Switching from vacation mode to school mode can be a tough transition, whether you’re a student or the parent of one. Don’t let the new academic term catch you with your pants down—instead, be ready to tackle it by completing this checklist.
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1. Alter Your Environment
Surroundings affect how productive you and your kids can be, so it’s best to make sure those are ideal for studying. This process is more involved than just removing distractions. It’s about creating an ambiance that both motivates you and promotes concentration.
Some people work best while cloistered in a plain, quiet room with only their books in front of them. Good for those people. But many students think this is the only way to study, while in reality they’re just making school work as dreadful as humanly possible, and people who condition themselves to associate work with absolute tedium are less likely to get it done.
Find a middle ground by making the environment both lively and meditative. Adding plants to your work space could actually improve your attention capacity, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. It might also help to work by an open window, to allow in fresh air and maybe have a view of nearby greenery. Add some pleasant lighting, listen to ambient music and chew a stick of memory-stimulating caffeinated-herbal gum (or sip your favorite coffee!), and you’ll be conditioned to study better by all five senses.
2. Read, Read, Read
Reading changes your state of mind. It makes you calmer, more collected, focused—in other words, ready to learn. Take some time before classes start to read both for leisure and for getting background info on the academic subjects you’ll be studying. This is an especially helpful habit to pick up in childhood, so if you have a kid, encourage them to do so.
3. Recruit Study Buddies
Some people work better alone. For the rest of us, teamwork is key. If you can find at least one dependable, productive study buddy who is taking classes with you, and both of you make a commitment to work together regularly, your chances of success increase greatly.
Even if you’re not in the same class, planning to study together in the same place will make you feel obligated to work consistently. It’s a good habit that definitively fills a block of time in your weekly schedule in which you might otherwise be tempted to slack off.
Although, here is a word of caution: Choose your study partners wisely. If they are flaky, distracting, or make you less productive, it’s time to find a new group.
4. Get Organized
This might seem obvious, but there’s more to it than you think. Don’t just print a class schedule and collect all the necessary books and supplies—color-code them, memorize the exact location of every classroom, put pens and pencils in separate compartments, give your erasers back-up erasers, prepare file folders for typed class projects, and write to-do lists. Become more proactive and organized than you’ve ever been in your life.
When you start burning out toward the end of the term, you’ll thank yourself for having done all this. The more you prepare now, the less likely you are to fall behind on school down the road.