Nobody likes being put in a box, especially the ambitious. Labels can be limits and working a full-time job and studying on the side is all about limits; not just the limits of your free time and willpower but also the limits of who and what you can be. The problem is people who are driven to be exceptional often want to study with a by-the-numbers attitude. ‘Only two hours of reading straight can be considered studying’. ‘It isn’t studying if you’re not at a desk at 10 at night with rings under your eyes’. ‘It’s only studying if you’re exhausted and alone’. This isn’t true. Studying is about who you are and how you do it. There is no gold standard apart from your results. Don’t measure successful studying by how much it takes from you; measure it by how much it gives to you.
Realistic study planning needs to match your personality and lifestyle. Making general resolutions such as ‘I will get 10 hours done a week’ does not usually work and can be a hindrance if it makes you feel burdened or sets you up to feel guilty. There’s no shortcut to hard work but there is a shortcut to learning when you can work your hardest. One week of monitoring your daily routine can quickly establish your perfect timeline.
Start by drawing up a standard weekly timetable that divides your days into units. Keep track of your sleeping hours, travelling times, meals, study times, leisure activities, working hours and energy levels. Also keep specific track of how you are using your study times, which subjects you are studying and specify whether you are reading, writing, note-taking, or memorising. Also note where you’re studying: At work, at home, in a public environment? Be specific, every piece of information is a potential arrow pointing you in the right direction (or away from the wrong one).
Keep track of how you feel during the day: are you charged in the mornings or drained in the evenings? Do you feel a slump of energy post-lunch break? Do you feel a burst of anxiety around 4pm? Whether it’s happiness, nerves or fatigue, take note of it. You’ll also want to keep close track of distractions throughout the day, whether related to you or your environment. Try studying in different places and times rather than the same place all the time. Note how you respond to different environments or hours. Not a morning person? You might find your mind is more impressionable in the early hours without your daily filters and guards running on full. Sometimes people study well during lunch breaks because they have momentum from the day. People who feel less socially inclined may work well in public areas because they keep a greater check on their productivity. It’s even possible that listening to voice recordings of your notes during your commute will sink in well, especially if you spend lots of time in slow traffic. Be open to new possibilities and be prepared to be surprised.
After a week of monitoring look at your timetable and try seek out what patterns have emerged. You may be surprised to note that you have tendencies toward peaking at certain hours, or feeling anxious at others. Keep track of these patterns and learn to work with them rather than through them, things are hard enough as it is. Calculate a study plan that fits into your life rather than trying to fit your whole life into a study plan.
Ultimately it’s the outcomes that count. Even if that means not working after 10:00pm because your brain is full, or needing to give away some precious free time for an exercise-induced spike before you get to work. The results are yours, so make the time you study yours too. Sustained proficiency needs to be personal. The best way to excel is to understand who you are and work with it, not against it.
Follow this link www.blog.oxford.co.za/study-planning/ to see the above tips in an easy to follow infographic.
Hay, I., Bochner, D., Blacket, G., & Dungey C. (2012)
Making The Grade A Guide To Successful Communication And Study
Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia
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