3 Rules for a Successful Study Routine

I was kind of an over-achiever in high school. Yearbook committee, school newspaper, concert choir, art club- I did it all while taking advanced English, and studying all of the languages my school had on offer (much to the chagrin of my guidance counselor). Oh, did I mention that half of my electives were in French? (Canada is bilingual, so English-speaking students required to study French until a certain grade and have the option of enrolling in an immersive language program.) My GPA was pretty high. And the worst part was, I wasn’t even trying.

Is this you?

See, I was just always kind of good at school. Making top of the class was easy for me so imagine the shock that I got when I went to university and realized that everyone there was at the top of their class, too. Suddenly, I didn’t seem so smart anymore. It really did a number on my self-esteem.

I don’t want this happening to you.

My problem was that I never learned how to study. I wasn’t sure how to organize my workflow, and I couldn’t identify any issues I had with the material until it was too late, and I’d end falling behind.

If this is your problem too, here’s my best piece of advice: your school probably offers workshops on a variety of things that help you do well in school. Take them all. Glean what you can. There is no one magic formula for studying that works for everyone, so try everything until you figure out a strategy that’s best for you.

I narrowed down some of what I learned until I had it crystallized into three rules for successful studying:

Study like it’s your job. Treat your school day like a 9-5 workday and find time in between classes to catch up on assignments, reading, or studying.

Assess the type of learner you are. Do you respond well to tactile things like flash cards, or copying something out? Do you need to draw a chart to connect ideas, or colour-code your notes for memorization? Maybe you do best when you explain a concept to someone else, or make up a song in order to remember terms for a test. Knowing how your brain works will help you select more useful and productive ways of studying instead of just trying to adopt a method just because someone says it’s the “right” way or the “best” way. There’s no such thing.

Assess your personality type. This can provide the framework for when, where and how often you study, as well as who you should choose as study partner. (Or maybe you don’t do well with them at all!) Are you easily distracted and find it hard to sit still? Study in short bursts. Are you a morning person? Wake up early to find time to review notes before class. Easily distracted? Then high thee to a library, and sequester yourself in a dark corner with your phone on airplane mode.

Also, there’s this thing known as actually hunkering down and doing it, which is probably the most obvious route to successful studying. You’d be surprised though at how many people let it fall by the wayside in favor of completing more immediate, pressing assignments or class readings. Do yourself a favor and don’t break study dates with yourself, or with your study buddies. Good intentions are great, but unfortunately they don’t usually help you pass an exam.

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Best Practices for Surviving School

The other day I ran into a girl that I used to baby-sit while I was in high school. She’s a little older now so it was fun to catch up and see how she’s grown. I couldn’t believe when I heard she was finishing university this year, and her younger sister is just starting out at my old alumni. She asked me if I had any advice, so here it is. For those of you just starting out in post-secondary school, or for those of you looking to turn over a new leaf this year- I hope you find it useful. For the girls I used to look after- this one is for you.

Practice self-care. Exercise, sleep and eat healthy. These are the habits you’re most likely to let go of when you go to school so I encourage you to make them a priority. It’s not just about avoiding the Freshman 15- not taking care of your basic needs messes with your focus, your understanding and your mood. (I lost 15 lbs. instead because of all of the stress!)

Practice time management skills. Your success depends on well you can balance your classes, your job, your social life, your family, your home responsibilities, and any activities you engage in when you have free time. (By the way, if you don’t learn this quickly, you won’t have much free time.)

Practice discipline. It’s hard juggling all of those different hats you wear, especially if you’re without parental supervision for the first time. School can be fun, but you have to find a balance between work and play or you’ll find yourself suffering the consequences in your academic and/or personal life.

Practice organization. Your life will be a lot easier if you have everything you need, and you know where it all is. Be prepared. You won’t think I’m silly until the moment your pen dries up during an exam and you have to ask the proctor for one in front of 300 people.

Practice thrift. School is expensive and life can be to. It could mean a lot of trouble for you if you don’t learn how to manage your expenses quickly. This is also the time when many of you are starting to build a credit history, so it’s important to make paying bills – on time and in full – a priority.

Practice being open-minded. You’re going to meet a bunch of different people who come from different places and backgrounds and who do things, say things and think things that are different than what you’re used to. Please keep in mind that your way isn’t always the right way- it’s just all that you know because that’s where you come from. We all have things to learn from one another.

Practice kindness. When no one knows who you are or where you come from, all you have are your actions to represent yourself. Make your first impression a good one and the kindness will come back to you ten-fold during your time at school. I’m so grateful to all the friends I made that helped me through that time- they made me food when I was hungry, brought me coffees when I was tired, gave me pep talks when I was down and even loaned me a laptop when mine went on the fritz the night before a deadline. It really does pay to be nice!

Above all, I hope you keep things in perspective- school is not just about the credits, and the lectures, and the piece of paper at the end. It’s about expanding your horizons, challenging yourself and discovering your own talents and skill sets. It’s an exciting time and one I’ll certainly never forget. I wish you all the best of luck.

What’s your biggest takeaway from your time at school? Share it with the class below or let’s chat about it- you can reach me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

If you’re looking for more ways to juggle that whole work/school/life balance thing, click here to find more solutions that worked for me.

Baking with B: Chocolate Spice Cookies

Do you ever get tired of making the same thing, over and over again? (I used to feel that way about birthday cakes.) I was searching for something to serve during a recent family visit and none of my old standards were really grabbing me. Trying something new didn’t really appeal to me either- I didn’t have the time or energy for experimenting.

I was beginning to feel discouraged until I thought- hey, why reinvent the wheel? You know a lot of great classic recipes, B. Why not spice one up so you can have the best of both worlds?

I took my own advice. Literally. I whipped together the ingredients for my favorite butter cookie recipe (also featured here) and turned things up a notch. I’m pretty pleased with the results, too- these Chocolate Spice Cookies melt in your mouth just like a butter cookie, but taste like a gingersnap, with an extra splash of chocolate to keep things sweet.

Chocolate Spice Cookies (makes 28)

3/4 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. nutmeg

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips, melted

Cream together butter and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift together spices and flour and mix with wet ingredients, adding one spoonful at a time until ingredients are fully combined. Divide the dough and shape into two flat discs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap. Use your hands to shape dough into desired shape, before placing on a parchment-lined cookie sheet approximately one inch apart. Press down each cookie with a fork before baking 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cookie rack until fully cooled.

Melt chocolate in a double-broiler or microwave until smooth. Dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate before placing on waxed paper. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.

B’s Tip: Just because I used chocolate chips doesn’t mean you can’t use your favorite baking chocolate or chocolate bar to make the melted chocolate! You may want to drizzle the chocolate over the cookies instead, or skip that step altogether and throw your chocolate chips into the dough before baking.

The best thing about making over a classic recipe like this is that the variations don’t have to stop there- you can change up the chocolate, switch out the spices, or add nuts or your favorite dried fruit for even more flavor. Your cookies don’t even have to be the same shape- I tried molding mine into logs before squashing with a giant serving fork, instead of the usual circular cookies I make. See? Spicing up your old routine can be addictive. I highly suggest you try it too. You never know what you might come up with!

Happy baking!

B

Baking with B appears every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.