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17 May 2021

Quit the cramming habit: learn how to focus and manage your time in the lead-up to exams

Exams, final assessments, major projects – deadlines are approaching for them all. You might be looking at everything you have to do in the next few weeks with some amount of anxiety. But don’t worry! We have some great advice on how you can manage your time effectively now and focus on the tasks at hand to achieve your best for the trimester.

List your tasks in order of priority

When you have multiple assessments due or exams approaching, it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to list out everything you have to do – and we mean everything. Once you have all your tasks on a piece of paper or to-do list app, rate them in terms of priority. What is due first? Are there quick wins you can get out of the way? Space out your quick tasks so that you can give yourself something to check off every day. It’s a great feeling!

Try the Pomodoro Technique

Once you’re ready to start a task, pull out your phone and set a timer for 25 minutes. Then, work on that task – and only that – until the timer goes off. Put a tick mark or other symbol on your paper and step away from the work for a short break (five minutes or fewer). After your break, set the timer for 25 minutes and begin again. Once you have four marks on your paper (e.g. you’ve done four 25-minute sessions) give yourself a longer break. Go for a short walk, play with your pets, have a chat with your flatmate – let your mind rest! After 30 minutes or so, go back to your task and start the 25-minute work sessions again. This is a great way to break your work up into manageable slices of time, and you’d be amazed how much you can get done in 25 minutes.

Don’t multitask

Notice how the Pomodoro Technique specifies only working on one task at a time? There’s a good reason for that. For many years, multitasking has been looked at in a positive light. In fact, you might have put this down as a skill on your CV! But being a habitual multitasker has some drawbacks. If you’re using your phone or laptop to study, scroll social media, catch up on your favourite Netflix series and do your Cloud classes at the same time – beware. Multitasking not only makes it take longer to get things done, but there is concern that it can lead to a decrease in focus, higher stress levels and even memory impairment. 

Take a screen break

A lot of people have seen their screen time shoot up during the pandemic. If you’re studying or doing research online, it can be tricky to step away from the monitor. But the benefits of taking time off from screens are enormous. If you can, try borrowing your textbook in print from the library, printing off an online article instead of reading it on your computer, or taking handwritten notes that you can study in preparation for your exams. And when you’re not studying, take advantage of leisure activities that don’t involve screen time. Go for a walk on our gorgeous campus, meet up with friends for a coffee or get those stiff study muscles burning at the gym.

Plan your studies and set aside time

Study Support has great advice to help you organise and manage your studies, including this video on time management. If you’re still looking to up your efficiency game, it’s well worth a watch!

No matter what you have due before the end of trimester, don’t forget to give yourself regular breaks to refresh and take care of your mental health.

Originally published on Article, the Deakin Library blog.

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