Developing A Study Plan

Originally published January 2013, online student newsletter.

The start of a New Year is a great time to make plans to succeed in your studies as never before. One of the first steps you should take for successful study is developing a workable study plan. During my time as a CollegePlus student, I not only focused on finishing my degree in a very short time, I also advised a political campaign, managed a small business, participated in church ministry and activities, and still tried to find time to run my brother to basketball games or swing by the store for my mom.  As you might imagine, it was a crazy schedule!  In hindsight, there were two things that made this possible: the first was having a set study plan (knowing what needed to happen in advance) and the second required making the most of every moment.

One of the most important ways to have a consistent study plan is to be consistent in the times and places that you study.  Your first step to developing a study plan should be choosing a study location. See this month’s Study Tip section for ways to do that. Keep in mind that your study location should get you in gear and get you excited (or at least focused) about studying. Having a consistent place to study doesn’t mean you can never mix up your study location–in fact, I recommend it if you’re feeling stuck or need a change of scenery!  What this does mean is that when you sit down to study, it is in a place that gets you in the mindset for studying.

The next thing to do is set up your study schedule.  The timing will look different for every person.  You may be able to have a set daily time and plan to study 8am-12pm every week day.  If you work or have other commitments, it might vary each day; 8am-12pm on Monday, 1-3pm on Tuesday, 10am-4pm on Wednesday, etc.  The goal is to find consistent times to study that work for you.

If you have an extremely busy schedule, your study schedule may need to be goal based rather than time based. For example, you may set a study goal of reading 10 pages on Monday, 30 pages on Tuesday, etc. Now this doesn’t mean you throw timing out the window!  You might need to plan to use your lunch break to get started, then finish up when you get home from work in the evening.  In other words, you still need to plan your study time. However, it will be easier to come home from work, etc, knowing you can stop as soon as you ready 30 pages rather than trying to stay awake to get in three hours of study time.

While consistency is key, studying with a busy schedule can also require creativity.  Driving to work and cooking dinner can be a great time to listen to relevant audios.  If you’re running errands or dropping off a sibling at an event, hand them your book and ask them to quiz you on terms. Think creatively and you may be surprised at how much study time you can carve out of your busy schedule.  If you are no longer a student, remember that learning never ends! Think about ways to make the most of the small moments to continue learning and growing in areas that are important to you.

If you need help setting up consistent study times and/or study goals, let me know so we can discuss it on our next coaching call!

Okay, now that we have evaluated the steps to setting up a workable study schedule, there are just a few reminders I have for you!

  • Above all, remember to be REALISTIC.  Don’t set goals that you just can’t achieve.
  • Along those lines, you will also need to be FLEXIBLE. You may set what you think are realistic goals, then discover you were actually being super ambitious.  Don’t feel bad about resetting your goals or reworking your schedule if needed.  Trial and error is a key part of this process.
  • Finally, take advantage of the benefits that consistency provides. Take breaks throughout your study time and once you have met your daily goals, STOP STUDYING.  As we all know, studying for exams can feel never ending–there is always something else you can do. But if you have set up a good schedule and reached your goal for the day, you don’t have to feel bad about stopping for the day.  And don’t forget to reward yourself for accomplishing your goals.

By taking time to set and try out a study plan, you will be better equipped to work longer and more efficiently while also allowing yourself more breaks and down time. Take the start of this New Year to set one resolution that you can stick with and develop your personal study plan!

Image: Vassar_Library_Study_Area, CC

Letter from Your Future Self

With the start of Spring comes beautiful weather, outdoor activities, and the temptation to hide your books in the back of the closet and not let them see the light of day. Ever. Again.

At this point, you’ve been hard at work since last fall… or the fall before that… or maybe longer. You may be wondering if studying will ever be done… if it’s worth all this hard work…  if you really want to keep going.

Being a few years on the other side of college, though, I can tell you it is worth it.  But there are times when you wonder.  So I hope you don’t mind this note; one that I wish someone would have written to me when I was in the middle of earning my degree.

A Letter From Your Future Self.

Dear younger self,

I know you’re under a pile of work that looks like it will never end.  I know that you worry about assignments and you have nights when you don’t sleep very much. I know that you study either way too much or not at all, depending on the day.  But there are a few things I want to tell you.  Things I’ve learned in the few years since finishing that degree you’re working on. Things to give you inspiration in the tough times and the motivation to finish strong.  So here goes.

Give yourself a break.  Yes, you heard me right.  I know you have a goal for when you want to graduate. That’s great—don’t lose that.  But honestly, delaying that test by three days or a week may be a big deal right now, but you’ll be laughing at yourself in a few years.  After all, you’re still finishing in record time!

Another thing… memories are pretty important too.  Yes, make studying a priority. But don’t forego spending time with people you care about.  That means choosing your priorities. Facebook and other activities may not make the cut.  But if cutting out certain things allows you to make memories that last for years… go for it.

Take advantage of opportunities!  You will never again have a chance to explore and learn and grow like you do now.  When else can you take a random music class or learn a language and have the excuse that you’re doing it for a college degree?  Internships or job shadowing will tell you things about yourself that you could never find out unless you actually did it.  Travel!  You’re in CollegePlus for a reason, right?  Take school with you across the country or around the world!  This is your chance. Don’t just sit at home on your computer. Use the flexibility you have to do something great.

Work hard. Just in case you were confused… giving yourself a break and pursuing incredible opportunities does not mean you sit around and do nothing.  It requires hard work to balance opportunity with studying.  Don’t be afraid to give up the things that are not a priority and then go after the things that are with everything that is in you.

Finally, don’t be discouraged. You are doing something revolutionary. Not everyone understands. But that’s okay.  In a few years, you will be the one with no debt and the freedom to follow your dreams.  You will be the one with amazing life experiences that taught you more about yourself and your passions than you could have even imagined.  You will have awesome travel memories from taking school on the road with you.  You are the one who has to live your life and you want to be able to look back and have no regrets.

So, you want to know what happens in a few years?  Well, first of all, you took my [your] advice. 🙂 You had some pretty incredible experiences and made friends that will last a lifetime.  Even though you spent six extra months on your degree, you wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.  And really, a four year degree in two and a half years?  Still not too shabby.

The job shadowing and internship helped you find your passion—one you hadn’t paid much attention to until then.  That’s a good thing, because now you are pursuing that passion and it promises to be a life-long adventure.  And since you’re not in debt, you have the flexibility and the funds to go anywhere that God calls you to.

It’s been a great adventure and it is only beginning.  Just make sure that whatever you do, you can look back and say no regrets.

~Your Future Self

Featured Image: Letter, CC

Making the Most of Small Moments

College is hard.

Doing it on your own can be harder still.

Trying to find time to study on your own (without deadlines) after work, before making dinner or doing laundry and without siblings knocking on your door at least 10 times within one hour… ??

Nearly impossible.

This article is inspired after talking to many of you in the last few weeks who are attempting the impossible. First, know that you are doing a great job! Just by attempting this, you are lightyears ahead of so many people.

But often, this journey seems rather thankless. We peel ourselves away from our family, feeling guilty we are even thinking of trying to carve out “alone” time. We sit in our rooms and try to block out the noise we hear outside. The laughter… the drama… whatever it is, we want to be a part of it! Instead, we turn our music up louder and try to focus. Until the 3-year old knocks. After shuffling them out the door and trying to remember where you were, mom pokes her head in to ask about chores. Okay, okay… you run to switch out that load of laundry. Then you try to sit down and study once more–only to realize it’s dinner time and your stomach is demanding to be fed. So you head out the door and hope for some study time before bed.

Can you relate? I know this was often life for me while in college. And while those quiet, focused hours are important for studying, they can be hard to come by. What if your studying became a part of your life, rather than separate from it? What if you took advantage of the small moments and studied whenever you could? What if you involved your family in the process, so they felt included rather than ignored?

Believe it or not, that CAN happen. You will still need to set aside some focused study hours at some point. However, if you can incorporate studying into your daily life, you and your family can feel more connected and less begrudging when it comes time to hole yourself up in your room.

So, are you ready to make that happen in your life? It is really quite simple, actually.

Make the most of the small moments.

Instead of segregating your “school life” from your “real life,” take advantage of the many little moments throughout the day. These are the moments when you are really doing much of anything or could easily multi-task to tuck away just a few more facts for that next subject

Consider some of the following ways you could make studying a part of everyday life:

  • Read a chapter in your REA guide over your lunch break at work.
  • Download lectures to your smartphone and listen during your commute.
  • Sit beside a sibling who is also doing school as you make flashcards.
  • Turn on Trailmarker videos while making dinner or folding laundry.
  • Ask your sibling to quiz you from the glossary while driving them to activities.
  • Use your smartphone to answer some questions in Trailmarker while standing in line at the store.
  • Listen to audios while vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, or exercising.
  • Schedule a movie night with the family… pop some popcorn, make a dessert, then watch a documentary on your latest subject before sticking in the new Redbox.
  • Trade flashcards with a brother or sister… you answer a question, they answer a question, you answer a question…
  • Keep a book handy at all times–you never know when you might have a few spare minutes!

These are just a few ways to start incorporating study into every aspect of your life. Don’t forget to schedule the intense study sessions as well. But also take a chance on the small moments for a few weeks and see how far you can go!

What are some other “small moments” you have turned into an opportunity to study? Let me know on our next coaching call!


Featured Image, Time Piece, CC