This morning I’m getting ready to spend my entire day at the local library to revise for a grammar exam I have tomorrow for uni… and to tell the truth I’m really excited!
I’m one of those sad people who get ridiculously enthusiastic about new stationery and has masses of notepads and paper in my cupboards waiting to be used during exam season. I could open my own office supplies shop, I just love it.
I get very bad anxiety, especially with school work, so I always find that having some clear and concise tips really does help to keep me calm and level headed so I can just revise and work really well. Obviously things like having a good lunch to keep your mind fuelled, turning your phone off, making sure your room is light enough, wearing comfortable clothes, they’re a given, and I get annoyed reading them on sites all the time because I don’t really find them that helpful when it’s stuff you just automatically think of.
Then again, my tips probably aren’t that helpful to some of you anyway. Nevertheless, here are my top 5 (ish) revision tips that I will be abiding by today and for the run up to exam season later in the year:
1. Establish a work space
Make it zen and beautiful and somewhere you actually want to sit for hours on end and work. I absolutely adore my desk, although it never stays this clear when I have a great deal of work to do. My one at university is even worse as it constantly struggles under the weight of multiple textbooks and dictionaries, poor thing. I could quite happily sit here and do work, but I always make sure that I do other stuff, such as surfing the web, on my bed or in a different space so that in my head the two boundaries are clearly set out, and I don’t run the risk of trailing off to Google cats for 3 hours in the middle of studying! (again)
2. Get some music on!
I know the topic of listening to music when studying is very marmite-y, and I agree with the anti-listeners to an extent. It’s pretty distracting having Nicki Minaj insisting that she has buns hun while you’re trying to work out something. I feel like music does help me to study though, and always have something light in the background. I have to work in a completely silent environment such as the library or my house when it’s (rarely) free, but play music very quietly in the background so that the silence doesn’t suffocate me. I love James Vincent McMorrow, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and at the moment I’ve become obsessed with Ludovico Einaudi’s album ‘Divenire’. Ugh, it’s absolutely beautiful, it’s constantly on repeat in my room. Something subtle really does help your brain to relax and lets you focus better on work, in my experience anyway.
3. BE ORGANISED!
This should really be number 1 but I feel like it kind of comes in with the first two. Being organised is absolutely paramount, especially for me who is a freak about this stuff. Just think Leslie Knope on speed and you’re almost there! I keep three diaries per day; planner, homework planner and journal, as well as numerous to-do lists and schedules. It might seem excessive but for me it really helps as otherwise I just feel so lost and overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff there is to do. You don’t need to keep 3 diaries by any means, but a diary that keeps track of your plans so you can organise when to do work is definitely something I’d recommend. I got my Filofax for my 19th birthday and it’s honestly one of the best presents I’ve ever received; I use it on a daily basis and the pages can be refilled every year, with calculators, maps, sticky notes- everything you need can fit into this binder, it’s absolutely perfect! I like to figure out what work I have due in soon and make a schedule of when to do it, approximately how long each piece will take, and when to have the breaks; I find that really helps me to visualise the workload and calm me down.
4. That brings me to my fourth point; water and breaks
I know sites differ in opinion about how long to work before having a break, I guess around the 50/60 minute mark is the general consensus. I fully agree, as I can’t really get into work if I know I’m only going to be working on it for the next 20 minutes. I often lose track of time when working and find I’ve been at it for 2 hours without realising, which I know is really bad for productivity. I think it’s very important to establish how long you can go for while maintaining the same productivity levels, and then during breaks drink plenty of water and go for a walk or something to get out of the ‘work zone’ you’ve created earlier. I’m really bad at staying hydrated and it’s something I’ve tried working on with my new diet, as I know water is very important for your brain and body.
5. Light a candle
This might seem strange, but I always have a candle burning while doing work. I find the scent of candles very calming and now automtically associate lighting candles with getting down to some serious work. Every time I sit at my desk and set up for studying, I always make sure I have a nice-smelling candle ready to go! At the moment I absolutely love Yankee candles, especially the ‘cherry vanilla’ scent which I got for my birthday in November and still haven’t used up yet, it’s just never ending! While the candle step isn’t essential, I find that having some little ritual like this helps your brain into realising that this is work mode and helps focus and productivity.
I am a visual learner, I can’t read from laptops or books unless I write it down on a pad for myself and then cover it in my own scribbles and highlightings. I colour-code, I draw on memos, I make a print-out completely unrecognisable and covered in my neon scrawlings! I find it very helpful when it comes to exams as I can visualise the work I did when studying, seeing it in a specific colour or highlighted on the page. I know this doesn’t apply to everyone as there are so many different learning styles, so it’s important to find your own style be it audial, verbal, physical etc. I don’t find social learning helpful (ie study sessions) for some subjects, however for an essay based subject I would prefer this to solitary study as sharing ideas can strengthen your own. It all depends on your preferences really.
I know these tips won’t apply to everyone, they’re just some things that I always seem to do when I study that really help me to optimise my productivity. Obviously things like eating brain food still helps, and I always try to have a good healthy lunch before starting a revision session. Not cramming at 3am before a test but spacing out sessions, that also helps but I feel that comes more into the organisation side of things.
Anyway, I don’t have any excuse to procrastinate anymore even though I am excited to go to the library – don’t worry, I won’t be lighting any candles there!