Alice Park, News Editor
The school year can become very overwhelming for some, and who could blame them? With an overabundance of summatives and extracurriculars, maintaining good habits and skills is crucial to stay on top of your work.
Here’s the good news: there is a way to avoid all those countless all-nighters, never-ending portals of overdue formatives, and forgetting everything you studied at 3 a.m. before an exam. The solution is this: you need to start developing good habits NOW.
First, the way you prepare to learn directly impacts the process of learning itself. The categories to keep in mind are: sleep, environment, organization, time management, and productivity.
Parents and teachers say so, and it is true: sleep is very important. Although some days it may seem impossible, you should sleep an average of 7-8 hours per night (Looking through your phone in bed doesn’t count). It is recommended to have a set sleeping time so that you can get all your work done by then. “But wait-” you may ask, “how can I sleep that much with this amount of work?” Well, read on to find out how you can avoid having all that pushed back work in the first place.
A messy desk, your phone with notifications on, and your favorite hype song in the background are examples of major no-no’s. You should have a designated study space where you do all your work, whether it is in your room, library, or a preferred cafe. Then, put away all those tempting distractions (you know what I’m talking about). Having a quiet, peaceful location to study can help with your focus and productivity.
No matter how confident you may be of your perfect, flawless memory that you claim can memorize every due date and test date, you need to get an agenda or a planner. Whether physically or digitally, set habits of keeping track of important dates and deadlines. Also, remember to check your planner multiple times a day.
Another tip for organization is breaking big assignments or long term projects into smaller pieces. This will help make the overall workload seem less overwhelming.
- Time management
Then, there’s every student’s favorite enemy: PROCRASTINATION, and every student’s worst enemy: the results of procrastination, and the regrets that follow up.
You can avoid procrastination by planning how you spend your time, beforehand. Set a goal by dividing the day with specific times to study, do extracurriculars, and take breaks in between.
Priority lists can greatly help as well. Separate your long list of homework into groups of important work, urgent work, and work that you can do later.
It is true that temporary rewards such as checking your social medias and watching “some” YouTube videos may feel great at that moment. However, keep in mind of temporal discounting and don’t get fooled by yourself. Human motivation relies on when you get the reward. The further the reward is, the more you devalue it. For example, the immediate reward of playing video games may seem more rewarding than the good grade that you will get in the future. Thus, you may end up playing video games instead of studying to get a good grade, because you will be more motivated to get the immediate reward rather than the future reward.
Instead, a suggested solution is to reward yourself in intervals. Start by working for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. After getting into a habit of doing this, gradually increase the work time. Also, when taking a break, it is recommended to get some fresh air, stretch, or get a drink of water, instead of going back to your fun distractions.
No matter how hard you may try, it turns out that willpower alone is not reliable to be productive. In order to get something done, you need to be motivated. Have a purpose and reason for why you are doing that work and trying your best. Also, surround yourself with friends and classmates who motivate and encourage you.
Just START. The Zeigarnik effect pushes people to finish what they have started. Before you start, your brain will think about the hardest part of the work and drive you to concentrate on the unimportant tasks. That is why you should have a discipline schedule so that you can become mentally stronger as you overcome those distractions.
Research also proves that humans actually cannot multi task. Instead of trying to do many things at once and end up getting everything jumbled up, make an action plan that fits you.
Now, these are some tips to help you to get the most out of your learning experience during the process of learning:
- Note taking
Here comes the big debateable question for taking notes: to write or to type?
Studies show that although typing notes gives you a speed advantage, it causes you to remember less information. Also, when you type, you may find yourself typing everything word for word, which distracts you from listening to what the teacher is saying.
If you still prefer to use your laptop, instead of typing word for word, re-phrase the notes into your own words for better comprehension when you study your notes later on. Be attentive to the teacher as well, for she/he might be teaching information that is not listed in the presentation.
Studies recommend pencil and paper notes because it requires less self-control and does not give you the temptation to go on social media.
Some general note-taking guidelines are:
- Writing down big ideas (summaries, overviews, conclusions)
- Listing concise bullet points
- Identifying terms and definitions
- Writing examples for further reference
Studying is a crucial part of all classes. And as much as you may not like to study, the brain does not like cram studying either. Especially for big exams, study in short 20-30 minute sessions over a few weeks, instead of 10 hours the night before and morning of. You can even train your brain to study at certain times during the day, to get some quality studying time. Set a specific goal for each study session as well, so that you can be clear and focused on what you want to accomplish.
One very helpful study method is using flashcards (physical or digital). Also, to memorise terms or concepts, it is scientifically proven that mnemonics are very effective, since abstract and weird sayings are easier to remember.
After studying, recall all that information by teaching it to yourself or a classmate. This is scientifically proven to be an effective way to process everything you’ve learned. Also, make practice tests for yourself or you can find some on the internet. There are good study websites such as khanacademy.org.
The school year can turn out to be not so bad, but only if you start setting these good habits and have healthy routines. Now, it’s time to go back and dig up all those lost overdue formatives and start fresh again, but this time, well prepared for any challenges that school and IB can throw at you.