Although holidays are a good time to experience a change of pace, it’s still important to fit in some bookwork, too. After all, a little bit of effort now can generate a lot of benefit in a month or so.
Whether it’s researching information for a paper, actually composing or revising that paper, or studying for exams that are looming ahead, small but steady progress can definitely help you achieve more than a proverbial cram session the night before you resume coursework ever could.
Consider the following tips:
1. Figure out how to eat an elephant.
How do you eat an elephant? Yup–one bite at a time. Even the best study intentions can quickly go out the window when faced with a large task that will be accomplished “oh, in a couple of days.” Set up a manageable framework of systematic effort, and then start on this plan the very first day of break. It’s just as important that you study on a regular basis, as it is what you study. Remember to plan on study breaks during this time, so that your brain can retain more information, and so that studying doesn’t become an unproductive chore.
2. Set up a reward system for yourself.
Figure out what will motivate you, and then plan out rewards ahead of time for accomplishing daily progress. Follow through on those rewards; it will help to keep you interested in this effort, and will help you maintain your momentum. Write down your goal for this timeframe on an index card, and keep it in plain sight at your study station.
3. What, when, and where
You don’t have to be a journalist to answer these questions.
What: Define exactly what you need to achieve each day of the break, and then write it down. You can see at a glance what you’ve already got done, and it can serve as a spur to keep you on track.
When: Holiday break can be a tricky time for schedules. After all, friends are probably home for break, too, which can mean long stretches of unbudgeted time that can chew into your study plans. Late nights and spontaneous parties can also weaken your ability to focus on necessary schoolwork during this time. But consider this: you wouldn’t forget to eat, would you? Think about studying as food for your brain, and be firm on giving this priority, too.
Chances are very good that your friends need to fit in some holiday studying, too. If you’re the kind of student who learns better with others, propose holding a holiday study session together: you’re still spending time together, but you aren’t aimlessly wandering the mall, either. If you’re the kind of student who learns better while flying solo, propose spending time together in the afternoons–and then hit the books in the mornings. Your brain retains information better when you study at roughly the same time of day each day. Take advantage of this natural aptitude, and maximize your study time.
Also remember to get a decent amount of sleep at night. A tired brain is unproductive and unmotivated. And try physical exercise for a study break; you’ll come back recharged and ready to work.
Where: Claim a calm space free of distractions to complete academic work. This is your study space, and you can condition yourself to “learn in this location.” Give yourself a set time, and don’t allow interruptions to carve it up. There will be plenty of time for everything else when you’re done. Have healthy snacks on hand, if need be, to help your brain stay focused and to reduce the temptation to wander.