The New Year is approaching and I really wanted to sit down and churn out some of the ways in which I’ve been making it by in school. There are loads of free tools that students can use in order to produce great work and content, whether it is for your degree or outside of it. Here are some tips and tools that I’ve used since I started pursuing post-secondary education.
Guys. Ditch the note cards. They cost money to produce, they’re tedious to make and they require that you organize something physically amongst all your other school supplies. I highly recommend this website called Quizlet where you can make virtual notecards. You can make it in different languages (if it’s a language course), you can review, play games to memorize the notecards and eventually test yourself.
This HANDS DOWN got me through Microeconomics my first semester of graduate school. Make an account and you can make sets of cards, opting to make it private or share them with others. It’s also so relieving to be able to refer to them for your final exam, rather than find all the physical note cards you could have made and go through those one by one. Quizlet is incredible and it’s free.
2. Wake up EARLY—around 4:30AM.
Some of y’all are going to look at the screen crazy but I guarantee you this is the best time to be productive. There is no one awake. You can focus exclusively on yourself after a good night’s rest-- there is no one to distract you, you can make yourself breakfast, meditate, and get to work. My best work and studying has been done at this hour. I tend to sleep at 10:00PM-11:00PM and wake up around 4:30AM, especially around exams, or when I’m writing papers. There’s something rejuvenating about waking up in the morning when the world is completely dead. I just need a fresh cup of coffee and I know I need to churn stuff out before my day officially starts. There is so much evidence that people who wake up earlier are able to be more productive.
3. Use a calendar system that works for you.
There are two calendars that I use—Google calendar and my agenda. Google calendar is vastly underrated. Did you know you can sync your events to your phone, and set alarms for those events? This can be reminders for appointments, a study session, a coffee date, etc. You can also set the reminders from 2 minutes in advance to weeks in advance (and you can set multiple reminders for the same event). It all syncs with your phone. You can color code everything based on the course or the specification—in my case it’s work, personal and each of my individual classes. If you have a meeting with people, you can invite them to the event so they can verify that they’re coming and it will sync onto their calendars as well. GOOGLE CALENDAR IS LIFE.
One of the most successful and charming people I know introduced me to this method four years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I also have a written agenda, but that agenda is more for personal notes, documentation of my goals, how much water I drink every day, my to-do list breakdown, etc. There is also this wonderful application called Wunderlist, which lets you jot down reminders, notes, errands, etc. under categories that you make. These also have an alert feature that allows you to specify deadlines, and you can attach files!
4. Make yourself a good, clean space.
I really do think your environment impacts the work or content that you produce. Thus, my study space has everything I need—a stapler, white out, hole puncher, a ton of pens and pencils, sticky notes, etc. All I needed was a decent dollar store haul. I also have plants around my study space and a bright ass lamp. I swear, just surrounding yourself with all the tools you need restrains you from making excuses!
5. Study Music.
I have a Spotify playlist I go to when I study. It’s all instrumental music that I don’t know very well (I’m envious of y’all who can listen to bops and study). This has gotten very far when I’m in loud spaces and need to concentrate or when I just want some casual background music. Here it is if you want to check it out. There is research that shows that music with lyrics are harder to study with, but I really do think people have their own study techniques.
6. Get a mini whiteboard.
One day I went to Walmart and bought this mini whiteboard, and I found myself more excited to do math problems and economics problems because of it. I think it’s a matter of having the space to do the work and to be able to feel like a teacher teaching yourself the work. It's a really great tool to change the pace of learning. Various colors on a different forum of learning can also trigger memory of how to do a problem set that you otherwise may forget. When it’s not being used to do word problems, it can be used to write out a to-do list, or goals, or just some motivational shit you want to look at.
I really hope this list helps you find some things that work for you. I know school is incredibly stressful, and I hope that these resources will ease some of the stresses and anxieties that come with school.