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Tips for surviving this year's dead week marathon

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DECEMBER 15, 2014

We have been training our brains all semester for finals week, and the finish line is in sight. But first, we need to survive the aptly named dead week. We might all be tempted to interpret the whole week of “no classes” to mean “party and watch TV all day,” but the final race to get good grades doesn’t begin during finals week — it starts the very day you celebrate the official end of classes. Here are some suggestions to pace yourself so that you can survive dead week and win your freedom with winter break.

Prioritize. Know when to say no. Feeling obligated to hang out every night with your friends who have already finished studying is detrimental. If you are behind during dead week, you are already in crunch mode. Make some sacrifices now, and you will see your diligence pay off later.

Early bird gets the worm. Sleep is not for the weak but for the wise. One thing in common about successful individuals in the professional world is that they take advantage of the morning. After a solid night of restful sleep, you will have more energy and mental clarity to study more efficiently and effectively during the day.

Begin your tasks immediately. Once you have sat down with your books and computer, take no more than five minutes to begin your task. Procrastination will stop your flow before it has even begun. A half-hour of browsing Facebook is not only time lost, but it can easily stretch into a couple more hours of aimless web surfing. Next thing you know, you have only covered two pages of a chapter in your textbook but have read 20 BuzzFeed articles about adorable puppies.

Work a little every day. Those who keep working steadily, mile by mile, beat those who cram at the last minute. Catching up is a hard thing to do and will wear you out in the long run. Stamina is usually preferable over speed, especially when it comes to studying and retaining information. Don’t slack and let the work pile up. Creating a daily action plan will consolidate your most important tasks and allow you to realistically accomplish your goals.

Go wireless. Block out distractions and focus on the task in front of you. Simply turning off the Wi-Fi on your computer and turning your phone face down will do wonders in helping you focus on the task at hand.

Take breaks. Unlike real marathon runners, you can stop to watch a bit of television before you go back to work. If you overwork your mind, you will burn out quickly. You need to maximize your time by studying efficiently, which requires getting rest and refreshing your mind with doses of downtime. Be careful, however, not to fall into the Netflix sinkhole of endless TV show marathons.

Focus on the big picture. Don’t get too caught up in the unimportant material. As ambitious students, we tend to waste valuable time by memorizing trivial concepts from textbooks verbatim. Understand the core concepts, and test your understanding of the details by doing the practice questions.

Stay healthy. Forget about the Doritos, and energize yourself with nutritious foods such as fruit, nuts and milk. What you put in your body will be the fuel that carries you through the whole ordeal. Also, remember to leave Main Stacks and enjoy some sunshine once in a while — perhaps go for a real run. Despite what Descartes says, the mind and body are, indeed, connected. If your body is bored from sitting all day, your mind will not be able to function at full power, either.

Study outside the house. Take advantage of the review sessions offered by professors. Studying with others is also a fantastic opportunity to test your true grasp of the material you have learned. But if you get sidetracked easily by others while studying, get cozy at your favorite coffee shop or library.

Finally, remember that you have spent an entire semester learning and reviewing material. If you have been keeping up with the course material, you will perform better than you expected by trusting the power of your own brain. If you have not, breaking down into tears or stressing out will neither help you to retain material nor allow you to recall much during the exams. Stay calm, follow these tips, and you will be surprised by how much you can learn in a short amount of time. Take a deep breath, keep your eyes on the prize, and trust yourself. Dead week truly is a test of wits and willpower. Good luck to you all, and may the wind be ever at your back.

Contact Kevin Chen at 


DECEMBER 08, 2014

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