Finals – the dreaded time of semester in which students abandon their daily routines and essentially set up temporary homes in the confines of their schools’ libraries. Sleep is forfeited, social lives are utterly nonexistent, showers have been deemed as optional, and caffeine is abused to a dangerous extent. The “finals feeling” is ubiquitous, and you can almost feel the anxiety in the air by just walking through campus. While it may seem that intense and uninterrupted studying is the best way to ensure success, taking care of yourself and reducing stress levels is a crucial component to thriving in your final week of the semester.
Here are 7 ways to stay calm and productive before your tests:
1. Create a study schedule
If you’re someone who keeps an updated planner throughout the semester, study schedules should be second nature and shouldn’t require any additional effort. If you’re not, create a calendar marking the dates of exams and due dates for papers, presentations, and projects. Estimates the amount of time required to complete or study each. From there, order your tasks numerically in order of due date and priority to decide what needs to be accomplished each day. Try to focus on smaller goals – break up your test material by chapters in the textbook, lecture slides, or overarching concepts.
2. Study with friends or form study groups
Unless you’re easily distracted or your friends aren’t necessarily the quietest people to study with, a concentrated study environment can enhance your focus and keep you on track. Try not to study proximal things that may distract you, like a TV or your kitchen. If you’ve met some people in your classes who seem like they have a good grasp on the material, set up a time to meet so you can exchange notes or work through difficult concepts together.
3. Reward your own productivity
Even though it seems as if there’s too much material and not enough time to master it all, studying for 14 hours straight the day before a test will likely be unproductive and exceedingly stressful. Decide the appropriate number of hours that you believe you can study uninterruptedly. After you complete that, allocate a fraction of that time for breaks and set a timer or alarm on your phone to make sure you don’t extend them for longer than you initially intended.
4. Put your tests in perspective
I know it might be hard to believe, but even the most colossal of exams should not dictate the rest of your life. You’ve worked hard all semester and have proved to your teachers and professors that you value your education and will do all in your power to master this material. If you do, great, and if not, remind yourself that you tried your hardest and whatever is meant to happen will happen.
5. Stay healthy and get enough sleep!
While pulling an all-nighter may seem like the ideal and only way to complete your paper or finish studying, skipping a night of sleep actually makes it harder to concentrate, multitask, and remember information. Get at least 8 hours of rest before a big day of studying to ensure maximal study potential and keep yourself energized. Eat three meals a day, try to exercise at least a couple of times per week, and don’t binge on middle-of-the-night fast food runs. For a list of brain foods, check out these power snacks for studying.
While technology can be a great study aid, it can also be a detrimental distraction and can result in procrastination followed by urgent cramming. If you’re using your phone, tablet, or laptop to study, be smart with it. Delete social media apps, go on airplane mode, or use regulatory websites to keep you off Facebook. Not seeing your social media, messages, and texts for a few hours will help you focus on your studies and make you feel less like you’re missing out while you’re stuck in the library.
7. Lay off the caffeine
I know you feel like you can barely keep your eyes open by the last day, but drinking too much caffeine can lead to headaches, upset stomach, and increased anxiety. Instead of emptying your bank account on Starbuck’s espresso shots, pick your favorite pick-me-up caffeinated beverage to drink once a day to keep you awake and energized.