I’ve just finished my last Chemistry exam for this semester. I feel light as air! It’s been a stressful couple of weeks as it came down to three major tests in a row. Today, I got the most amazing gift, the most perfect thing to happen – it rained! I love the rain, and I thought we’d seen the last of it for the season. This morning, we got a fabulous spring thunderstorm. I was energized by it.
Do you ever feel like you finally get your routine down right when the thing you’re doing ends? Then you look back and think, if I had just done it that way from the beginning, how much more could I have done? This entire year has been a learning experience for me in the way that I approach learning.
Here’s what I have so far:
#1 – Don’t compare yourself to others. How many times have we heard this, and how hard is it to do? I often found myself (procrastinating by) wondering how my classmates were studying, if they’d finished the homework already, or if they felt (un)prepared for the next exam. That’s a waste of time. Finish the homework, read the material, practice the problems, and get prepared. Do it for yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. What matters is that you’re efficiently investing time (your most precious asset) into what you’re doing. Stay in the moment, stay focused, get the work done, and stay ahead of the game.
#2 – Know and respect your limitations. One of my lab partners is the type of student who can stay up all night reading and doing homework, until she falls asleep in her book. Knowing this (and not following my own rule #1) I was trying to apply the same practice to my own studies. For awhile, I pushed to stay up later than I normally would, but the quality of my studying consistently and dramatically drops off around 9 PM.
Notice I wrote “and respect your limitations.” It may be easy to identify your limits and then try to push through them, like I was doing. You can do this up to a certain point, but it’s not going to be your best long-term strategy. Respect your limitations; don’t beat yourself up over them. Hey, I can’t study until the sun comes up. I respect that now, and close the books when I can’t focus anymore.
#3 – Capitalize on your strengths. What I discovered is that my absolute best time to study is first thing when I wake up, when my brain is super-fresh. And, I love getting up early, so about 5 AM I start the coffee and hit the books. My morning study time is way more quality and productive, and the time flies by. Most importantly, my recall for the information I learn in the morning is much better.
Now, I save the no-brain-power-needed tasks for the late evening. Picking up the house, starting laundry, petting the cat, prepping meals for the next day, these things are actually relaxing and good for me for the end of the day. I might watch a TV show while walking on the treadmill, or do some “fun surfing” on the computer. I protect my most productive time slots for working on the brainy stuff.
That’s my advice from the past two semesters! If you’re out on a new adventure, or taking on a self-improvement task, or tackling a project at work, remember: don’t compare yourself to others, know your limitations, and capitalize on your strengths.
Oh, yeah – one more thing. Remember to schedule some breaks from all the hard work, like these Yale students who are learning to live the good life, with less cramming, and more Frisbee.