The month of December is officially here, along with the prospect of the end of the semester. Finals Week is rapidly approaching, and with it the snowy weather and holiday excitement. As winter break approaches motivation can definitely be lacking, but I have a few suggestions for avoiding excess stress and procrastination during this critical time of year.
Step 1: Create a Study Schedule
The first step to maintaining motivation is understanding what the next few weeks will look like. For me, this means writing in all upcoming assignment due dates and appointments in the December calendar page of my agenda. I use different colors for each element (red for upcoming final assignments and exams, blue for regular assignments, green for appointments and work hours, etc.). Once this is done, you will have a good sense of when you might need to budget your time. Plus, this will ensure that you never forget a due date. With a significant amount of final coursework due, it is easy to forget the smaller details.
Step 2: Set Realistic Goals
The second step is closely related to planning. For this step, you will want to take a look at all of your current class grades. A good way to approach this is to identify where your attention should be most devoted. For many, this is the most challenging class of the semester. Then, you can look at the rest of your classes (and final assignments) and determine where the rest of your time should be divided. Once you have figured out where to budget your time, your end of semester plan is almost complete.
Step 3: Schedule in Study Breaks
Sometimes the most important part of studying is knowing when to take a break. There are a lot of great study break opportunities, especially during the holiday season! You can arrange a secret santa gift exchange, attend a concert, enjoy a festive holiday hot chocolate, or go ice skating. The possibilities are endless! The important thing is to schedule these events ahead of time so as to ensure you plan your studying around them.
Step 4: Personal Wellness
While studying is very important, so is your personal health. Finals Week is one of the most critical weeks, and also one of the most personally challenging. Many students pull “all-nighters” and neglect their mental and physical well-being. While this may not seem all that bad at the start, it can have negative effects on your studies. A continuous lack of sleep, missing meals, and skipping breaks can lead to disappointing exam scores and cluttered term papers. The better alternative is to make personal wellness a priority. That is not to say that there can’t be days where academics are at the forefront, but continuous stress will lead to diminishing returns.
There are easy ways to integrate personal care into your study routine. The first is to schedule meals and healthy eating habits. When studying for extended periods of time, it is actually quite easy to forget to eat. The best solution for this is to treat meals as small study breaks, and as a way to enjoy time with your friends. There will be days where you can’t make all the meals, in which case healthy alternatives are essential. I recommend multigrain cheerios with almond milk, or a can of your favorite soup if the weather is particularly dreary. Personally, I am a study snacker. In most cases, small snacks help me to concentrate on my assignments. I love greek yogurt, almonds, and raisins as great study snack items. Trail mixes and pretzels also make for great options if you prefer more savory snacks.
Exercising is also a great way to take a break. Not only does it clear the mind, but it makes you feel more energized and content. Frustrated? Try going for a walk or stretching at the gym. This will allow you to take a break from what you are working on, and come back to it with a clearer mind.
Taking music study breaks is another great way to relieve frustration. With Spotify you can select a pre-made playlist to fit your preferences (pop, rock, classical), or make a playlist of your own (Study Break 2015, for example). Have a spontaneous dance party with a study group! This can be as short or long of a break as is preferable, and is a great way to relieve stress (especially when it is too cold to take a walk).
Step 5: Cherish the Experience
Finals Week is difficult, and can get the best of all of us at times. Oftentimes the little things can be most helpful during this time of stress. Watching a movie, baking, having a mini dance party, and reading your favorite book(s) are great ways to positively channel stress.
I would love to hear what your Finals Week coping strategies are! Leave them in the comments below 🙂
©2015 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.