We’ve all heard the phrase "All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy. All work and no play makes jack a dull boy." There’s a lot of truth in this old saying. While I’m at college, studying takes us most of my time. But somehow, it still manages to fill my mind even when I’m not studying: I’m thinking about what I have to do next, mentally planning the order of things that I have to read, or just generally feeling guilty about not studying every second of the day. I’m going to share some thoughts with you about how you should improve this, why it’s good, and how to do it.
When you’re at college, it’s a real struggle to get all your study done, let alone to do it well and get good grades. I find that I’m often up late, trying to get that essay finished, or trying to read that next chapter. I also find that I’m often tired, and that I’m not eating well. All that, and there’s also that looming deadline: you know the one, the one which is always getting closer and closer. You’re not the only one. Everyone feels it. It’s the feeling of "I’ve got to get this done, but it’s not finished and the deadline is coming up. The only thing I can do is try to get it done and hope it’s good enough." While not everyone feels this way, most of us have felt it at some point.
So why do we feel this way? The simplest answer is that we feel it because we feel guilty about not doing things that we are "supposed" to do. We feel guilty because we know that we’re not finishing things and that we’re not getting perfect grades, and that we’re not living up to our potential. If you add to this, living out of home for the first time, and trying to get a job and learn to cook, it becomes a huge mountain to climb. So, I think we can all agree that study pressure and study stress is real, and a big problem.
If you’re like me, then you probably just throw everything you’ve got at the problem. You put many hours into each task, you cut short your sleep to get up early so you don’t miss your lectures, and you stay up late to try to get your essays done. But, there is another way! If you can’t take the pressure off of yourself, or if you feel like that’s a "weak" thing to do, instead, try to view my advice as a smart way to win better. So, don’t work on your assignment alone, work on it with other people who are also struggling with it, and you can help each other. That’s one example of how to study smarter. Instead of just studying the entire textbook, you should ask the professor for a copy of the exam paper from last year. Then you can focus your study on those topics first. Hey, it’s not being weak or cheating, it’s being smart and efficient! If you have decided that you are going to study the entire textbook anyway, well then, that’s fine, you can still do that. But what if you run out of time? What if all the material that is on the exam is in the last part of your textbook? Well you are going to have studied a lot of useless material. So, I suggest, study smart, and first study everything that is going to be on the exam, on each of your classes, and then if you have time at the end, go back and study the rest of the material. Allow yourself to take every advantage, and allow yourself to use the tools and tricks that the straight-A students use. You deserve the grade just as much as them!
I read in a magazine recently that when people are intoxicated, sleep deprived, stressed out, or put in a cold environment, or have loud sounds played back to them at a random interval, their performance on mental and memory tasks drops. I have no idea what possessed a bunch of psychologists to cram a small herd of students into a testing lab and torment them this way, but if it’s true, this is mind blowing. Basically, studying is the hardest kind of mental and memory-related task that you will do. That means that you need to make sure you have enough sleep, are not anxious, are warm and comfortable, and have a quiet environment for your study. I know if you are a ruthless overachiever like me, this all sounds very suspicious, like you’ve all of a sudden gotten soft on yourself. But the truth is, you’re being weak if you don’t take these measures, because they are a necessary step towards getting the best possible grade.
So there you have it. I’ve basically written you a permission note to get yourself a warm blanket, a hot chocolate, to curl up in your dorm and watch some streaming TV. Then, get back to your study, and enjoy it. You’ve earned it.