i've received various feedback lately regarding how organized i am. to that, i give a big, "HA!" but also smile, blush, and feel all warm inside. specifically, i've had some lovely mamas ask for study tips over the months. now that i've developed my system, i thought it a good time to share.
*you can see this post for my general tactics to surviving school with a baby, though i am sure they apply no matter the age of your child.
my learning style (or, is this system for you?)
i am an obsessively compulsive, anxiety ridden, perfectionistic neat freak, who enjoys all things pretty and organized.
i read quickly, can't listen to save my life, and struggle with retaining information, rather than understanding it. i have a mildly photographic memory and learn from reading, not by listening to a lecture.
my study tactics cater to these strengths and weaknesses. if these qualities sound similar to you, my guide should be helpful. if we are polar opposites, you may benefit from reading and trying some of my practices, but always keep in my mind that the key to successful studying is accepting and working with your own strengths and weaknesses to tailoring your system to you, not anyone else's expectations of you.
my study method
i typically work one chapter at a time, finishing each step per chapter before moving to the next.
step 1: read & highlight
i use 2 colors when i highlight: yellow for general key information, and pink to denote something i need to research further before i can fully understand; this is usually vocab.
step 2: refer to learning objectives
after i've read through everything and found what i think might be important, i compare it to what my professor thinks is important. this is the information i will go on to make flashcards from.
i don't do this step first for 2 reasons. first (and this may just be my nerd speaking), i would like to know the information for myself. i do not like to tempt myself to skim or skip sections because a professor didn't exclusively include something on an assigned reading. it all contributes to my knowledge. it's amazing the amount of information and fun facts i can retain just from reading something once!
secondly, just because a professor says only some information is pertinent... doesn't mean they will stick to that!
just trust me. read everything at least once.
step 3: make flashcards
here is where i become most anal and extra about my studying. ;) you do not have to follow my step by step guide here. i could probably leave this as, "make flashcards," and most of you would be just fine. however... this is where i have the most fun, and for me, the extra flair i put into this step really focuses me to what i am doing, which adds to my retention of the information. so, here's the details on my super-extra flashcard system:
i create an outline of which content needs to go on a flashcard, and how i would like it to be grouped together. i make this from the information i pulled in step 2.
i make my "header" flashcards. they go like so:
-class (ex: mental health)
-subject (ex: neurodevelopment disorders)
-topic (ex: pharmacological treatment and implications)
these get tabbed with washi tape by my system shown below. this enables me to quickly flip through and find the sections i'd like to focus on from a stack. you don't have to use washi; anything like a post-it note or paperclip would do.
question flashcards don't get tabbed, and either go behind the topic header card if they are related to a specific issue, or as with the rest my more generalized questions, stay behind the subject card and before any topic cards (think: vocab).
time to write the flashcards! to do this, i open to the beginning of my chapter, and work in chronological order. i only look at what is highlighted. *this makes it super important that i am very careful in step 1 by actively reading, and not skimming or skipping any content i think is need to know!
step 4: practice
and that's it! after all the prep work, running over my flashcards a few times is all i need to do to be prepared. i make a note of the cards i don't get right or all right, by turning it 90 degrees in the stack. this way, when i get to the end of my stack, i can review only the ones i missed, without messing up my perfectly ordered system. ;)
additional studying tips
+ keep a list of rabbit holes
nursing covers a stupid amount of content, and pulls from all areas of knowledge. being a huge nerd, my mind is constantly being pulled in different directions, curious about the ins and outs of body functions and disease processes, psychological processes, heck i even get interested in the etymology of the vocabulary i come across. i used to stop and follow my every inclination for learning. this made me both unproductive and very overwhelmed. i finally learned to keep a pad of paper out as i study, and when i come across something that i want to research further, i write it down and keep moving. on my study breaks, i sometimes return to this list, and cross things off as i research. my list keeps me from being overwhelmed by everything i don't know, allowing me the security that i will get to it, preserving my focus on what is most important to my grade.
+ find the supplies you love
i love stationary and i love all things pretty. working with supplies that do their job well and make me happy just looking at them really helps my motivation. there's nothing better than the feeling of your favorite pen gliding effortlessly over quality, buttery paper! i peruse target's dollar section often. it's a great spot for pretty pencil pouches, sticky notes, washis, and note pads. be nice to yourself; keep studying pretty and pleasant.
+ keep supplies stocked and on hand
i once had arranged for a sitter and went to a starbucks set to study for several hours, only to realize once i had ordered my coffee and spread out all of my things that i was out of notecards, and my yellow highlighter was dead. major bummer. don't let that happen -- keep your stocks up to keep your productivity up.
+ change your scenery
studying at home is such a drag for me. i can't keep my focus. it is too tempting to play with aidric, or to start organizing or cleaning with a false sense of productivity, or, let's be real, to get in bed with netflix. i always take myself to a coffee shop or a library for quality study sessions. an added benefit for me here is that i am so self conscious about being in public view, that it generally keeps me off of distraction websites and my phone. i wouldn't want some stranger judging me for being unproductive, now would i?!
i also have an extra hour arranged with aidric's babysitter where after class each day i stay at school to work.
*if you ARE studying at home, things like candles, a clear field of vision (aka don't clean to study, just push all the crap behind you to trick your mind ;), and ambient sounds can help to take you to your studying happy place.
i use things like rainymood.com, asoftmurmur.com, and ambient-mixer.com.
+ use creature comforts
i never leave home without gum, lip balm, and hand cream. these are my vices. the feeling of dry lips or hands or the fear of smelly breath makes me so uncomfortable and consumes my thoughts. call me crazy, but i recognize these things about myself, and work with them, not against. a new thing for me is a hand sanitizer i stumbled across from bath and bodyworks' aromatherapy line. i am OBSESSED!!! i carry it with me everywhere. not only is it now my most favorite smell of any smell i've ever smelled (and i am crazy about my good smells), but the scent also really does calm my anxiety. very important to staying productive.
i hope at least one of my tactics has been something you haven't heard of and can try for yourself. if nothing else, seriously, get yourself to bath and body and try out their aromatherapy line.