Rubbing your tired, stinging eyes, you lazily glance at the time blinking in the corner of your computer screen: 2:00AM. There’s still about five hours until you need to wake up. Yawning, you reach for your second cup of coffee, only to find a few cold drops remaining. You contemplate putting the kettle on again, but that will wake up your mother, who will definitely reprimand you for studying so late. Sighing, you go back to tackling your report with sleep in your eyes and regret in your stomach.
‘If only I’d studied sooner!’ you think to yourself, groggily typing away. ‘I could’ve been sleeping, or watching my show, or reading my book.’ Your eyes harden, determination washing over you. ‘This definitely won’t happen next time. I’ll make sure of it.’
But of course, it does. And so the story goes.
While a situation like this may have been rare for most of us in high school, it’s quickly becoming a reality in university, where you’re so overloaded with work that studying for a course the night before or doing an assignment last minute doesn’t seem so unusual or even funny anymore. Our study habits, which were once very slack (I mean, we only really had four courses, and likely at least one of those was a bird course) are now being pushed way past their limits.
Will us students forever have to live in this never-ending studying cycle, typing up assignment after assignment, flipping through textbook page after page? If you answered “no” and are expecting a cool and hopeful plot twist in this article, you’re dead wrong!
The fact is, you’re always going to have to study for something. Might as well make it a fun and interesting session, no?
See, I could write an article on study tips, or on how to study effectively, or on how to prioritize your assignments so you can maximize your efficiency and leave room for other things. And that’s great and all, but as up-and-coming university students, we’ve already been told this over and over again. And while it’s great advice, it’s just..a lot…of work.
And thus we enter the ultimate conundrum: do I spend less energy prioritizing and more energy studying, or more energy prioritizing and less energy studying?
As the physics students would say, E = E’: both seem to have the same amount of energy consumed, it’s just a matter of allocating it differently. But of course, both options seem like too much work for the average university student, or so we seem to think. So we return to the initial question: what can we do to make studying less icky, without doing all the work that comes with organizing and prioritizing?
It’s a lot simpler than you think: Personalize it! Just try to make it as comfortable for yourself as you can. (It’s as they say: give a lazy person a job and they’ll find the easiest solution!).
An obvious answer, but a rather overlooked one. We tend to sacrifice our health and our interests in our plight for a good mark, but as I’m sure we’re all aware, this is really, really bad! While I like to pretend I never do this (“I have good study habits! I’m not like that at all! This article has me all wrong!”) I’ve found myself doing this increasingly often, namely when I have a physics lab report due. Believe me, I know how bad cramming linear regression analysis and standard deviation and error propagation into my lab report at 2:30AM is, but that won’t stop me from doing it.
Learning how to prioritize and take care of ourselves is something that comes with time. Taking it one little baby step at a time is realistically the best way to achieve that.
So for now, I’ll share my little study quirks, small things I do to make studying more personal, comfortable, easy, and relaxing for myself. ‘Cause believe me: if I’m going to sit in one place for three hours and read over notes, it had better be cozy!
When you’re studying and totally in the mood, but someone interrupts you
A) Listening to music
Oh boy, oh boy, this is definitely my favourite thing to do. Of course, I’m aware of all the controversy behind this: does listening to music really help? Isn’t it a distraction? Aren’t you just deluding yourself into believing it’s effective, when in actuality silence is what maximizes productivity?
Now, I’m no psychologist, but I’m sure those are legitimate claims, I just don’t listen to them…I listen to music!
When I say “music”, I specifically mean instrumental music and video game OSTs. See, as a hardcore daydreamer, I have a lot of trouble focusing in really, really quiet environments like the library. My thoughts get out of control, I start doodling, I read the same sentence over and over again, and I start to feel sleepy. It’s really easy to start a monologue when there’s nothing preventing you from doing so
Quiet instrumental music and video game OSTs (which, by the way, are designed to play in the back of your head so you can focus on the game) really help to drown out unnecessary thoughts and help keep you focused on the task at hand. Plus, it’s fun and makes the study session a lot more tolerable when you’re listening to your favourite tracks! (The background noise in Kaneff or the DV cafeteria have the same effect on me; static that keeps your unconsciousness busy while your conscious works hard).
Here’s a sample track from my favourite OST: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Voices of the Lifestream (which is a remix). This one is called “Daydreaming Again”, a remix of the original “Fireworks”:
Other amazing OSTs:
- Studio Ghibli Piano Collection
- Final Fantasy VII (Or any Final Fantasy OST)
- Chrono Trigger
- Chrono Cross
- Crisis Core
- Celtic Music
- (Instrumentals of Any Song)
B) Spreading my stuff everywhere.
It doesn’t feel like studying unless your stuff is piled to the ceiling and spread all over the bed, eh? And as an extra bonus, everything’s in reach! Just try not to lose that page of terms you need to study.
I love doing this. I can really let go and spread my papers all around me for easy access. It’s kind of like how people surround themselves with plants and greenery to get closer to Mother Nature; it feels comfortable, like you’re one with your notes. Even better, the clean-up afterwards really makes it feel like you’ve done some productive, intense studying.
It’s just like Einstein said: “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, of what then is an empty desk a sign of?”
While studying for exams brings about chaos and destruction in our room, even your regular everyday lab report session can be pretty crazy:
My sister Faiyza Alam during an intense chemistry lab report session. Note the warm cup of chai in her hand!
My mom hates this especially, since the dining table becomes a gigantic mess, but a student’s gotta do what they can to survive! Add a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and a heater by your feet for maximum comfort.
C) Having something to drink.
If you’ve read my previous article on tea, you’d know that I’m a huge tea fan. I love having a steaming, warm cup of tea while I’m studying because it relaxes me and makes me feel less tense, making me absorb information easier.
You know what else is great? Getting something from Tims or Starbucks. I totally don’t do it for the aesthetic of drinking coffee while studying or anything (okay, maybe I do… but come on, I know you do it too!).
It’s like what I learned in sociology: this is a case of anticipatory socialization, or “learning the norms and behaviours of the role you aspire to”. We know that the cliche image of a university student includes a cup of coffee in hand, so we feel a lot more “put together” when we have one too, because we think to ourselves, “Hey, this is what a university student normally does, so I’ll do it in order to blend in with the other students.”
That’s the complicated answer. You can’t argue that it tastes great, too!
D) Treating myself.
Hey, if you’re going to study, might as well make yourself happy while doing it. Just before that cramming session, it’s sometimes nice to splurge a little on an expensive drink or something sweet. Go ahead, buy that chocolate bar you’ve been eyeing. It’ll soothe you when you just can’t solve that math problem.
E) Using whiteboards.
Need to memorize a sociology definition? Unsure of how companies are interrelated? Got a chemical equation that needs balancing? Write freely on a whiteboard!
By far the most comfortable way to study, in my opinion is when you can openly scribble away without fear of making it perfect, and when you can erase and rewrite freely; that’s when studying becomes easier. Not only that, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the whole “muscle memory” thing: writing things out will help you remember them much easier. You can easily write and rewrite, get the motions down, and write as big as you want to memorize terms in a cinch.
Plus, the smooth black ink can be quite therapeutic! That’s exactly what a student needs when stress levels are high.
Got your own study quirks? Have you tried any of mine? Got any suggestions for me? Make sure to leave a comment!