Making the most of your Winter Break

This week we have a guest post by DrRosie MacLachlan, Lecturer in Learning Development


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You’ve reached the end of a very busy term, and are looking forward to some much needed rest and relaxation. But for many courses, January means not just short-lived resolutions and depleted bank balances, but also assessment deadlines and exams. So how can you make the most of the winter break, taking well-deserved time off to recharge, while also making sure you come back ready to smash those January deadlines? Here are some top tips that we think may help:

Think about your environment

After several hectic months, you may feel you’ve finally settled into an effective study routine. Maybe you’ve found your perfect library desk – distraction-free, and not too noisy – or achieved domestic harmony with housemates keeping you well fed during study sessions. Suddenly, at the end of term, everything changes. If you’re going to be elsewhere during the holidays, don’t let the new environment disrupt your flow; make sure you take some time to think about where you can study. Even if you’re only staying somewhere for a couple of days, choose a space and make it your study zone. Find a table you can work at with no distractions, whether in a local coffee shop or a corner of your bedroom, and train yourself to associate this space with work.

Library Tip: The Library is closed from Friday 23 December 3pm and re-open Monday 2 Jan 9am-9pm (self-service). Computer rooms are accessible throughout this period with a valid ID card.

Make a plan

Let’s be honest, this really has been a busy term. You probably don’t remember everything you’ve heard in every lecture, and the temptation for studying over the holiday may be to plunge straight back into those notes. However, you’ll find you can study much more effectively if you use the extra time to take a step back and consider the long view. How do topics you’ve studied this term connect to each other? Where are there gaps in your knowledge, and can you best fill them? Use your first study sessions of the holidays to review what you’ve achieved so far, and be strategic about what you need to cover next: study smarter, not harder.

Library Tip: For help in organising your study time check out Exam & Essay Survival Hacks book display. Our Wakelet also links to the catalogue records for the books.

Reduce distractions

For lots of people, this time of year is all about catching up with old friends – and renewing family tensions. While you may not be able to control any noisy relatives staying in your house (see tip 1, about finding a good study environment), just as many social distractions are likely to come from your tablet or smart phone. Having a productive break is all about achieving balance: spend time with those you love, and spread the online cheer, but make sure you can focus when you need to. If you struggle with online distractions, programs like Cold Turkey and FocusMe allow you to block certain sites and notifications for a set period of time – turn them on for an hour’s study, and then reward yourself with 15 minutes of social media.

Library Tip:  MBBS student and Learning Advcocate Ele Clancey tried the Forest: Stay Focus app and recommends it as a way of keeping focussed.

Make the most of those around you

If you do have a full house this holiday season, make the most of it. For those preparing written assignments over the break, getting your ideas down in words can be made much easier by first talking them through with someone. This doesn’t need to be someone who knows much about the topic at hand, just someone who is prepared to listen to what you say, and question you on anything that isn’t clear. Equally, if you need to revise for a multiple choice exam, prepare flashcards with all your key definitions and ask somebody else to test you on them. So, next time somebody at home politely asks how your course is going, grab them!

Relax

Finally, make sure you do take time to relax over the next few weeks. Holidays are great for spending time with loved ones, and if you have something special planned give yourself time to switch off and enjoy it. Remember too that short mid-winter days affect energy levels – it’s important to listen to your body and rest when you need it. Make sure you spend some time outside during daylight every day, and don’t forget that (much as we may hate to admit it) there’s life outside your course and St George’s.


Dr Rosie McLachlan runs the Academic Skills Centre in the Library Foyer

The Academic Skills Centre drop in is now closed for Christmas, and will re-open on Monday 9th January.

Please email Rosie at rmaclach@sgul.ac.uk for a booked appointment or alternative support during this period.

The most up-to-date information will be available on www.vle.sgul.ac.uk (login required) – search for Study+

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