This semester I am prioritising study. So far its going pretty well (to my surprise). Last year my philosophy was: I’ll study if I have time. Spoiler: this was a terrible philosophy and not remotely productive. Thankfully, as I begin my third year of university, I seem to be cracking the code. About time!
The biggest thing I have been doing differently, which has improved my study enormously, is my approach to scheduling my study. Basic? Yes. Important? Extremely. Although I’m great at blocking out times on my calendar, I’m not so great at doing what I said I’d do when the time comes to do it. But, I think I’ve found a solution…
Now when I schedule a period of time to study I do three things:
- I’m realistic about how much time I can spare to study on a particular day and how much time I can actually focus for. At the moment, I like scheduling two hour blocks because its enough time for me to really jump into the depths of a subject, which is how I work best.
- I include buffer time. For example, I like studying for two hours on the mornings when I have class at 12pm. I usually schedule my study from 9am – 11am. Starting at 9am gives me the flexibility to wake up at 8am if I’ve had a late night or, if I wake up at 7, I have time to get some other admin tasks done. Finishing at 11am means I have an hour to get ready and bus to uni. Likewise, if I’m studying in the afternoon, I’ll give myself at least an hour (if not more) to get home from uni and sort my things before jumping into a long study session.
- I contextualise the study period I’m planning in the day. I look at how much I have on that day and whether it is realistic for me to be able to focus on study. The result is that some days I don’t plan to study. *Gasp* If a day is already particularly busy with work, university and any extracurriculars I choose not to schedule in study because I know I’ll either be too tired, or my head won’t be in the right place, or… I just deserve some downtime on those days. I like to think of this as studying smarter.
Once you have blocked out your times for study, it is important to schedule the study sessions themselves. In other words, plan what you are going to study. There are obviously lots of different ways of doing this and I’ve tried a bunch. This semester I’ve crafted my own way that draws on lots of different techniques. Here’s how I plan my study:
- My approach starts very holistically and organised. At the beginning of this semester I compiled a ridiculously comprehensive list of what I needed to do for every class. It includes everything from weekly readings, major assignments and revision preparation. I organised this list by week due, i.e. when I needed to have each task done by. By organising it in this way I have a good overview of what I need to get done each week.
- Then it becomes kind of random. Each time I come to a study session, I prioritise one to three things from my comprehensive list to work on, depending on how much time I have and how long I think the task will take. Once I have completed a task, I cross it off the big list.
In reality, I refer to the comprehensive list once or twice a week and rely on a combination of my memory and the Todoist app to figure out what I need to do. At least once a week I’ll take a bit of time to cross-check the comprehensive list with the Todoist app and to check I’m on track. If you want to know how I use the Todoist app, let me know in the comments.
So, that’s the approach I take to scheduling my study. I find it keeps me on track and works with how I study most effectively. Tell me, how do you approach finding time to study?