Lately, I have been experimenting with various patterns of work/rest/chores/childcare/ other tasks throughout my day. I have found the challenge to be not so much about scheduling all those activities, but rather about establishing routines that give a healthy rhythm to my day without disrupting its natural flow. I don't think it is just kids and dogs who need routines. Adults can benefit from them too. I can explain it better with a cooking example. Making lasagna is a multi-step process: I need to brown ground beef, make the sauce, prepare the ricotta mixture, boil lasagna noodles, assemble the lasagna and then bake it in the oven. Some of those steps require a certain order: I cannot assemble the lasagna until I have all the components ready. At the same time, I can choose to make it in several sessions: I could assemble the lasagna in advance and put it in the refrigerator to bake at some later point. To use the time efficiently, it makes sense to prepare several things at the same time, for instance, I could mix the ricotta cheese and eggs while browning the meat. I need to remember to preheat the oven so that I don’t have to wait for it. With practice, you are able to get into the swing of things so that the whole process goes smoothly and efficiently. You have found your rhythm.
Human beings are very rhythmic. Our hearts pump blood through our bodies rhythmically. We breathe, walk, talk in a rhythmic fashion. Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users describes it well in Rhythm Method: “Life runs on a pulse…”. It is not a stretch to say that learning has its rhythm too. How can you find your learning rhythm? There are a few questions you may want to consider:
- Is there a certain order in which you prefer to do your tasks when you study? Do you like to complete all your reading assignments first and then outline? Or do you prefer to start with reviewing and outlining, and then get to reading? What are the trade-offs of each approach?
- Do you first complete the easy tasks or the difficult ones? Why?
- Do you like to focus on one subject matter and do everything related to it during the whole study period or do you switch between subjects and tasks?
- When do you review your notes: right after class, before the next class, or at the end of the week? (I hope it’s not one day before the exam.) Do you know what works best for your memory?
- How often do you take breaks when you study? Many believe that 50-minute sessions with 10-minute breaks are optimal.
- How well is your studying schedule coordinated with the rest of your daily routines? Do you feel rushed all the time? Are you exhausted by the end of the day?
- What are your best working hours? Do you take advantage of your natural energy peaks throughout the day when you study? What tasks should you be doing when you energy is high? Which ones do you reserve for your low points?
I am sure there are more questions to ask. Send them in! I encourage you to experiment with your daily routines to see if you can find your rhythm and flow. It makes a difference.