by C. Hickey, R.H.N.
As a student of CSNN that works almost full-time hours outside of class, I truly value the importance of effective studying. I absolutely love staying busy and I really value filling my time with activities that align with my core values, but it is easy to become overwhelmed with work, school and social life balance if you don’t have the proper tools to stay on top of it all. I have developed a few study tactics of my own that have really worked for me, and that may be useful for others in a similar situations. I really encourage you to try these out, and to develop lots of your own practices that you have found work for you as well!
- Make studying a non-negotiable.
This may be harder said than done, but when you really value your education, it is easy to make it a priority. This is not saying that I have hours and hours available to study – usually, it is just the opposite. However, I make it a non-negotiable that I have to study at least once a day. The time spent actually studying varies, but having that hard rule set for myself is crucial. When I don’t think I have time to study, I make the time.
- Carve out small chunks daily.
If you know that you are extremely busy for a few days of the week, but have an open schedule for the other days, don’t just leave your studying to those open days. That puts a lot of pressure on those days to get it all done. Instead of overwhelming yourself all at once, try to carve out 1 hour (or even 20 minute-30 minute) chunks of time each day that you can sit down and focus on studying. This way, you spread out the load into smaller, more manageable chunks. This may mean getting up 1 hour earlier or taking a 15 minute break at work to go over your notes.
- Write a list of practice questions based on the lectures to test yourself.
If you are really pressed for time, focus on the most important pieces of information from class. I find that making a list of questions from class that you can use to test yourself is so helpful. I sit down at my desk after a class and go through my written notes, while writing practice questions in a separate document or piece of paper. At the end, I test myself on each question, and highlight the ones that I couldn’t remember off of the top of my head. I then focus more on those tricky questions in my studying to make sure I really have the information down.
- Remove all distractions from your study space.
This one is key. If you are overwhelmed with distractions (phone and social media are huge ones!) at your study space, you absolutely will not feel calm. This sets you up for ineffective studying – when you feel stressed, you are actually less like to retain information. Make a rule for yourself that there is no phone at your desk, and put in the effort to surround your space with things that make you happy and at ease (plants, essential oil diffuser, photos of friends or family).
- Take breaks!
When you’re studying, make sure you get up every 20 minutes or so and give your body and mind a break. Get up and walk away from your desk, and try some deep breathing, light exercise such as yoga, or taking a walk outside. These will absolutely reset your outlook, and will allow you to achieve greater focus when you decide to get back into it.
- Stay hydrated and fuelled with nourishing foods while you’re studying.
Studying takes a lot of energy. Make sure that you have healthy snacks and lots of water by your side for optimal information retention, and to ensure that you don’t have unpleasant mood swings and cravings.