Study Advice

Sitting staring into space when you think you should be revising? Reading but not taking anything in? Too tired to function properly because of burning the candle at both ends of the day? Worried about panicking in the exams?…

Here are some (I hope) constructive thoughts about things…

  • Procrastination: reasons often include: poor time management, an inability to prioritize, feeling overwhelmed by the tasks, not knowing what is required, being bored by the task (avoidance of things that are difficult). Overcoming procrastination usually involves better time organizational and time management skills as well as a clearer understanding of what it means emotionally. Procrastination can often make people feel guilty – and so part of the task is perhaps to deal with the guilt by doing something.
  • Focus on choices that you can make; identify realistic goals; plan (but don’t spend all day planning; leave unplanned times in the day also); break down tasks into manageable chunks (to read one chapter, to work for twenty minutes (or ten…) and then to take a break. Boost motivation by dwelling on your strengths (which you all have); give yourself rewards when something accomplished … even a tick on a piece of paper for every 20 minutes concentrated work can give one a boost!
  • Try different strategies when stuck: a different place to work, a different medium (e.g. pen and paper rather than computer)
  • Producing something is better than nothing…
  • Concentration: practise concentration skills; write notes to self to refocus, questions: why am I reading this? How is it different from what I’ve just read? What is the big idea? Are there flaws in the argument? Etc. Set aside times in the day as ‘worry time’, or keep a note book on the desk for ‘worries/intervening thoughts’ – and when such thoughts distract write them down and push the notebook to the other side of the desk or put it on the floor.
  • Active learning – processing information etc. is hugely important…everyone will have a different way, no doubt, but process the information
    Environment: ensure that your working environment aids concentration – clear the desk of anything not pertinent to the task in hand. Tidy your room if it is likely to make you feel better or easier to find the papers, files and books that you need (but don’t spend too long on that task…)
  • Combating negative thoughts: reflect on the issue of whether there is evidence for the negative thoughts about yourself? What is the effect of the negative thoughts? What action might you take to change the situation for the better?
  • Exam Anxiety: doing the work takes less effort and is less stressful that not doing it and feeling guilty about it.
  • Think about where to work, when to work; separate work and relaxation spaces (if possible)
  • Mix easy and difficult topics, interesting and dull topics
  • Don’t work in bed. Structure to the day is all important – including regular meals and sleep.
  • In exams – if your mind goes blank – sit back, take deep breaths, control your breathing, push upsetting thoughts out of your mind; panic is always time limited – you can ‘breathe through it’…
  • Plan something for immediately after each exam – agree with friends not to talk about the exams – or if so, only for five minutes. Control how you might feel – don’t put yourself in positions of stress (e.g. hearing everyone else talk about how easy the exam was…)

Generally: take an active and rational approach to dealing with negative thoughts; think about the emotional impact of these thoughts; think about choices: challenge anxious thoughts and distraction; concentrate on what is happening around you so that you can become focused and alert, engage in mental activity, physical activity.

Engage in problem solving: define the problem, list possible solutions, evaluate the pros and cons of each solution, choose a solution, do it, review the outcome. Experiment with different ways of problem solving re dealing with procrastination, lack of concentration, exam panic.

Practical things: eating, sleeping, (winding down before trying to sleep – alcohol not a good idea); work in manageable chunks (and this will be different for everyone); know where you work best and how you work best; getting going – place your alarm clock on the other side of the room, place a note next to it telling yourself to get up and get going, breakfast buddies? (revision buddies?), divide the day into 6 or so chunks and work 4 or 5 out of the 6 chunks…say

Evaluate whether concerns are realistic: slow your thinking down, challenge your own anxious and negative thinking: e.g. are there reasons for my having this anxious thought? Are there reasons against my having this thought? What is the worst that could happen? How could I cope with this? What is a more constructive way of dealing with things?

There is nothing here that you don’t know, I’m sure…but I thought it might be worth setting these thoughts down on paper. Good Luck!

Loraine Gelsthorpe
College Counsellor