Optimizing Your Finals Week

Ah, yes, it is that time of the year again: finals week. For Conn students, the last day of classes is on May 8 and our final exam period begins on May 11. Needless to say, it’s time to book your seat in the library now and stock up on free coffee because you will most likely be needing it. Or not. This will be my fourth round of finals at Conn, so I think I have been through the rodeo enough times to start dolling out tips on how to survive this hectic *cough dreadful* week. If you know me, you know that I manage my time like a type-A freak. I am not a procrastinator and suffer from not-taking-breaks-syndrome which I am 99% positive will result in an early death. Wow, that just took a hard turn for the worse.

That being said, I know I am not the perfect person because I can take studying to the next level of insane. At the same time, this level of performance has taught me the best way to optimize your finals week and consequently know when you should take a break from studying, even if I don’t take this advice for myself. After all, it is easier to give advice rather than to take it. I do my best to take it easy, but when the race is closing in, you want to sprint rather than jog to the finish line – only if we are talking about metaphorical running, otherwise I will definitely be jogging because these boots were made for walking not running.

Feel free to count reading this article as a means to take a break from studying for finals, and hopefully try out some of the other tips I am about to dole out.

To-Do Lists, My Trusty Friend

I have now written two articles in which I allude to how to-do-lists have transformed my academic career. I began keeping structured to-do-lists on the desktop of my laptop junior year of high school and have since blossomed into the student I am today. I am not saying that to-do-lists will guarantee academic success, but they will help declutter your mind. If you don’t already own a journal or agenda to keep a list of your homework and events you need to attend, I would suggest you purchase one now. I prefer a journal with completely blank pages so that I may create the size of space I need for each weekday; this allows for open space to add as many or as little tasks you have to complete on any given day. I also keep electronic sticky notes on the desktop of my computer in order to write out the order of which I will conduct my work and how many times I will work on a task (for example, if I am going to edit an essay twice, I will write it out two times separated by other tasks). Not to mention, nothing is more gratifying than checking off, crossing out, or deleting a task on your to-do-list.

Find Your Drink Buddy of Choice

By this, I do not mean find a buddy to drink alcohol with, but rather a form of liquid which will become your motivation while you crank away at your laptop. Personally, I love to sip on ice lattes with soy milk or hot tea with honey. But also don’t underestimate the benefits of water – I definitely should be drinking more water than I do now throughout the day. Taking a sip from a refreshing and or caffeinated drink whilst your eyes begin to blink with tiredness is the perfect jolt of inspiration you need to finish writing your essay.

Always pack snacks wherever you go to study

Similar to the above tidbit of advice, eating is just as important as drinking. I don’t leave my dorm room for the day without taking at least two items to snack on throughout the day. Make sure that you have some snack items in your backpack that you can pull out at a moment’s notice. Not only will this save you time for you will not have to return to your dorm room or the dining hall in search of sustenance, but you can also take a mini break by chomping on your snack and maybe taking a peek at Instagram, but do so with caution because social media can be a danger zone!

Take walks through the book stacks

Or outside too if you have the time (or energy). One of my friends recently introduced me to taking mini-walking breaks to break up sitting at your desk for hours on end. Now, I try to get up and walk around after I have been sitting for a while; whether this means to relocate to a new study destination or munch on a banana as you browse the book selection on the second floor of Shain, either way your body will thank you for the brief interlude of physical exercise.  

Move that body (even more)!

If you feel like you have the time, or especially when you feel like you don’t have the time, I highly advise that you take a more physically strenuous break and head to the gym, go on a run, or complete a yoga video in your room. I know that building up the motivation to go the gym can be just as, if not more, hard as building up the motivation to start studying for an exam, but taking a break to go the gym will help you recenter yourself and rediscover your motivation. I have a multitude of memories of losing my mind as I sat at my desk at home studying for my chemistry exam for hours on end until my mom dragged from my chair and to our local gym. Despite my adamant protests, this break helped me solve a problem I could not figure out for the life of me. Even if you spend just 30 minutes at the gym, it will still be to your benefit.

Split up your work

By this I mean, don’t write out your schedule as studying for three hours for you Biology exam and then three hours for your psychology exam; instead, in between a hardcore study session I advice that you spend time writing an essay for your English class, reviewing Italian vocab for your final, or responding to emails. Breaking up the types of work you have to do will allow you to not go insane and burnout after three hours of studying.

Go to bed no later than midnight

This has been a goal of mine for this semester and for the most part – that may or may not be a hyperbole – I have done pretty well, or at least better than last semester when I would watch three episodes of “The Office” after I finished my homework. I know there are certain evenings when you will be tempted to stay up a little later to which I do not encourage, but rather on the weekdays when you have more control over your nighttime schedule I recommend that you do your best to turn off the lights by midnight. This will guarantee that you get at least seven to eight hours of sleep which in the end will be more productive than to stay up till two AM. I realize it can be hard to stop working when you are feeling overwhelmed, but utilize your to-do-list to map out exactly what you think you will be able to complete that day so that you can be in dreamland by midnight.

Know your limits

This is perhaps the most difficult step for me as I tend to push myself a little too far in the studying realm. Although on the flip side I have a pretty good way to know when I am done studying or editing an essay: whenever I begin to feel fidgety and can no longer look at the work, then I call it quits. What I mean to say is this: know your limits. When your eyes can no longer stay open and you feel your humanity dwindle, its take to step away and take a break. Or even call it quits. At the end of the day, it is the work effort that you put into an assignment that matters more than the grade you recieve. I know this is a hard idea to grasp at a liberal arts school, but the sooner you do the happier you will be. Trust me, I am speaking from experience. Perhaps you will even outshine your past academic record if you disengage from numbers and letters and instead see only passion and drive – see where that takes you.