It’s midnight and you have to read 80 pages for your 8:30 am class. What do you do?
Before you start studying, you should decide how much sleep you want to get. This will help you pace your reading later on. Moreover, you will be able to stay awake in class. The Wall Street Journal, in “The Perfect Nap,” says that the optimal sleep periods are 10-20 minutes, 60 minutes, or 90 minutes, which is a full REM cycle. In a time crunch, you will want to choose one of these. According to this article, a 30 minute nap will lead you to be groggy when you wake up, so stay away from that, if you can.
Location. Location. Location.
One of the most important factors to the success of your studying is your location. It might be so tempting to study with other people in a common room or a study area, but your friends are just more distractions in this crucial time. Your room probably also has a lot of distractions. Posters, flyers, and objects on your desk will deter you from your path. The best place to stay awake and be efficient is the library. The library is great because it forces you to be productive, since you are in a room full of people with wandering eyes, judging your computer screen. Also, you will be motivated to stay awake since you are in public. If your library closes before you finish, find a study space that is relatively closed off.
According to one Scientific American article about sound and concentration, “Background or low-level noise in the home, work or school often disrupts people’s concentration.” So, a great way to reduce background noise is put your headphones in and play your favorites on Spotify. However, this can be a tricky. If you play a playlist that you have to constantly monitor the songs to make sure they are the ones you want to hear, that playlist isn’t conducive to studying. Also, don’t play your music out loud. The sound is less direct and won’t help you concentrate. Spotify actually has premade “Focus” playlists that will keep you awake and focused. This one is called “Intense Studying,” but there is also “Deep Focus,” “Perfect Concentration,” and many more.
First. Then, last
If you know you are in a time crunch, read the first and last paragraph. If that doesn’t really make sense for what you are reading, read the first portion of text and the last portion of text. This way, if you don’t get much farther in your reading, you will still be able to contribute to a little to a class discussion, if required. Also, the first and last parts of writing usually introduce and conclude the topics of a passage. However, they are not replacements to a reading the whole passage.
Chunk and Annotate
Since you have already set your sleep goal, chunking will be how many pages you should read each hour you are not sleeping. If this is a ridiculous amount of pages, then just read what you can manage. In my above example, let’s say you want to sleep three hours. Considering time to get ready and get to class, you now have approximately five hours to read, which is 16 pages an hour. Chunking 16 pages at a time will keep you engaged with text and on track. After reading 16 pages, take a short break to walk around and stretch your legs.
You are falling asleep, huh?
That’s completely normal. The best way to get over drowsiness is to get active. Jog in place. Do ten squats. Do fifteen lunges. This is sure to jump start your brain. No matter what, keep drinking lots of water. You might be tempted to eat food, which will give you energy when you will want to sleep later. While you are digesting it, however, you will be tired. Also, stay away from sweets, as they will only make you crash soon after they give you a high.
Though proactivity is important, you will, inevitably, be in a situation where time is a constraint. After all, it’s college. You will be involved in so many organizations, while managing your social life and classes. Hopefully, these tips will help you crunch through readings, so you can still lead a full life.