Finals Survival Kit

Today was the last day of my first semester of college classes. It was pretty uneventful. Next week is finals. Yay. I am fortunate in that my finals take place in the second half of the week, and I only have one a day. So I can use Monday and Tuesday to possibly study. I still haven’t really learned how to study, which is another problem in and of itself. During finals week, everyone is overly stressed out and tense. We could all do with a bit of relaxing. In this blog post, I am going to create the perfect finals survival kit using items that I actually own or can obtain before next week. And yes, I am going to try and utilize the kit I am making (maybe).

1. Tea (or Coffee, I guess)
I prefer tea, but my body doesn’t really like caffeine. So I don’t drink it very often. I do like Tazo Zen tea which I’m pretty sure is a combination of various green and mint teas. Tea is very relaxing, especially in December. It’s supposed to be cold in December. But Atlanta doesn’t listen. I guess iced tea could work in the right circumstances. Just drink something that relaxes you and doesn’t include drugs stronger than caffeine.

2. Books (use with caution)
I haven’t read nearly as much as I would have liked to over this past year.Instead, I have been compiling a huge list of books to read on Wunderlist. I really want to start reading again, so much so that I’ve already made a December reading list that is about 20 books long. I just want to dive into them, but finals are coming. So I should probably wait. But I’m not going to because books are splendidly relaxing and act as an escape from the personal stressors of life. Instead of focusing on your own troubles, you get to focus on someone else’s. I do, however, have the tendency to get sucked into the black hole that is a good book and not emerge until I have finished it. For this reason, I’m going to limit myself to reading productivity books during finals week.

3. A Netflix subscription (also use with caution)
TV shows and movies can also serve to whisk you away from your troubles. Again, these should be used with caution, as they can be a little too distracting. Movies are probably better than TV shows during finals week because you can just watch one when you’re done with studying for the day. TV shows are another story. You can never watch just one episode. Unless your self-discipline is incredible, in which case, you do you; you probably don’t need a finals survival kit anyways.

4. Clothing that you did not wear to sleep
It’s going to be difficult, but I’m going to make an effort to change out of my pajamas every day of finals week. Yes, even on the days when I’m doing nothing but studying. This is going to be really hard because most of the time, I don’t even get properly dressed for class. But dressing well increases confidence, so I guess I’ll have to at least try.

5. Snacks
Snacks are so great. Especially when you’re so busy studying that you don’t have time to go to the dining hall for a proper meal. Or, if you’re like some people, you get so entranced by your textbooks that you forget to eat at all. DON’T DO THIS. Your brain needs fuel to work. If you deprive it of food, it will deprive you of remembering molecular orbitals. The very least you can do for your cranium is keep some snacks on hand to eat during study breaks. Also, don’t forget to take study breaks. They are also very important.

6. Something to look forward to at the end of the week
There’s nothing to get you through the week like anticipating something exciting. For me, the end of finals will bring lots and lots of books that I’ve already downloaded onto my iPad.

7. A set sleep schedule
As important it is to study, it is way more important to sleep. Your brain needs you to sleep so that it can work to sort out the information you need to remember. Sleep an adequate number of hours every night of finals, and your body and brain will thank you. Ideally, you should also sleep and wake up around the same times every day to stabilize your circadian rhythm. And for the love of all that is good in the world, DO NOT PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER. It’ll seem like a good idea at the time, when you have a thousand more things to memorize and not enough time in the day. But you will regret it when your muscles ache the next day and you get sick and you fall asleep during your finals. Yeah, you can sleep when you’re dead, but if you want to live the best life, you gotta sleep in life, too. Just sleep. But don’t sleep through your 8 am exams. That would be bad.

8. A workout schedule
So far this school year, I’ve been pretty bad about working out. There have been a couple of weeks that I have consistently worked out, but not many. But I know how important it is and what the incredible benefits of physical fitness are, so I’m going to try this week. I just have to get through five days of working out. Working out also serves as an amazing stress-reliever. And ya’ know, it’s good for you. Optimal brain functioning and stuff. Yoga is sometimes fun. Yoga counts as exercise. Or you could just take study breaks to go toss a disc with your friends or something.

9. Good study music
Study music can help increase focus, if it’s the right kind. The best study music has no lyrics. From there it’s mostly personal preference. Some prefer classical music, while others prefer white noise type music. There are also people who like to get all science-y with their music choices and opt for focus-centered binaural beats. I don’t know how to describe them, or much about how they work. So google them if you want to learn more. I have tried a music-machine type app that had focus-specified binaural beats, and it seemed to work pretty well at the time. Just don’t choose music that makes you sleepy.

10. Most importantly, a realistic and specific study plan
I’ve had my finals study plan mapped out for about a month, but I’ve found that it’s not specific enough. This weekend, I’m going to further specify my study plan, so that I don’t end up wasting the time blocks that I’ve set aside for studying. I’m planning on maintaining my 9-5 study schedule during finals week, so knowing exactly what I’m going to do in a given hour is vital to my time-management system.

What would you include in your finals survival kit? Do you have any suggestions for me to add to mine?

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December Goals

My month of December is split into two distinct periods: the stress-filled, first couple weeks, in which I must go through my first round of college finals, and the relaxing rest of the month, in which I can work on personal projects while on vacation.

My goals for the first half of December include but are not limited to:

  • getting through finals
  • not stressing out too much
  • being very productive
  • not dying

My goals for the second half of December include:

1. ReadingĀ 
I am going to read lots and lots of books because I haven’t had the chance to read as many books as I’ve wanted to lately. I don’t have a set goal yet, but I’m working on making a list of books I will read in December. My goal will probably be around 10. Last year, I read 15 books over winter break, and that break was much shorter than this year’s.

2. Watch movies
I need to catch up on some classic movies. There are quite a few movies that I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t seen. So I’m not going to. I also want to catch up on movies from 2014 that I haven’t gotten the chance to watch. There’s also probably some from 2013. Maybe 2012. I need to watch some documentaries, too. I haven’t really seen many.

3. Apply for things
I really want to be a Peer Leader (PL), or Freshman RA, next year. The application has been out, and it’s due halfway through January. I am going to use winter break to write killer answers for the essay questions and making an awesome welcome letter, which is also part of the application.

4. Finish TV shows
There are quite a few TV shows that I have started but have never finished for reasons that I don’t even know myself. Over winter break, I am going to finish the following TV shows: Sherlock (BBC), Merlin (BBC), Parks and Recreation (actually, at the rate I’m going, I’ll probably finish this before next week), Firefly (I’ve only watched the first episode.), and Lost (Again, I’ve only seen the first episode). I thought there were more, but for the last month I’ve been trying to get through shows I haven’t finished. I guess I finished more than I thought I did. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I also want to watch the River Song episodes of Doctor Who in the order of her timeline.

5. Practice coding
I started to learn HTML over summer, and I need to practice. I also need to learn some more coding languages.

6. Organize
I really need to organize some things on my laptop. Not having them organized stresses me out. I already organized my YouTube subscriptions. But I still need to organize my Spotify songs, and I need to unsubscribe from/organize some Tumblr accounts I am following, as my interests have drastically changed since I first got a Tumblr. I also need to clean out my emails; I read all of my emails, but I want to delete all of the emails that are already read. I also need to unsubscribe from some email lists. My Google Chrome bookmarks have been organized for a while, but I need to clean them out and further organize some of the folders. I might need to uninstall some programs from my laptop because I don’t use them, but I’m not sure. I never really got into Goodreads, but now I really want to try to remember all of the books I’ve read and organize them on Goodreads. I use Wunderlist to collect lists, including my To Be Read book list. It currently holds around 200 book titles. I need to organize these into subcategories, so it is easier for me to find books I am interested in reading at the time that I am looking for them.

7. Build online presence
I really want to grow this blog over break. My goal is to post daily and create lots of new post ideas. I also need to make a LinkedIn profile. I am hoping to start a YouTube channel soon, so I’m going to try to work on that over break.

8. Work out
I have been really bad at working out this since school has started. I am hoping to start working out again over break.

9. Productivity experiments
With all of these goals, I’m going to have to be very productive, even though I will be on break. I am perfectly happy with this, as I like being productive in my downtime. I plan to experiment with various productivity techniques. Some of the experiments I’ve been thinking of trying out are:

  • waking up at 5 am every day (5 am club)
  • meditating for an hour a day
  • watching two-three hours of TED talks every day
  • using exclusively digital productivity techniques for a week
  • only using to-do lists for a week (no time-blocking)
  • reading a book a day
  • doing an hour of yoga a day

I think that’ it. For now. There’ll probably be a couple more items on this list by the time my break officially starts next Friday. Goodbye, and happy finals!

What are your December goals?