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Life hacks for your cramming sessions

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Study break

Some students have transitioned nicely to the fall semester, while others find themselves cramming and still suffering from a vacation mentality. With midterms in our midst and finals inching closer and closer, students need to study smarter – not harder. The following are studying tips for students prone to procrastination, suffering from multiple exams or who just want to be radically intentional with their studying.

1. Rule the Internet or it will rule you

We have all been there, you study for 10 minutes convincing yourself that you deserve a reward for all of your hard-work and twenty minutes later you have wasted valuable studying time glossing over stories on your Facebook feed.

With its constant distractions, the internet can be a pretty harrowing place for a studying college student. Reduce your chances of procrastination by blocking websites that are prone to delaying your studies. This can include social media websites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It can also be websites like Buzzfeed or Reddit – websites that can become rabbit-holes to procrastination. 

For students who have no choice but to use the internet when studying, there are browser extensions like “StayFocusd” for Chrome, “Mindful Browsing” for Safari and “Leechban” for Firefox that ban distracting websites. These extensions are completely free and safe to use.

If you do not mind spending a little bit for the sake of productivity, there is “HeyFocus” for Mac users. Unlike the browser extensions, “HeyFocus” works separate from your browser. This allows you to use one app for all of your browsers and even block other Mac applications like Mail, Skype or Twitter. “HeyFocus” customizes when you want certain sites to be blocked, like when you need to stay off of Twitter during your three-hour lecture class.

For those more likely to get distracted by their phones, there is the free “FocusOn” for Android users. Unfortunately, there are currently no such apps for iPhone users. However, putting your phone on airplane mode is just as useful – not only will you stay off of the internet, but you can also block distracting push notifications and text messages.


2. Maximize your productivity with the Pomodoro technique

Face it, no one actually likes studying. The thought that your whole career may be dependent on whether you can cram 150 medical terms in the next three days is pretty stressful, and can put a damper on your studying mood. Huge blocks of studying and memorizing are also physically and mentally straining. Your brain could be fried just two hours into your cramming session.

The Pomodoro technique maximizes productivity by limiting your study to 25-minute bursts, or “pomodoros,” while you take a short five minute break. The short bursts of studying ensures that you stay productive for the whole 25 minutes, keeping you from being discouraged by the large amount of studying you need to do. Do not use the whole 25 minutes for strictly work. To increase retention, start with a recap and end with a review.

The short breaks between each session may motivate you to be productive during the pomodoro. They also keep you creative by reducing the mental strain on your brain. After four pomodoros, you get to take a longer break as a reward for your hard work.

There are a variety of free apps that can act as your pomodoro timer. Android users can use “ClearFocus: Pomodoro Timer,” while iPhone users can download “FlatTomato.”


3. Always come with a plan

As writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Always make a schedule before you start studying, especially when you have numerous topics or classes to study for. Creating a study schedule will ensure that you spend enough time on everything, not linger on one concept.

Start with what the most important task, such as your first exam or the class with the most concepts. Assign a certain number of minutes to each task, evenly devoting time to each one. If you only have an hour to study and three concepts to review, spend 20 minutes on each one. Having a study schedule may seem trivial, but listing all of your tasks will remind you that you have things to get done and that you cannot afford to waste time laughing at Vine videos.

You can even incorporate the Pomodoro technique in your study schedule, measuring your time in pomodoros instead of minutes.