is to not check your phone (if possible) during that break. Standing up to get something or just stepping away from your task is likely the best option because there is a chance that if you’re on any form of social media, you won’t be able to get off immediately after just a mere five minutes.
I first saw this idea being explained by Dr. Courtney Tracy through her TikTok on procrastination. According to Tracy, instead of following a traditional to-do list, you create a chart (that looks like a tic-tac-toe table). The horizontal axis would be the energy needed to complete a task, and the vertical axis would be the time needed to complete a task. The least difficult and quickest tasks would be written in the top left and the most difficult and longest tasks would be written in the bottom right. By mapping out tasks by the time needed and difficulty, it gives you a better indicator of what you are able to complete with the time that you have. View a simple layout reference that you can follow here.
The following tips are not techniques, but they are still helpful actions to help you get things done:
- Remove distractions.
- If you work better with some noise or music on, try to put on white noise/music that doesn’t have lyrics.
- Have a plan of action.
- Create a calendar.
- Set a daily baseline of how much you want to do each day.
- Take scheduled breaks.
- Use timers as markers to stay on track during the day. Try naming the alarms to know what it rang for, and set repeating alarms for classes or recurring reminders.
Hopefully, these tips will help you be more organized, and good luck with finals!