It is one of your friendly JATL blog editors here! As the end of semester fast approaches, and in an effort to learn from my mistakes and motivate myself to make it through to the end of semester without having (too many) mental breakdowns, I thought I would post a top five study hints.
1. Make a REALISTIC study schedule
I know. I know. Every single blog/advice column/your mum tells you to make a study schedule. Sometimes, though, when everyone is telling you to do something, it's because it works.
One mistake I made in the first years of my study was creating completely unrealistic study timetables. Honestly. Thinking that you are going to wake up at 5:30 am for a pre study run and then study for six hours straight before lunch is ridiculous.
Scheduling twelve hours of study in a day with a one hour break is setting yourself up for failure. You will end up not meeting the target you set for yourself and it'll make you stressed (if you are anything like me anyway).
Setting up a study schedule will mean that you are less likely to cram for your test (which I have from good authority at the BBC is a bad move http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140917-the-worst-way-to-learn). We have all been there. And every time we say never again.
2. Give yourself a break!!
I mean this in multiple senses.
In the literal sense of take breaks...thirteen weeks is a long time to stay motivated, particularly when your mid semester "break" turns into your mid semester "catching up on everything I have not done for the last few weeks". Make sure you allow some time over the next few weeks to do things you enjoy. While setting aside a whole day to Netflix might be overdoing it, schedule short, enjoyable activities each day. Why not go out and get some fresh air? Take the dog for a walk? Call that friend in Sydney you have not spoken to for weeks? Embrace the urge to procrastibake!
OR watch an inane youtube clip eg. this hilarious image of an entire court room sitting in complete silence and stillness while listening to Eminem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPcB5IlIILc (be warned - only do this if you can resist the urge to enter the wormhole of youube for hours)
And also in the more general life sense... sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves. So don't beat yourself up if your plan to "make this your semester" has not exactly gone to plan and you haven't made perfect summary notes after every week of your course, gone to yoga twice a week, learned how to cook beef bourguignon AND practiced piano every day. That is okay. We are not all superhuman.
3. Find your personal study style
Throughout my degree I have tried a multitude of strategies to study. Most of them involve the need for me to purchase numerous colourful pens and stationery (procrastination much). Mind Mapping. Flashcards. That is my jam.
I also tried things that did not work for me. Structured tables for example. Or recording case summaries and listening back to them (would NOT recommend. I found the awkwardness and the pain of hearing my own voice distracted from the content).
4. Look after yourself!
This means SLEEP and EXERCISE and EATING VEGETABLES!
This is definitely something that I need to work on during end of semester stress!
Law students (and university students in general) are terrible for not looking after ourselves. Sure maybe the first couple of days functioning on four hours sleep a night will work for you. But you will study more effectively with a good eight hours.
Exercise. Go outside. Breathe the fresh air. This is one of those things that people say we should prioritise during stressful exam time, but it is often the first thing to go by the wayside!
I am one to trust the experts, and neuroscientists tell us that exercise has so many benefits for our brains! Increasing concentration! Improving memory! Good for your mental health! So even if it is just taking your dog out for a stroll get those endorphins flowing!
Check out this great article on all the wonderful benefits of exercise for your grey cells --> https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jun/18/how-physical-exercise-makes-your-brain-work-better
And Brisbane City Council are running “Active Park Events”, so you do not even need to spend your hard earned dollars on a gym membership! https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/whats-brisbane/events-listed-type/active-healthy/active-parks-events
5. Set (again REALISTIC) goals
Attempting to learn an entire 13 weeks of torts in one day is not going to be achievable. Separate your study into manageable chunks. Personally, I love to do lists. I find they work for me. And I get to put completely achievable things on there to give me a sense of satisfaction. "Woke up. Ate breakfast" TICK. Honestly though it sets you up for the day and helps you stay focused.
So if we aim to follow these five simple strategies we might find SWOTVAC more bearable than usual? I think my grade one buddy's advice for getting through QCS is still the most appropriate. "Have fun. Study hard though."