It is exam period in the Netherlands! In the mornings, there’s a queue to get into the library and I am convinced that the coffee sales spike. I guess we all agree that it isn’t the most joyful time of the year and yet it needs to be done if we want to proceed. I wouldn’t claim that I’m an exemplary student, nonetheless, I’ve followed a few hacks that really helped me to persevere and to make each day as productive as possible. So, I thought it would be helpful to share my study habits with you so that we all can get through this time together. No more excuses for procrastination!
Find out what type of learner you are
I wasn’t conscious of this until I lately discovered a diagram on Pinterest. There are at least three different types of learners:
– visual learners: good at diagramming, reading maps, essays& anything showing progress
– auditory learners: good at writing responses to lectures they’ve heard; oral exams
– kinesthetic learners: good at short definitions, fill-ins, multiple choices
Each type has a certain way of efficiently retaining information. In this picture you can find out what kind of learner you are:
Set realistic goals
As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So isn’t your degree. It is really important to set goals for your day, but it even feels better when you actually can achieve them. So always be true to yourself, and don’t forget that you still need some time to eat or sleep.
Use a desk planner or a journal
For me, this makes all the difference. During the exam period, I write down my planning for one entire week. I find it really helpful to separately note down what my priorities of the week are and what needs to be done less urgently.
At the beginning of my degree, I bought this desk planner by Hema. It is one of the most useful things I have ever purchased and really helps me to get through my weeks. The feeling when you get to tick a box or cross something you’ve finished is so satisfying.
Visualise your goals
This isn’t only helpful for your studies, but also for life in general. Usually, I write my to-do lists in the evenings. In the mornings, when I sip on my coffee, I take the time to truly visualise in my head what tasks I need to fulfil during the day and where I need to start. This also helps me to mentally prioritise to make sure that I begin with the most difficult task. After that’s done, the rest of the day feels much lighter.
Study routines are great
Yep, they truly are. Find out at what time during the day you’re the most productive. Personally, I’m most productive in the morning. That’s why during the exam period, I’m known among my friends for being an early riser. Not because I don’t need a lot of sleep, but because I have internalised this routine to really coincide with my peaks of productivity. However, you shouldn’t be too harsh with yourself and understand that no day is like the other. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t meet a goal that day- be flexible and determined to reach it the following day instead!
Nutrition and health
Exam periods aren’t the best times to be on a diet. Yet at the same time, you should allow yourself to divert your thoughts now and then to other things besides the exams and papers. It is helpful therefore to minimise the cortisol (stress hormone) level in your body. Efficient methods to avoid a cortisol excess is to exercise and to eat a healthy diet. Although you probably don’t find the time to spend hours in the gym, try to do short but high-intensity workouts. A great app, for instance, is Seven. It takes just seven minutes and still gets your heart racing. In terms of nutrition, I would keep the sugar intake low and supplement it with natural sugars. And by sugar, I don’t only mean chocolate, but also everything pasta and bread. Try to supplement your pasta with quinoa for example, or your sandwiches with rice crackers. Another helpful hack to boost your productivity is to eat a lot of healthy fats, such as avocado or nuts. Our brains consist a great deal of fat, and consequently need healthy fats to work correctly. Finally, as always, remember to drink a lot of water since it supports the blood circulation in your body.
I hope that these hacks are helpful if you’re currently in the same boat as I am. I wish you the best of luck, and remember that the exam period is only temporary, so you can do this!