Balancing Finals Preparation and Self-Care

All college students are familiar with the struggle between balancing study time and putting time aside that is solely for self-care. This struggle is especially present during the couple of weeks prior to finals, and then during finals week. As the school year comes closer and closer to the end, it is easy to primarily focus all your energy on late-night studying and completing projects and papers, you lose sight of taking care of yourself first and foremost. Self-care during this time is also extremely important because being stressed increases the chance that you will become sick, and it would be horrible to be sick during the week of finals.

This article proposes a method of studying that consciously works in time for breaks and self-care, while avoiding stressful and ineffective cramming.

                                                                   Image Credit to Pexels

1. Pomodoro Technique 

A popular and time-efficient study technique is the Pomodoro Technique, founded by Francesco Cirillo. This technique is characterized by short spurts of study sessions and relatively short break times. In order to optimize the effects of this technique, it is important to practice it when you’re undisturbed and undistracted. All you need for this technique are your study materials, a timer, and an activity to do during your breaks. This is how it works:

  • Decide on what you’re going to study during this session.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work for these 25 minutes, focusing as best as you can on what you’ve decided to study.
  • Break time—once the timer is up, set the timer again for 5 minutes and take your break!
  • Repeat these steps 3 more times; every 4 Pomodoros (sessions), take a longer break, which can be from 15-30 minutes, and set a timer for that.

The longer break varies from individual to individual. Take as much time as you need to recharge and be ready for the next 25-minute study session. This technique is helpful in avoiding the need to cram; not only is cramming not very effective in information-retention, but it is also very stressful on your mind and body.

                                                                   Image Credit to Pexels

2. What Don't You Know?

The Pomodoro Technique is a good outline for time allocation, but it doesn’t specify how you should go about studying during those 25-minute sessions. According to scientific studies, one of the most ineffective ways of learning is simply rereading your notes. If you’re only looking at and going over your notes as your primary way of studying, it’s difficult to know what you don’t know—that is, what material you do and don’t understand. It’s easy to convince yourself that you know the information when you’re already looking at it, but once your notes go away, your mind goes blank.

One method to try instead is to take out a blank sheet of paper and write down all the material you can think of without looking at your notes. This way, you know what you don’t know and you can literally see which concepts you understand or are familiar with, and when you go back to look at your notes, you see the ones you don’t understand or aren’t familiar with. Flash cards are especially helpful in becoming at least familiar with the material.

                                                                  Image Credit to Pexels

3. Teach Others

An incredibly effective way in making sure that you are not only familiar with the material, but you understand it, is to teach what you know to other people. This is a good technique if you are more inclined to study with a group of people or if you learn more through interaction and communication. The Pomodoro Technique can also be applied to groups of people who are studying the same material.

When you are presented with the pressure of teaching others the material, you naturally want to understand the material as much as possible so that you can help your peers (and maybe avoid embarrassing yourself if it’s in front of a large group of people). Additionally, your peers are likely to help you understand things you’re unsure about, since it may be less intimidating to ask your friends about the material than your professor. It is also more likely that you will remember the concepts your friends informed you were incorrect or misconstrued.

                                                                   Image Credit to Pexels

4. Self-Care

It’s important not to lose focus on your own mental and physical well-being while you prepare for finals, because you’re more likely to do well if you are mentally and physically healthy. Some healthy and relaxing activities for breaks are:

  • Taking a short walk
  • Reading a book
  • Watching an episode of a show or a YouTube video
  • Listening to music
  • Talking to a friend
  • Visual art (drawing, painting, etc.)
  • Exercising
  • Getting a cup of coffee or refilling your water bottle
  • Taking a hot bath or shower 
  • Doing your makeup for fun
  • Meditating
  • Doing yoga or stretching
  • Eating a yummy snack

Any of these simple activities are good ways to occupy your 5-minute and 15 to 30- minute breaks. It is also encouraged to exercise, even for a short amount of time, prior to sitting down and studying, so that blood gets pumped to your brain and you’re more likely to focus.

                                                                  Image Credit to Pexels

                                                                  Image Credit to Pexels

5. Be Proud of Yourself 

Everyone has different capabilities of focusing and learning, and that’s completely okay. It’s difficult to sit down and focus for long and even short periods of time, especially if the material is difficult or you’re simply not feeling up to it. Try not to feel guilty about not studying as much as you think you should or skipping a day of studying to just relax. People, and college students especially, are constantly bombarded with the idea that we should always be working, and that the only way to reach success is to set unreasonably high standards for ourselves and neglect our mental and physical health in the process. It’s okay to take breaks and it’s okay to be proud of what you’ve accomplished, no matter how big or small. The work you do is admirable and meaningful, and the work you don’t do is in no way an indication of your self-worth.