During finals week, the tension on campus is palpable. It’s like each student’s mind is somewhere else – reviewing lessons, memorizing vocabulary, problem solving – and most people are locked down at the library or in their rooms squeezing the most out of their study time.
With so much weighing on exam results, it’s easy to get lost studying and become overwhelmed by how much needs to be done. Too much stress, however, can affect memory recall and make it harder to learn. High levels of anxiety can cause you to “freeze” and make you unable to concentrate. To stay focused during finals week, follow these six tips that cover your mind, body, environment, and studying.
Tip 1: Take care of your mind with a three-minute meditation
Find a few minutes to shut off your mind and meditate. Need a reason why? Here are several: meditating can increase your focus by ten times and help lead to 75% less depression, 30% less anxiety, and 65% more well-being. Meditation increases your mental strength and focus and increases memory retention and recall.
If you’ve never meditated before, all you have to do is sit in a comfortable position with no distractions. Slowly breathe in and out of your nose to oxygenate your body’s tissues and relieve tension. Focus on being present and each time your mind follows a thought, notice it, breathe, and release. Try this for a few minutes and don’t worry about getting it “right.” It’s like a mini-vacation for your mind and body.
Tip 2: Refuel yourself with exercise, nutrition, and sleep
Exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep may seem like obvious tips, but many of us don’t follow this advice. If you don’t have time for the recommended twenty to thirty minutes of exercise a day, find at least ten minutes to stretch, walk, and get your heart rate up. Eat protein-rich meals with lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, and water. Avoid carbohydrates that will give you a sugar high then leave you feeling exhausted. Unwind before bed with a few minutes of meditation or by listening to calming music to release lingering thoughts. Get enough sleep, which varies depending on what you need to function.
If your room becomes a party zone, as is often the case if your roommates finish their exams before you, you need a backup plan that includes alternative places to study. Create a short list that includes addresses, phone numbers, opening and closing hours, and Wi-Fi availability. Ideal places include the school library, public library, and local cafes.
Tip 4: Create a study schedule
Estimate how much time you need to prepare for each final and work backward to find the dates for when you need to begin studying, writing, and preparing. Prioritize which is most important and take it one piece at a time. This helps you avoid last-minute cramming sessions that do little to raise your grade and a lot to make you exhausted.
Tip 5: Follow a study strategy
Study strategically by studying in short increments. Break up your study sessions according to task, such as read, write, memorize, review, and then repeat. This will help you to avoid study burnout.
Tip 6: Take breaks to recharge
Every fifteen to twenty minutes, take a break by walking around, getting some fresh air, or talking to a friend. Taking a “microbreak,” which is from thirty seconds to five minutes, can improve your mental acuity by an average of 13%. If you’re spending a lot of time in front of the computer, taking a fifteen-second break every ten minutes can reduce fatigue by 50%. Treat your breaks as a time to unplug, step away from your computer, and give your mind (and eyes) a rest. You’ll extend the length of time you’ll be able to study and will be more productive.
Taking a comprehensive approach to staying focused during finals week will help you reap the benefits of being calm, cool, and collected during your exams. As your friends are cramming and stressing out, you’ll be the epitome of Zen with a sharply focused mind and a calm outlook. Finals week is approaching, so apply these tips and see how they can help you.
Eric Hung is the Co-Founder of Educator.com, which helps high school and college students reach their potential through video lessons from awesome teachers. He started the company after studying biomedical engineering at Duke (BSE) and USC (MS) as a way for students struggling with math and science to get help without the expense of private tutors. Connect with him on LinkedIn.