Study Planning to Reduce Anxiety

            I don’t know about you, but the one word I associate with finals week is “anxiety.” Weeks during the semester are stressful enough with only having one exam, let alone five.  Often, the root of stress during finals week is lack of preparation. It seems inevitable, considering we have so much to do in so little time. But fortunately, if we plan accordingly and use the right tools, we can improve our psychological well-being.

            A study plan is an organized schedule created by a student to outline study times and learning goals. I want to emphasize the phrase “by the student” because the customizability of the study plan is really what can be most helpful to the student. Some may say it’s great to wake up at five A.M. and complete a to-do list, but that is unrealistic for a night owl. 

            The benefits of a study plan are countless. First, study time becomes more productive when you know what you should be studying. Often, figuring out what you should be studying takes up half, if not more, of your allocated study time. With a study plan, you skip the wading period and dive right into the deep end. The positive effect study planning can have on your psychological well-being can’t be stressed enough. Stress and anxiety levels automatically reduce whenever a plan is intact, which yield to more sleep at night, which is never a bad thing for a college student. I don’t know about you, but I can live without all the tossing and turning in bed at night wondering when I’m going to have time to fit everything in.

            The first step of study planning is to set goals. The most important aspect of goal setting is the specificity of the goal. The more specific, the easier it is to determine the steps needed to meet them. It’s also important to be honest with yourself and your ability to study. If you’ve never studied for four hours straight in your life, finals week is not the time to try. No matter what goals you have, always be sure to keep them somewhat flexible. We’re humans, things happen, we get sick. This way, your entire study plan won’t go awry if and when there’s a bump in the road.

            Step two is to analyze your existing use of time.  Take a detailed look of how you’ve spent the last week and total the number of hours you’ve spent studying. Look for patterns. Are you surprised that you spent so much/so little time studying? Maybe you weren’t giving yourself enough credit and you actually study quite a bit. Maybe it’s the other way around. Can you see that you’re in the habit of watching too much Netflix or not giving yourself enough breaks? What times do you study most effectively? How available are they? What time commitments might you consider eliminating or adding? Maybe you need to skip that meeting just this once to get a head start on your finals preparation.

            The next step is to analyze your tasks and estimate completion time. You should start by listing all deadlines for major assignments as well as exam dates. Break each assignment into smaller, more manageable tasks and estimate the amount of time it will take to complete them. It’s important to prioritize the tasks as well as your immediate assignments. We all know that just because it’s the week before finals, our professors aren’t going to go easy on us. In fact, they’ll probably cram in several last-minute assignments. That’s college.

            Now it’s time to plan ahead. First, you should fix your time commitments and write the changes down. It’s also crucial to include time for daily living activities, as we don’t want to make any substantial changes that may impact us negatively on our exams. Find available study time and allocate specific tasks to these slots. It’s more beneficial to plan your schedule one to three days in advance, as well as make sure it’s flexible for revisions.

            The last and most important step in the study planning process is to stick to your plan. A study plan works best if it’s followed on a consistent basis. Don’t fret if you can’t immediately adjust without some difficulty. These things take time. Reevaluate and fine-tune your plan for each semester!