We are only a month or so into the school year, but the homework is starting to pile up. Readings are stacking up, papers need to be written, and projects need consideration. With papers, projects and readings looming overhead, I have developed a list of tips to help a student stay on top of the mounds of homework that further our education!
1. Time it. I have seen the excellent advice of pacing yourself; set a timer, generally 25-45 minutes. During this time period you do some hardcore studying, not letting anything distract you. When the timer goes off, take a 5-15 minute break (setting the timer for that as well) to just do something leisurely. Then go at it again, setting a timer to get some firm studying done.
2. Close Facebook. No, seriously. Close it. In fact, don’t touch the browser at all unless you are doing research. Don’t give yourself any excuses. If you absolutely MUST check your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, then do it during the 5-15 minute break mentioned above. Be SURE to have your timer though, because then you can’t get sucked in for endless hours; the timer will force you to stop and go back to work.
3. Environment matters. Don’t lay on your bed, or lay on a couch. Your environment matters greatly when you study. If you study in a relaxing environment that you always associate with a feeling of rest, then your brain is going to switch to that resting mode it has for that environment. Choose study-specific environments, like the library, or the commuter lounge, or even just your desk in your room. If you don’t believe me that environment matters, ask Matt McAlack! He’ll prove it to you in all the brainy technical terms you’ll need.
4. Prioritize. What’s due first? It’s best to get the things that are due first out of the way. People often try to get the easiest assignments done first, but that’s taking up valuable time that could be better spent on something that is due sooner. This way, you don’t stress out about something that’s due tomorrow because you were working on something that is due in three days. Prioritizing has been especially easy for me with the app ‘MyHomework’, which I got on my Kindle Fire HD. It’s absolutely free and it puts up the list for you of what’s due first.
5. Study Alone. I hear often that people study better in groups, but guys, when we get down to it, we all know that the people we have around us are distracting. When you’re spending time with friends, even if you’re both supposed to be doing homework the temptation to goof off and have fun is overwhelming. It is often best to study alone, or study with one person who is quite studious themselves. It is easy to find a solitary space to study in with the study rooms at the library, to which the keys can be checked out right at the front desk.
6. Use flash cards and notes. This method is especially helpful if you’re in a class that has important terms that must be remembered. Write the term down on one side of an index card, and then write the definition on the other side. Then quiz yourself, only looking on the definition side once you’ve tried to give your own. Also, during readings, it is highly profitable to take notes. If something stands out to you, or if there’s something that you personally disagree with, go ahead and write it down! The professor will absolutely love it when you bring it up with them or the class.
7. Get a head start and don’t cram. This is incredibly important. The sooner you get to work on some of your homework, projects or papers, the sooner it will be done. Cramming is not healthy, mentally or emotionally, and you retain a lot less information when you cram than if you study at a more casual pace. So try to make a list as early in the semester as you can of homework, big and small, and their due dates. This way, when you get something done before it’s due, you’ll have some time to just relax and do something fun instead of cram for that particular piece of homework.
8. Reward yourself. I saw a fantastic idea on Pinterest where a person put gummi bears every so often on the pages of the book they were reading; when you get to the gummi bear, you eat it! This can also be used with M&Ms, Skittles, etc. It motivates you when you get a reward. I would highly suggest this method; a mini candy bar always tastes better when you’ve worked hard to earn it! It gives a much more positive attitude towards homework when you know you’ll get something good out of it.
9. If you don’t understand something, ask! Every single teacher I’ve had here at Cairn has always responded graciously to any emails I sent with a question. Teachers love it when you ask questions because that shows you’re doing the work and thinking about it, and that you want to do the work well. If there’s a prompt for a homework assignment that is confusing for you, or if the guidelines for your paper or presentation could mean a couple different things, just send the professor an email and ask them. They will be more than happy to get back to you and elaborate on what they mean and what they are looking for. Just remember; it never hurts to ask!
10. WANT IT. This is the most important tip I could possibly give. You have to WANT to get your homework done, or else none of these tips will work anyways. You have to be willing to sit down and work hard for this education that you are paying to have. College is a gift that plenty of American students take for granted. We’re here to experience and learn, and to learn we have to do some things that aren’t always pleasant. Even if it’s not pleasant, you can want to get it done. And who knows? Maybe you’ll learn a few things by the time you finish that annoying homework assignment or tough paper.