Time Management Techniques to Help You Study Over the Holidays
As relieving as it can feel to reach the end of a long fall semester of classes, the last push of finals and papers inevitably coincides with the start of the busy holiday season. Talk to many students and they'll say it can be an overwhelming and somewhat stressful time. Yes, you know that eating well, getting lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids can you stay healthy during this busy time. But let's face it, what you "should" do, and the reality of managing a busy life of school--and for some, work and family--can make that unrealistic. However, there are a few actions you may not have thought of, ones that are workable and realistic, to help you stay balanced. Stay focused on your studies, as you enter the busy holiday season with our time management techniques:
Be a Good Gatekeeper
Time management means focusing on what's most important to you and accomplishing it. Deadlines and due dates in school are a priority--you don't need to manage other people's expectations and you can set limits, according to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center. You might feel additional stress because of social obligations, like the simple act of returning a phone call or catching up with a friend or family member. One of the best actions you can take is to email friends and family letting them know you're going into a busy stretch of time and you'll be unavailable. Spending five minutes is a realistic action you can take to safeguard your time, cutting down on the stress of managing social and family obligation that are a natural part of life and that can tend to increase during the holiday season.
Also, sometimes you might not consider or anticipate activities that will conflict with their study and time, causing unnecessary stress, until you're knee-deep in research papers. While you know setting up a manageable study schedule from the outset of your semester is optimal, with family obligations, that might not be practical. Maybe you have a long-standing commitment at a community center, your child's holiday play is coming up, or a friend needs helps with an annual holiday party. Take a few minutes to sit down with your calendar to anticipate all outside commitments on the horizon. Then, choose what you can realistically do and what you can realistically decline. It's okay to decline a holiday party you've attended for years, or opt out of a regular volunteer position, for a few weeks, while you focus on studies. By anticipating and communicating these conflicts in as far advance as you can--even if it's at the start of the holiday season--you'll cut down on outside stressors and help balance studying with obligations.
Set a Circadian-Rhythm Study Schedule
According to Susan Krause Whitbourne, Ph. D., your biological clock manages your circadian rhythm, or your body's natural time during the day to process alertness, stress hormones, body temperature and cognition. If you're a natural morning person or night owl, align your study schedule with that time when you're most mentally alert. But if that's not feasible for your work schedule or doesn't align with a study group schedule, try to maximize your most alert and mentally sharp time of day in preparation for your study schedule. If you know you're a morning person but outside commitments deter you from studying at that time, use the time to eat as well, to stay away from time-wasting activities, like social media, and to finish a task that will free-up more time later.
Know How to Use Transition Times
One little-talked about aspect of time management, but one that's a touchstone for balance and focus, is transitioning well between priority tasks. The process, coined Task Switching, means the more disparate tasks thrown into your mental and cognitive "cue," the more both cognitive response and eptitude decrease. For busy students, that creates an inability to transition well from one priority task to another, with so many lined-up in the cue at the end of a semester, resulting in more stress and less balance.
In order to manage that stress, and "blow off steam," you might find yourself chatting a little longer to your cohort after class, or spending a little too long on an outside, meaningless task--and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Some students are naturally able to transition better than others from one task to the next, but everyone needs the transition time to reorient for the next task. In fact, it's better to build mindless transition time into your study schedule, between tasks, to create more efficient work. Be aware of what transitions do and don't work for you. If you know heading home instead of staying at the library will completely hinder your studying, plan to stay on site all day. Of if that ten minutes of chatting turns into much longer, you might want to avoid the conversation.
If it's a great challenge for you to transition between obligations, try the "10 Minute Trick." It's easier for most people to digest the idea of starting a task for 10 minutes than it is to consider a four hour study session. If you're tired, stressed or feeling unbalanced, "trick" yourself into starting by setting a 10 minute timer and giving yourself 10 minutes to focus on a task. The idea is almost anyone can do anything for 10 minutes, and as a student, you know one of the hardest parts about studying is starting. That 10 minutes is similar to the warm up stretching a runner does prior to along race--it prepares you mentally to better focus on your work.
Try these Powerful, Simple and Fast Calming Techniques
While you might know that meditation and breathing techniques are a powerful way to de-stress, it might not be feasible to carve out even more time in your busy schedule to do so for longer periods of time. Instead, choose techniques you can do on the go. Instead, take five minutes to focus on anchor points, like your feet or hands, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, imagining stress leaving through those points. It's a fast form of "pranayama breathing," that can help to lower cortisole--the stress inducing hormone--and increase focus. Try a breathing app. for additional support to take a minute for breathing and stress reduction, through your day.
And if finding time to fit in exercise is tough, take the stairs through the day, or take 10 minutes on a study break to get exercise by walking a few flights of stairs a few times. It's an easy way to increase endorphins, re-focus and cut down on stress.
When it comes to how to manage time studying during the holidays, staying balanced and focused takes practice and patience. You may need to cut studying short in lieu of getting more rest, or put domestic chores on hold to focus on finishing strong at the end of the semester. But allowing that this time of year is a busy one, anticipating for it and managing it as well as you can, day-by-day, will help you finish well, just in time for a holiday break.