Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stress and the Study Method.. Sometimes Things Have to Change

I've heard some of my classmates talking about having to juggle work, class and other issues and how sometimes it gets in the way of studying. One thing college and graduate school taught me was how to make the use of little moments of free time to study and how to study when lots is going on. I can usually study while my husband is practicing his trumpet (and he's doing a lot more because his concert schedule is picking up). I can usually study on the metro unless someone has really loud thumping music where I can only hear the bass on their I-Pod or other personal listening device. Though my work and home offices normally are in a state of disarray (I'm a piler not a filer) I can find stuff in my piles fairly quickly and the moderate disorder doesn't bother me. I just clear a space and get started.

However over the last couple of weeks things have gotten a bit crazy. A number of things are calling for my attention while I'm also trying to prepare for my first work travel in nearly a year with three trips in four weeks and a number of presentations and other projects also coming due. When I start getting overwhelmed with things I need to do the piles start to bug me and I want to clean them NOW!!! I find I need silence for reading and assignments when normally background noise is not a real distraction for me. And unfortunately I start doing the one thing I shouldn't: I procrastinate. I let things that seem more pleasant (like watching the baseball playoffs or Grey's Anatomy or CSI or reading a trashy magazine) distract me from doing the things I need to do.

So what do I do? I make a space of quiet away from most of distractions. I become more focused on taking notes and making myself think about the assignments and how the readings will help me complete them. I start reading with a ruler to slow myself down (I tend to be a very fast reader but if I read too quickly I often won't retain what I've read). I try to get up earlier (I am a very early morning person so that I can read before the cat and the spouse are awake). And I talk a lot more to my colleagues about what I'm reading so I can better tie it to work and so I can remember it. I also try to keep lists so I can see what I have done, what I need to do and the deadlines to get it all done.

As I've been thinking about this post I've also been thinking about kids who live in homes where there are lots of disruptions or where they have to work multiple jobs while also maintaining a home and sometimes the family. I'm fortunate that I can find a quiet place to study. How many of them can find a quiet place or time to ready. I wonder how many of them are able to juggle a variety of tasks successfully and how many just give up and drop out. I wonder if we could find ways to help them more effectively balance homework/studying and home if we could provide tips on how to study when there are distractions that can deter study.

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