- Trap yourself: Set up your class schedule with early and late classes anchoring your days. Whether you live on campus or off, use the time between classes to study.
- Face the facts: for each course hour you take you should study at least two hours per week outside of class. This can vary a lot, depending on the courses. Still, if you don’t put in enough time, you will reduce your chance of getting a top grade.
MIND GAMES: TELL YOURSELF:
- I’ll put a week in my pocket . During the first week of class, do the reading for the first two weeks; that way you will have a week in reserve to draw upon later if problems arise (illness, family problems, a break-up, etc).
- School is my 9 to 5 job . (Get to campus by 9 and leave at 5.)
- My PRIME TIME is precious and I won’t waste it . Experiment with studying at different times of day to discover when your concentration is best. For many students, one hour of daytime study is equivalent to one and a half hours of evening study.
- I’ll start with my hardest course . Do your most difficult homework first (or at least get it started). You will be more alert and the task won’t seem insurmountable.
- All those minutes add up! Use every bit of time available – commuting, waiting in an office, taking a break at work. Think about homework you can realistically do in a particular location and then bring that with you: read on the train; solve a few math problems during a break at work; study foreign language flashcards as you wait for a bus or walk across campus. You can get a lot done during small increments of time.
- Even if I don’t feel like studying now, I will study for 15 minutes. The hardest part of studying is getting started. This is a way to trick yourself into opening your book.
- I’ll call myself a liar when I tell myself that I will study later on. As a reality check, ask yourself how often you have actually studied “later on” ( as soon as I get home, on the weekend , etc).
BREAK IT UP
- Break up big jobs into small, very specific tasks . Don’t tell yourself that you will sit down and write a ten-page paper; tell yourself that you will find three articles and read them. Break up long reading assignments into shorter ones.
- Review your lecture notes within 24 hours of the lecture . This may take as little as 10 minutes to do and it really pays off when exams roll around.
- Take study breaks. Many students like to study for an hour and then take a five or ten-minute break. This can vary, depending on the subject you’re reading and how alert you are.
- Don’t let a study break lead you astray. Be realistic about the kinds of activities you can do during a break. A walk around the library will probably work well, but watching television or checking Facebook can easily lead to a two-hour “break.”
- If you aren’t reading a textbook because it’s too big to carry in your book bag, break it up — literally. Go to a copy shop to get the binding cut off and the pages hole-punched. Put a chapter at a time into a small binder and carry it in your bag.
BE YOUR OWN BOSS; SCHEDULE YOUR WORK .
- Post a semester calendar above your desk (or in another prominent spot). This calendar should include exams and papers but not reading assignments. You need to be able to see the big picture in order to plan ahead.
- At work your supervisor doesn’t say, “Try to get some work done sometime soon. ”Your supervisor tells you precisely what to do and when . Do the same with your homework .
- Establish the habit of studying at specific times each day. This will keep you from constantly having to decide whether you should study right now.
- Try using a weekly schedule. Record all of your fixed items like classes and regular work hours. Next, duplicate this schedule so you will have one copy for each week of the semester. Finally, every Sunday night write in specific homework assignments for the coming week.
- Try to do lists. If you are a person who prefers more flexibility, use a daily and/or weekly to do list rather than a schedule. Sit down on Sunday night to write a list of all the homework and reading you want to do for the upcoming week. Each evening, write a short list of what you will do tomorrow.
- Keep your to do list for school separate from other to do lists. Otherwise, you may be tempted to clear away all of the non-academic items before you get to your homework.
YOU ARE NOT A MACHINE
- Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep . There’s no point in shortchanging yourself on sleep. Research indicates that you can’t work at top efficiency if you are sleep deprived.
- Eat right and work out . Exercise can help you stay healthy and alert.
- Plan to do something fun every weekend . Don’t deprive yourself of fun for too long or you may experience burnout and stress.
- Remember that a schedule is not carved in stone . At times you may need to be flexible.
REALITY CHECK (PRIORITIZE)
- You only have 24 hours each day and you can’t do everything! Cut back if you find yourself working too much, participating in too many activities, etc.
- Prioritize: What’s most important to you? If school is your top priority, cut back on the other things in your life.
- You can’t learn everything. Identify what’s most important in your lectures and books. You might guess incorrectly at times, but if you try to learn everything , you won’t know anything in depth and you will miss many more test questions.
UIC Academic Center for Excellence: 2900 SSB, 1200 W. Harrison St., Chicago
(312) 413-0031 http://www.uic.edu/depts/ace