Time Management Tip of the Day: Study Before Taking that “Time off”

How many times have you said:  “I’ll just stop by that party for a couple of hours, then I’ll study.”  Or, “I’ll study after work.”  Or, just generally, “I’ll study tonight.”  Then, when the time comes to pull out the books, you are too tired to focus well and end up either not studying at all or not studying effectively. (Ever read that same sentence six times only to realize you still don’t know what you are reading?)

I have worked with hundreds of students who re-claim control over their study schedules by a pointed strategy to start studying earlier, before partying, before work, or before the day takes its toll and makes us too tired to absorb what we are studying.

“Work before play.”  Sounds like just another old person lecturing at you, right?  Well, don’t view it that way!  Consider it as a power tool strategy to do more of what you want, effectively.

It’s one thing to “do it all” then see mediocre results.  It’s another thing to “do it all,” do it well, and have fun!

Note that at some points in time, you simply cannot “do it all.”  There are legitimate “crunch times,” for example during midterms, finals, or while studying for the bar exam, where everything but studying must take a back seat.  More on times when you must “hibernate” and do nothing but study in another Time Management Tip post.  But, for much of the academic year, a more strategic balance of study and extra-curricular, and more strategic timing, can propel you to achieve greater success and enjoy the process!

If you are in school, college or law school, you likely want to succeed. Let’s make that assumption!  You want to get high grades on papers and exams, you want to do the reading and come to class prepared.  You also want to party with your friends, to go to all the organization events you care about, and you likely need to work (paid jobs and internships).

So, try this for a bit.  Try putting in at least an hour of studying first thing in the morning, right when you wake up.  Try also studying at or around noon.  (While others may be eating, just grab a quick (healthy) meal and head to the Library for a couple of hours.)  And, then, after your day time commitments, before any evening activity starts, find a quiet place and study for an hour or two more.  Even if you get there a few minutes late, you will enjoy yourself much more at an evening event,  party, or socializing with friends if you arrive after having finished a concentrated study block, and after having completed whatever is due the next day.

The other way around, trying to work late at night after the evening activities is often a no win: you go out feeling at least a little guilty about the fact that you did not complete your work.  Result?  You don’t get your work done and you don’t have as much fun.

Some readers may be thinking, “I don’t feel guilty.  I just do ‘all nighters’ after going out.  Studying all night may be something one must do on occasion, but hopefully it is not a habit.  Even occasional all nighters are typically not as productive as regular study blocks at times when you are most wide awake and alert.  And repeated all nighters take an eventual toll on your health as well as your productivity.  (They can be especially dangerous for students who commute and drive to and from school on no sleep.)

Instead, try fitting studying in earlier in the day.  See what happens.  I often meet with students who tell me their dedicated study time is between 9pm-midnight.  I ask them to just *try* for one month studying at least one hour in the morning, one hour at noon, and one hour between 5-7pm. Almost always, people come back at tell me that they feel more in control, and they retain what they are studying much more effectively. Give it a try!

What is your Time Management Tip of the day?

 

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