Exams are coming up (she says with as much enthusiasm as possible…) so it’s time to fill up the freezers with ready meals and begin the all nighters right? No. I mean yes exams are coming up but, in my opinion, staying up until ridiculous hours trying to study and living off of junk food is completely the wrong way to go about your preparation. So I have devised a list of things which I suggest will help you to make the most of your time before those dreaded days arrive.
- Get lots of sleep. Perhaps a bit of an unexpected one to have at the top of the list but for me it’s extremely important. You must make sure that your body has time to refresh itself. Although your days might not be physically strenuous, they are mentally draining and it is just as important to give your brain a rest as it is to give the rest of your body a rest. I aim to get around 8 or 9 hours sleep at night. I would also say try and get a relatively normal sleeping pattern, i.e. go to bed around 10 and wake up at 7, but I understand that some people prefer later nights and later mornings.
- Keep a relatively healthy diet. Don’t just live off ready meals which you can just chuck in the oven because it saves time, you need to make sure you get brain food, like fruit and vegetables and fish. I’m not saying go on a diet, I just mean make sure you have a balanced diet to ensure your body is getting what it needs to give you energy, that way you’re more likely to be able to stay focused for longer.
- Set yourself rewards. I buy myself chocolate as knowing I can binge on chocolate when I’ve finished my work gives me the motivation to keep going. I also have a good book on the go and a list of films to watch. I feel it’s important to have something to work towards, even if it’s just a good dinner or a chat with your housemates, because it gives you a reason to work hard. This ties in with the idea of work before play. It is a whole lot better to get your work done first and relax second because otherwise it’s hard to get the motivation to start the work. My days at the moment consist of getting up early and going to library for 3 hours, coming home for lunch and perhaps watching an episode of House of Cards, working a bit more, having dinner and then using the evening to relax. I like to work hard to then reward myself with the evening off because then I feel like my relaxing is deserved. I think you also enjoy relaxing more because you don’t have to worry about doing any more work until the next day. And like sleep, relaxing is important as it gives your brain a rest.
- Get lots of fresh air. I find being stuck inside for days on end begins to give me headaches and makes me drowsy. So I make sure that I get outside for at least 15 minutes each day. Normally this just involves a walk to the library but on days I don’t go to library I’ll make sure I go for a walk around the park or out to the shop so that I can get some air in my lungs. I really do advise getting yourself outside as it will give you time away from your work. In fact here is an article which outlines how valuable purposeless walking can be: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27186709
- Don’t panic. Ok so that’s easier said than done when it’s 2 days before your exam and you still don’t feel prepared. What I mean by don’t panic is don’t think about the amount of work you have to do, concentrate on what you are doing and getting that right. So when you’re constructing your answer on moral panics (second years) or trade unions (first years), don’t think about the fact that you still need to construct your answer on gender and subcultures or Fordism, concentrate on one thing at a time. More often than not I overestimate how long it takes me to do things and before I know it everything is done. Don’t get yourself stressed out about not finishing on time because it is likely to work out fine in the end. If you’ve got the motivation you’ll make it on time.
- Don’t be a hermit. The worst thing to do is to shut yourself away in your room or in the library, believe me I’ve been there. Before the last lot of exams I thought it would be best for me to stay away from my housemates so that I could concentrate on my exams without distractions, therefore if I wasn’t at the library I was shut away in my room. But this was a mistake. You need your friends around you because I found isolating myself made me even more stressed because all I thought about was work. This time around I have made sure I make plans with my friends because just by cooking together at meal times, making a cake together (which we did yesterday and it resulted in a butter cream fight!) or playing Mario kart you give yourself time to forget about the work for a bit.
This list is simply from personal experience which means that it might not work for you, however I hope it has provided you with some help. If anyone has any other suggestions or questions then please feel free to comment on this post.