Summer in Australia: Right now you’re probably dusting off your cricket gear, pulling out your beach umbrella and buying an econo-pack of 30+… but you should be cracking open your textbooks, booting up your PC and grabbing a bunch of coloured highlighters. Why?
Summer can be one of the best times to get ahead in your study and education goals, without giving up the booze and partying (totally). You could be working fewer hours at your job, daylight saving kicks in, and by organising your time right you can set yourself up for a killer 2013.
Open Colleges’ Top 12 Tips
1. Know Thyself: and schedule accordingly
Pressure can be destructive. If you try to achieve too much study, your goals will seem impossible and you might become frustrated. Decide on a daily and weekly target and stick to it; 2 hours a day or 10 hours a week is probably enough in most cases. Are you a morning or night person? Days are longer in summer and mornings are not the chilly, doona-inducing hazard that they are in winter. But know your limits: does your brain stop working after 90 minutes, or, do you crash and burn after 3pm? Some days you just aren’t ‘on’, so don’t beat yourself up. Use those days to get through some light reading or research instead of making detailed notes.
2. Hey Pasty – go get some fresh air!
With more technological doodads than ever before, we can go places we never could before to study or work. Mark Sisson, fitness expert and author says, “What’s extremely cool about our increasing reliance on technology is that instead of preventing our communion with nature, it actually makes it even more possible.” Invest in a notebook/laptop with a matte screen, or access your Wi-Fi from your backyard. Find a local green space with Wi-Fi and get a battery that will cover your study hours, while setting your screen to a contrast level that will allow you to work in a shady spot. Working in a space with low wind is a good plan, and make sure you have all your study stuff sorted; bring pens, water, notepaper, snacks and anything else you’ll need.
3. Move your Butt
You’ve heard this one before, but a healthy body equals a healthy mind. A quick, 15 minute walk or run in the morning can really help your productivity levels. Drink plenty of water and get up from your study every hour and do a couple of stretches to avoid back pain and generally feeling less than your best. Some easy, desk-friendly stretches can be found here.
4. Summer tunes OK – but skip the metal and hip hop
Kelly Roell from about.com says, “Music researchers do agree on one thing: music for studying should be free from lyrics, so the songs aren’t competing for your brain’s memory space!” You might really love studying to music but the experts suggest that silence is best when it comes to total brain focus. If you have to have some tunes, keep them in the background; you can plug back in when you’re done!
5. Break it down now
Study can be overwhelming if you don’t group it into small chunks. Divide a topic or subject into easily digestible sections and cross these off as you go. Breaking the study down can make you feel like you’ve achieved something and keep you motivated. Make a to-do list and cross off what you’ve done – it’s really therapeutic!
6. Chips, Beer and Shopping – Really!
It’s important to give yourself an incentive; treat yourself to a healthy meal at your favourite cafe, have a glass of wine or beer (in moderation), plan to see a movie or go to the beach as a reward for getting though your study. Down time is hugely important, especially in summer. Wayne K. Wilkins from UK knowledge site, Helium says, “If you work hard then you deserve a reward as a result.” We are not robots, so let yourself go once in a while!
7. Think like Beckham and establish a routine
Don’t become obsessive, but a little law and order can be helpful. If you have time off from work over summer, set a study routine and stick to it. You may find that getting dressed rather than staying in your PJs makes you feel more like you’re ‘doing something’. Try going somewhere else at the same time each day to study, whether it’s your local library, a cafe or an outdoor space where you can make notes while getting grass stains on your shorts.
8. Don’t be a Pooper!
It’s summer. I’m sure you have lots of parties, events and family commitments on your calendar. Don’t let these become a barrier – put them in your calendar and work around them. If you plan ahead, you’ll get out more. Be organised, and block your social calendar out in advance because if you miss out on too much, you’ll get negative towards your study and you’ll be less likely to see it through.
9. Shut up and Study
In my suburb I notice that in summer, it’s noisier. Kids are on school holidays, people stay out later and there is a mood of celebration and relaxation, and everyone’s out and about. Tell your flatmates, partner or kids to keep quiet (nicely) and let them know that they can help you achieve your study goals. Find a study space with good lighting, invest in a comfy office chair, and have pens that work on hand. Don’t give yourself any reason to make excuses.
10. Invest in yourself
Don’t let your study drag you down – you’re doing something proactive for your future! See your study as an investment in yourself as you would if preparing a healthy meal or going to the gym. Drink plenty of fluids in the summer months and if you’re studying in the local park, wear sunscreen.
11. Pretend it’s 1930 for one whole hour
Turn off that device! Is your iphone, ipad, TV or Blackberry making you distracted? It’s not really encouraged enough these days; but if you need to concentrate, don’t multitask! If you invest just an hour of time on one project exclusively, you’re likely to comprehend more. Don’t switch between sources either.
If you’re researching something online, don’t drift from page to page; give one source the attention it deserves, as if you were reading a book. “Most interruptions are just new work coming to you at a time you didn’t plan. You need to figure out a way to minimise distraction,” says a research paper by Dr. Susan Johnson from the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science.
You may have put the hours in, but was it ‘in one ear and out the other’? Testing yourself can be a valuable way of assessing what you need to concentrate on. If you can, get your partner or a family member to help you. Stick notes up in your shower, near your loo, or in your kitchen. It’s an old study trick, but it works!
“Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement,” according to the New York Times, but if you learn to harness the energy of the sizzling summer months, you could be getting ahead while your peers are lagging behind.