Studying can and should be fun. Spending time understanding subjects that interest us, learning things we are passionate about. All of this is personally rewarding and enriching. Unfortunately, during the course of a school career, this rarely happens so easily. Not all the subjects we are taught interest us, we don’t have enough time to study everything calmly, we have difficulty motivating ourselves, staying focused, and often, the anxiety generated by the pressure of exams can completely paralyze us in our personal work.
This year, the Covid-19 context has forced students to take distance learning courses and to have to prepare for new exam modalities. This sudden format of working alone and in total autonomy can be very destabilizing, and exacerbate the difficulties already encountered in “normal” times, even more so in exam periods.
However, you should not let yourself be discouraged! This is why I suggest that we look together at some ways to motivate ourselves to work during this very special end-of-school-year period.
Revising requires a certain amount of preparation. You don’t just open your courses on a whim and learn everything by heart. In order to approach a personal study session with serenity, you have to be in good physical and mental condition, and know where you are going. This is why we will try to take things in order.
Get into a good state of mind
Studying requires complete mental availability. It is obvious that if you are thinking about certain things over and over again, your mind will not be available to learn new things. Here are several ways to prepare your mind for learning:
- Be optimistic: when defeatist ideas assail us (“I’m going to fail the exams anyway”, “I’m too bad”…), it is difficult to motivate yourself to study. Indeed, why take time to reread my courses when I am convinced that I will not succeed. That’s why you have to force yourself to put aside these pessimistic ideas. Work is never wasted. You are learning things for yourself, and even if you don’t pass the material, what you have learned will be less to learn for the next midterm.
- Set goals: When classes pile up, discouragement can quickly take over. That’s why it’s important to set small daily goals. This allows you to tackle a realistic task at the beginning of the day, and accomplish a task at the end of the day, which provides a sense of satisfaction that is essential to keeping up with multi-day reviews.
- Remember why you are working: remember that studying is not a punishment. You are here because you want to learn more about subjects that interest you, with the goal of getting into a profession that you want to pursue. Sometimes a subject may be less interesting, but remember in this case that it is a tool to access your professional projects. If you are not interested in any of the subjects, then perhaps you need to think about new career choices.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t get any work done: you quickly feel guilty for procrastinating. You feel guilty about not doing anything when you have so much work to do. But know that the most important thing is our mental health. Feeling guilty will not help you, on the contrary, guilt is a feeling that eats away at us and makes us less able. If you didn’t study well today, it’s because your head wasn’t in it, you’ll do better tomorrow.
- Doing a physical activity to relax: it is often said that sport allows you to clear your mind, and it is not without reason. Exercising, oxygenating your body and brain allows you to release tension and be more relaxed. That’s why walking for a few minutes before going to work, breathing a little fresh air, stretching or doing other exercises, can help you be better prepared to work and stay focused.
Make a schedule
Having a clear schedule for your review weeks allows you to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. Imagine your room is a mess and you need to clean and tidy it. To do this you’ll need to decide where to start. First, put away the stuff on the floor, then put your closets in order, make your bed, and finally vacuum your room. The same goes for revision. You’re not going to start rote learning if you don’t understand the course, and you’re not going to read the last few lessons if you haven’t looked at the first few.
- Divide your study sessions into small tasks: the most important thing in planning is to plan achievable tasks. If you never manage to complete your program, you will quickly become discouraged. Plan too little rather than too much. If you do more, you will be even more proud of yourself.
- Organize your tasks from the easiest to the most difficult: the goal here is to be kind to yourself. Reduce the stress of revision by starting with tasks that are easy to do and that will encourage you to continue.
- Make a nice schedule: take the time to make yourself (by hand or on the computer) a nice schedule that you will enjoy consulting, and that you can cross off as you progress.
Organize your workspace
The workspace is not a small piece of desk where you can put your computer and notebooks. It is much more than that. That’s why you shouldn’t neglect it when you’re getting ready to revise.
- Review in the right place: some people review better at the library, others at home. There is no better place to study. The important thing is that you feel comfortable and calm where you choose to study. However, with the current pandemic, many students are forced to work from home. The ideal is to find a room other than the bedroom to establish a real difference between relaxation (the bedroom) and work.
- Put on something comfortable: comfortable doesn’t necessarily mean jogging suits and old t-shirts. The goal is to put on an outfit that you can see yourself working in for several hours. Some people may prefer the comfort of pajamas, while others may feel the need to be well-dressed/make-up. Don’t think that one outfit is better than another. The best one is the one you feel comfortable in.
- Clean up your workspace and organize your study materials: a tidy desk for an organized mind! This simple sentence seems essential to me. It is obvious that we will do better with our courses if our workspace is clear and clean. So don’t hesitate to take 10 minutes to tidy up your desk before you start working.
- Turn off your cell phone: by keeping your phone away, you free your mind from all the distractions of social networks. If this seems impossible, use your “addiction” as a challenge: allow yourself to look at your phone after an hour of work.
Be efficient in your work
Once all the conditions are met for a good work session, you have to make the most of it. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your revision.
- Take breaks: the human body is not a machine. So when it has worked hard, it needs to rest. This is why you should not hesitate to take regular breaks. Take the time to have a drink, have a snack, stretch and take a few steps to stretch your legs. You’ll be all the more efficient when you get back to your classes.
- Work in groups: Working in groups has several advantages. If you don’t understand something, your classmates can explain it to you. If you take the time to explain a lesson, you’ll remember it better. And the fact that there are several of you can make revision more fun.
- File your lessons: filing your lessons is a great way to work if you have trouble concentrating. It forces you to stay focused because you have to write down and work on your synthesis. In addition, once you’ve completed the files, they are much more enjoyable to read and learn.
- Look for explanatory videos: sometimes it can be very useful to look for concepts that we don’t understand on Youtube or other video platforms. Oral explanations can help us understand better, and the video format can be easier to bear for subjects that we find hard to grasp.
Don’t forget to reward yourself for your work
After a good work session don’t forget to be proud of yourself and reward yourself. You have earned it ☺