Some Tips for a Stress-free Block
If you’re like most UCG students, you probably didn’t come to Groningen with the intention of spending every waking minute studying and having no social life. But I’m assuming you also did not come here just to fail your courses. We know that sometimes the workload can be overwhelming for students, so we did some research on studying hacks you can use to study more effectively. We found a number of suggestions made by experts, such as getting up every day at 7 am and going to bed at 10 pm, giving yourself only one hour of recreation a day with the rest allocated to studying, and even making a rap about your material to help you learn more effectively. However, it seems that all these so-called experts are a bit out of touch with reality if they think your average liberal arts student is going to spend most of his day annotating on Perusal or composing a rap about the sociological analysis of post-colonial segregation. So to save you the trouble, we tracked down the best study tips that have empirically worked for students and will hopefully help you through UCG.
Materials you’ll need for next block
Well-rested, non-intoxicated brain
How about for a change, instead of letting everything pile up and have the crushing last-minute pressure drive you to a mental breakdown, you get on top of your work from the beginning of the block? From early on in the block, you are bombarded daily with dates, deadlines, assignments, study groups and many more important things you need to remember. Understandably, we can’t expect you to sit down and generate an entire schedule for the month every time a new deadline is given. Maybe you’re in a rush, maybe you’re tired and just want to go home.
We propose to have a list with you, either paper or digital, in which you just jot down every new thing you hear. You don’t have to think about finding time to work on it, or rearrange your schedule; just a note, e.g. Economics essay Friday, Project find article Tuesday etc. It will take you a couple seconds, to just write the lesson, the homework, and the day it’s due. Then, when you get a chance at the end of the day, spend 5 minutes to organize and prioritize that list, considering how important each task is, and how much time each task will take. Once you’ve done that, put that in your calendar (the online Nestor calendar is quite helpful) and there you have it, you’ve managed time.
Quality over quantity
Like the two previous blocks have taught you, efficient studying is not spending 5 hours in the library passively reviewing your texts and giving yourself the illusion of preparedness, and the reality of mental exhaustion. That is what we call “pseudo-studying”. A concise and useful formula for studying is:
time spent x intensity of focus = work accomplished
That means the amount of work you get done depends on how much time you’ve spent on it, times the degree of intensive focus during that time. You can choose to spend 1 fully intensive hour and finish your assignment, or spend 5 non-intensive hours and get a worse outcome. If studying is your passion, then by all means, go with the latter option, but I personally prefer having the free time to partake in all the amazing Caerus events that are coming up.
Procrastination and Ego
No matter how interesting a course is, sometimes you’ll just have to do boring work. Usually that sparks the urge to procrastinate, and you start giving yourself excuses such as, ‘It’s been a long day, it’s probably best if I start fresh tomorrow’, or ‘I don’t have everything I need right now, better wait until I’m more prepared’; which we all know really means ‘I just want to watch Netflix’. Psychologists claim that this is because our egos prevent us from admitting our procrastination. We all have an ego, but, luckily, we can all learn to utilize it in a productive way. One way to combat procrastination is to have a ‘progress notebook’. Once you’ve time managed, and have a schedule for what you need to do for the day, at the end of it, take a minute and reflect on your performance. If you’ve failed to do one of your tasks, think of the actual reason, and write it down. By doing this, you force yourself to become conscious of your procrastination, and since your ego does not enjoy admitting defeat, you’re motivated, consciously or subconsciously, to try harder next time. If you’ve accomplished everything, note that down as well, as it has been shown to increase your dopamine levels and give you a sense of victory over your procrastinatory urges. This, again, makes you more likely to remain on this productive path as your brain loves that dopamine boost.
A final trick that uses our ego to our advantage is to tell as many people about your tasks as possible. If you’ve told 10 people in your unit or class that you’re going to the library and finishing your assignment today, it gives you an extra motivational boost to actually do it. The more people know about your task, the harder it will be for you to cancel it, since your ego won’t only get hurt by you admitting your failure, but now has the additional pressure of others’ expectations.
It takes as little as a month to form a new habit, so really push yourselves at the beginning, and you are guaranteed to form long-term habits that continuously yield you positive results. As Aristotle said, “You are what you repeatedly do; thus success is not an act, but a habit”.