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How to study during the holidays

How to study during the holidays

Studying during the holidays is as difficult as writing this article on Christmas Eve while working from home and missing the comfort of an air-conditioned office. Seriously though, here are five tips to keep your head during festivities.

Distraction is the enemy of study. If you aren't concentrating on your lessons, they aren't worth anything. During the holiday season, whether it's Christmas/New Year festivities, a long weekend, mid-semester break or simply a few days off work, it is doubly hard to focus when there are so many temptations outside of study.

For less disciplined students, this happens all the time, which is why these five tips are important even outside of a holiday period. If you're reading this, I'm assuming you're committed to doing some study during the holidays because without commitment, you're better off giving up now and going to the beach.

1. Rearrange your schedule
The holidays usually cause disruptions to even the most regimented student's schedule as more invitations than usual flow in. You might have social engagements scheduled for the evenings you usually set aside for study, for example. Don't despair! Take a look at your week and choose another time to study. It might be a weekend morning or, instead of a three-hour period, two 90-minute periods throughout the week. Be flexible in these extenuating circumstances.

2. Clear your head
Your lack of focus can often be attributed to a bundle of things vying for your attention (a seasonal example: have I bought everyone on my list a Christmas present yet? What am I going to bring to my friend's party tonight? It's really hot; I'm going to research air conditioning options). It's helpful to figure out how important and how urgent things really are. If the task is important but not urgent—that is, does not trump your study—jot it down and deal with it later. If it is important and urgent, then deal with it as you would any priority and consider that you should be more organised before you start your study next time.

3. Increase accountability
Many people find they're more likely to complete tasks if they can account for them. This can be as simple as telling someone else—a flatmate, your partner or your parents, for example—that you intend to complete a lesson or finish an assignment by the end of the day. Get them to ask you about it so you can demonstrate that you did what you said you'd do.

Another idea is to form a study group where you don't talk until the end of the session, whether that's an hour, two hours or three hours. You may be studying different subjects, but peer witnessing will help you focus on the lesson due to a lack of other stimulation.

4. Reward yourself
The reward system works for a number of people and is very simple. For every successful period of study—and I would suggest you measure the success of that lesson with a quiz or something that ensures your learning is active rather than passive—allow yourself something nice, whether that's confectionery, a walk, or a trip to the movies. Make sure the work matches the reward, though: finishing a one-hour lesson is not quite worth a holiday to Fiji.

5. Don't fight it
You've brought your laptop and your textbooks to the beach house. That's very... optimistic. Either you have a will of steel or a grand delusion. Sometimes it's best to let the holiday mood win. Genuine breaks are necessary after all and if you think you need one, take it. A refreshed mind is better at learning than a jaded one.

Did you finish this article in one go? Well done! (I didn't.) Now this tiny bit of study-related procrastination is over, you know what you need to do.

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