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.

What’s in my Beach Bag?

Guys, I live near a beach so I got this one down pat. (Ok so it’s not the ocean-only a lake- but it’s still pretty close.) I can’t get enough of the fresh air and sunshine after being cooped up indoors all winter, and apparently people around here feel the same way, because in the summer this place gets packed.

Lucky for me and my dog, we’ve lived here long enough that we know all the best places to steal a quiet moment to contemplate the water, listen to music, read a book, or simply enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin.

Here’s some of what I take along to make the experience enjoyable:

  1. A large towel to sit on, although you may want to bring a second one in case you decide to go swimming.
  2. I read somewhere once that the majority of the skin’s aging process is largely attributed to sun damage so I never leave the house without sunscreen. Vanity aside, there’s also a history of skin cancer in my family which is exacerbated by my pale, pale skin.
  3. As such, my line of defense also includes a large floppy hat and sunglasses, although the glasses are mostly so I don’t get recognized. (Kidding!)
  4. Hydration is important so I always have two reusable water bottles; one for me and one for my dog.
  5. I practically never leave the house without a book, and if I’m going to the beach it’s almost certainly a guarantee. (I blog about what I’m reading all the time here, if you’re interested.)
  6. I have a little emergency kit that goes everywhere with me in my purse- I just pop it into whatever bag I happen to be carrying that day.
  7. As mentioned in this post, I’m kind of a grazer when it comes to eating, so I usually stash a granola bar or a piece of fruit in case I get too much sun, or feel like my blood sugar is too low.
  8. My beauty routine doesn’t involve too many lotions or potions, but I do enjoy indulging in a face misting spray to throw into my beach bag. It’s good for setting make-up on sweaty skin, a light cleanse after going swimming, or simply helps to cool you off after sitting out in the sun.

I keep my beach bag pretty simple- it’s hard to relax and enjoy yourself if you’ve brought too much to carry, or you constantly have to rummage around to find things.

Of course, depending on your lifestyle the contents of your bag may look a little bit different than mine. Maybe you’ve got some sand toys in there if you’ve got little kids in tow, or maybe you’ve got lots of food and drink for a picnic with friends.

Some of the stuff on my list may change if I have my dog with me. In that case, I’ll bring her water bottle (see above) as well as some treats and maybe a ball or a Frisbee to play with. Honestly, she’s pretty into hanging out on a towel with me which makes her a total beach bum.

The best part of my list, in my opinion, is the fact that I haven’t included any electronics and I don’t really plan to. I’m so attached to my phone that I’ve taken to not bringing it with me on my dog walks so I can enjoy the experience more. I might bring it along with me if I’m planning to meet up with friends and I need to be reachable; other than that, I prefer keeping my beach visits blissfully phone-free.

After all, what’s the point in staring at a screen when you’ve got that beautiful summer weather to breathe in and enjoy all around you?

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I want to know what’s in your beach bag! Are the contents sweet and simple like mine, or do you really go on a big adventure when you make a beach trip? Have you even been to a beach? Let me know! I’m looking forward to your answers below, or in my inbox at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

For more tip on having more summer fun, I’ve got some ideas here. (As if you needed advice on how to have fun, right?!)