This time of year can be stressful for anyone! With family gatherings to attend, presents to buy, cards to send, dinners to plan… the list goes on. On top of this, having to study for a licensure exam can only add to that stress! Often times, to cope with this stress, avoidance becomes a person’s best friend. Remember, putting off studying doesn’t make that stress or amount of studying you need to do go away. Much to the contrary, it can actually build up the stress even more and force you to resort to cramming information in at the last minute—or worse, skipping material entirely!
With the holiday season upon us, AATBS thought it might be helpful to share with our loyal readers some tips and tricks to staying focused this time of year.
First, be realistic about how much time you need for family gatherings and other holiday functions. Just because you are studying for licensure does not mean that you stop being a member of your family or that you have to stop celebrating your typical holiday traditions. You have to understand that you are still going to need to spend time with your family and enjoying what you enjoy most about the holidays. If your family is anything like mine, then you’ll need to answer 100 questions about what’s been going on, how studying has been, and why they never get to see me anymore! It’s better to budget a little too much time in your schedule to see family and participate in the holidays rather than not enough. Including these events as realistic tasks on your calendar will help you balance some time for the holidays and keep you on track for studying for the licensure exam.
In a similar vein, using the events associated with the holidays as motivators to get a certain amount accomplished before allowing yourself to participate in the holiday gatherings. For example, setting the goal “I’m going to study chapters 2 & 3 before I go see the family”. One study found that when you take breaks during a long task, much like studying for the licensure exam, can actually help you avoid distraction. Rather than feeling like you’re giving in to temptation, it’s simply built into your studying ! Having these breaks can even be an important form of self-care, which will play into your overall health (see our blog on scheduling me time).
During the winter, things can get chilly. Although it may seem trivial, getting the temperature to a comfortable level can have a dramatic impact on your studying’s productivity. There are conflicting reports as to what the ideal temperature is. Helsinki University  suggests that the perfect temperature is 71 degrees Fahrenheit, while Cornell University  postulates that the ideal temperature is a range between 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The variability likely exists simply due to the variability of humans. We each have a temperature at which we feel most comfortable. Make sure that the winter weather doesn’t take you out of that ideal working temperature.
When you do have your study sessions, separate yourself from the hustle and bustle of the season. Set yourself in your usual study place, or at least as close to the usual as you can. Do what you can to separate yourself from everything, including your phone and email. When you really think about how much time it takes you to get “into the zone”, it seems obvious that it is more a more sensible use of time to stay in your focus, rather than have to constantly reorient yourself to what you’re doing simply because someone sent you an Outlook Calendar invitation . The holiday season can be particularly difficult for this. There are people reaching out for their annual check-in that you may have not heard from all year. There are people confirming that you will be bringing the mashed potatoes on the specified date. There’s near constant excuse for some contact. Separating yourself can be difficult, but it is a major step to productivity during this time of year.
Overall, the holidays are a stressful and busy time alone, without the added stress of attempting to study for licensure. Ensuring that you can manage these weeks will only help you to become a better and more disciplined professional. Remember, the holidays only come around once per year, so make sure to enjoy them while still finding a balance between studying and celebrating!