Two things that I have told myself these past few months: You cannot have cereal for dinner again tonight, and you don’t need to feel guilty for doing an activity that doesn’t involve studying.
Let me explain.
I love cereal and I truly believe that you can eat it any time of the day, but when I am on my second box of cereal in one week because I have been eating cereal three times a day, I know that something must change. Sometimes as students we get so lost in all the studying, exams and due dates that we often don’t leave enough time at the end of the day to make dinner. Since in quarantine, we are at home for multiple days at a time and I think that now is the best time to discover your love for cooking. I used to hate cooking. But being in quarantine has made me realize that I didn’t hate it, I hated doing anything that took time away from studying for an upcoming test. There are so many quick, easy and, most importantly, inexpensive meals that you can make for yourself.
It took me quite some time to realize that I was forgetting that our brain needs fuel. I mean how many times do I need to learn about ATP and the mitochondria. I find that if I take a few minutes and really think about what I want to eat for the next two weeks for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack, and make a grocery list that is specific for those meals, I am more inclined to eat full meals throughout the next two weeks. Meal prepping is a great way to ensure that you are fueling your body correctly, and it reduces the amount of time that you spend in the kitchen cooking dinner.
Secondly, I know that grad school was not the best time to start a YouTube channel, as if the coursework isn’t enough. But I started a Youtube channel! I recently came to the realization (this was the year of a lot of realizations for me) that I wanted to do something else in my day other than study for tests and practice for practicals. As I said earlier, I used to feel guilty for taking time away from studying to do anything other than prepare for my exams. Showers were short, TV was timed and naps were nonexistent. I didn’t feel like I did enough until it was 11 p.m. and I was incredibly tired. But I decided that this is not what I wanted for myself.
I think it is important to tap into the other side of what makes you you! You are hard-working and driven, but you might also be creative and talented. Taking the time— scratch that—making the time to discover what activities you enjoy can fill your study breaks. It’s important to understand that IT IS OKAY TO TAKE BREAKS! You need to take regular breaks from studying. I like to use the Pomodoro Technique to keep me focused, especially on days when I feel like my attention span is really short and I have a lot to do.
The Pomodoro Technique is a great tool to increase your productivity. Basically, you study for a certain amount of time and then you take a quick break and after a few hours you take a longer break. The method that I like to use is the 50-10 method. I would study for 50 minutes and take a 10–minute break, and after 2 hours I would take a 30–minute break. You could also do the 25-5 method, or any other time frame you want. This technique works even better if you make a small goal for yourself to achieve by the end of the study session. How many lectures do you want to finish? How many chapters do you want to read? What topic do you want to fully understand? It’s important that you get everything that you need to start your study session (laptop charger, water, headphones, etc.) and you leave your phone a fair distance away from you or on do–not–disturb mode. You must stay focused for this technique to work.
If you increase your productivity, you could spend less time in your day studying. With those extra few hours, you can work on that passion project, plan out your meals and make a grocery list for your next grocery run. Yes, you are a student, but that is not all you are. There is so much more to you. Take a minute to discover all the other talents!