While studying consistently and frequently throughout the semester is the best bet for nailing an A in any given course, you may come across a test or two that calls for a late-night cram session at some point during your collegiate career. Or maybe you forgot a big assignment or paper and only just saw the pop-up reminder on your phone go off. Whatever the reason, these nights are simply no fun and you’ll always be kicking yourself for having to do it in the first place. But if you find yourself pulling a red-eye before midterms, we’ve got the top five tips for how to study and get your work done the healthy way.
- Go easy on the caffeine: While a few large cups of joe (or energy drinks, caffeine pills, etc) may seem like the ideal solution, the temporary buzz will eventually give way to crashing the following day. What’s worse is this effect could take place right in the middle of the big test you’ve been cramming perhaps even during the aforementioned test. Instead, stick to something hydrating like Gatorade, which replenishes electrolytes and allows your brain to perform at its peak.
- Lower the screen setting on your computer: Eye strain is not only painful, but it brings on physical fatigue and decreases productivity. When staring at the computer screen for hours, dull the brightness of the display a bit and your eyes will thank you. Similarly, having the lighting too dim on your computer or even in your study space can also strain your eyes. Find that happy medium that’s best for you and try to stay sharp.
- Avoid distractions: From Facebook to texting, chatting with friends or surfing the Web may tempt you. Health Psychologist Lynn Rossy suggests in “Ten tips to reduce end-of-semester stress” to check email at limited times during the day and avoid other unnecessary distractions like Facebook and phones. Even though it might be fun to give yourself an excuse from working, you’ll have plenty of time to reconnect with friends or watch the latest viral video once your exam or assignment is complete. If you find you really need a break, take a few minutes for a healthy snack to recharge your mind and body.
- Make a to-do list: To avoid that lagging sense of motivation, set a schedule outlining your tasks so the efforts put forth aren’t wasted. For example, for every 40 minutes of studying, take a 5-15 minute break to allow your mind to refocus. The article, “7 Quick Steps to Getting Through Finals Week Without Stressing,” says that keeping a to-do list takes one more pressure off of you to remember every little thing. Think there’s no time for this silly step? Think again! Taking 5-10 minutes to plan out your night’s work schedule will save you a ton of idle time thinking of what to do next. It will also help you to know when you have time for breaks.
- Pick a study-friendly setting: While studying or typing from a bed or couch certainly sounds more appealing, your brain will automatically associate your bed with a good night’s sleep, which can hinder late-night homework time. Working at a desk, table or at the library will help keep your mind on the right track. Short on table space? Even studying or typing on the floor can be better than your cozy bed. And then, you can even spread your study materials out and get yourself in the zone.
The last half of the semester is never easy with midterms, projects, presentations and the inevitable final exams. Make the best of it by planning your assignment calendar well in advance. However, if you do let a date slip by you, try these top five tips for pulling a healthy all-nighter and your mind will thank you in the morning!