How to Survive a Homework Marathon

Nathan Wilgeroth / Colleges of Distinction »

I can’t even begin to list all the things about college that are better than high school. The freedoms are worth celebrating, and the course material is much more engaging and interesting. That being said, all the thrilling independence of higher education comes at a price. Homework can pile up, and it’s up to you to keep yourself accountable.

Around the times of midterms and finals, many students have to psych themselves up in preparation for long, marathon-like series of work, studying for multiple hours and multiple days at a time. Sure, these periods of time aren’t the most pleasant, but they’re, uh, part of the “classic college charm.” I’m not here to give you tips on how to study or how to write an essay; rather, I want to help you dive into these long study sessions with a stable plan. You, too, can survive extended stretches of work, all while keeping yourself healthy. Gear up for your marathon—you’re a grown-up now.

Set Goals, Embrace Rewards, Avoid Punishment

If you have a few days of work ahead of you, go in with a game plan. Divvy up your work and set a schedule to follow. If you know you’ve specifically penciled in time to do your sociology write-up on Wednesday, there’s no reason to panic about it on Monday. Make plans and set goals, and you will have a clear idea of how you can manage to get everything done.

Now, it’s no secret that it can be tough to muster up enough motivation to work at a steady pace. Losing track of time, losing interest, and losing morale can only be expected every now and then. If you don’t happen to achieve your schedule’s goals on time, all you need to do is adjust your plan accordingly. What’s most important is that you don’t beat yourself up for falling short on your goals. Negative self-talk pulls you into a cycle of dread, discouragement, and even less productivity. Goals can always be reset, so keep moving forward and avoid fixating on what may not have been accomplished.

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It’s harmful to punish yourself, sure, but rewards should always be welcome! Let yourself know that you should be proud of yourself whenever you do meet your goals. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone, a few minutes on Instagram, or an episode of Game of Thrones at your personal markers of achievement. The more you associate effort with reward, the more motivated you will be!

Know Your Zone

Play around with different workspaces and find out where you’re most productive. I prefer different environments for different kinds of work, so you may find it useful to continue experimenting with where you choose to plant yourself.

The library is a popular yet polarizing study spot. If you need absolute silence and as few distractions as possible, then your school already has your destination set for you. Libraries are, of course, full of resources, and many have cubicle-like desks that isolate your attention to your books. They’re love-it-or-hate-it kinds of places, but school libraries are immediately available right on campus, and most are open late to cater to students’ hours.

For those who may get anxious in dead silence (i.e. me), coffee shops or cafés are great options. Soft music and chatter can provide a steady rumble of background noise, and surrounding activity can be both comforting and brain-stimulating. As an added bonus, coffee is only a few steps and a couple of dollars away—so people who are supremely addicted to the stuff (i.e. me) can keep themselves at bay.

Staying fed is important—and I’ll touch on this later—but such a baseline necessity can be easy to forget when you’re working hard. If you set up camp in your school’s dining hall, however, you won’t have to worry about breaking your productive stride in search for a snack. One swipe into into the dining hall permits you eat whatever you want until you leave. This means that, if you have a busy day ahead of you, you can swipe in, grab a table for the day, and workworkwork through all of your day’s meals.

Take Care of Your Body

I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever DAD,” but hear me out! Your health should always come first, no matter what. You’re human, and you deserve sleep, exercise, and good nutrition. I promise you: you truly can get As and feel healthy at the same time.

Your brain is most efficient when it is fueled with a good and balanced diet. It can be so easy to haul a bunch of pre-packaged junk with you to the library, but every cell in your body will eventually go on strike if they are running on nothing but Nutter Butters. Wherever you go, pack up healthy snacks with healthy carbs, proteins, and fats that will keep your brain from clouding out on you. You’re a hard-working champ and, sure, you deserve a treat once in awhile, but balance is key.

Forgetting to eat your veggies is just as easy as forgetting to get your blood pumping. Blasting through your work by sitting in one place all day could cause your body to lock up on you. To counteract a muscular lockdown, some energy must be exerted—even a small walk around the block is better than nothing. Roll your eyes at me all you want, but I’m a big proponent of yoga; it gives active attention to every single part of your body, and it doubles as an practice for meditation, mindfulness, and tranquility.

And, please, whatever you do, resist all-nighters. No matter how much you have to do or how little you’ve gotten done, save your all-nighters as last resorts only. Not only are they taxing on the body, but they also cause you to crash and completely waste away the following day. Sleep, my friend. It’s good for you.

School work can pile up, but keep calm. You’ve made it to the college level for a reason—you’re capable of working hard and doing well. Be kind to yourself, hit the books, and plow your way to the top!

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