With matric students entering the home stretch, education expert Nola Payne of the Independent Institute for Education, cautions students to refocus time and energy now in the approach to preliminary and final exams
As the Class of 2017 returns to their desks for arguably the most important few months of their school career, it is time for them to eliminate all distractions, and budget their time to ensure they stay in control of their revision and ultimate success, an education expert says.
“In the same way that the proverbial penny saved is considered a penny earned, so time saved and invested in what really matters now can be considered an investment in the matriculant’s future success,” says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education provider.
Payne says parents and guardians should sit down and discuss with learners what to expect in coming months, and how they are going to approach the preliminary and final examinations.
“Most importantly, the discussion has to focus on what is going to be the focus for the next few months, and how the learner is going to settle into the right headspace, not allowing unnecessary distractions and managing the additional stress and challenges calmly.”
Be ruthless with your time
Although some exciting events will be happening in addition to exams – think Matric farewells, 40-days celebrations and the like – these must not be allowed to overshadow either time or energy-wise the really important work that should be taking place, says Payne.
“Don’t, for instance, start anything new. Now is not the time to start volunteering in an attempt to boost your CV, or embarking on a new relationship. Be ruthless with your time. Be aware of what you’re spending it on, and make sure that you are spending it overwhelmingly on getting ready for the assessments which will ultimately influence what you are able to embark on post-Matric.”
Payne says although Matrics should still make time to lead a balanced life – getting enough exercise and spending quality time with family and friends – they should be more careful than ever about not allowing time-leakage. Exercise, for instance, can be done with friends. Family time can be built around mealtimes.
“As an experiment, learners can take a day or two tracking their time and keeping a detailed log. Break the day down into 10-minute slots where you carefully note what you spent your time on. The results can be scary but also empowering. Upon waking up, do you intend to quickly check what’s happening on social media, and then only get back to reality an hour or two after you logged on? Do you take a break to watch some TV, only to find 3 episodes into your favourite series that you haven’t done anything useful for hours? Then it’s time to take action and salvage your time,” says Payne.
She advises the following steps for rescuing the minutes that turn into hours and ultimately days – minutes spent on brainless activities instead of brain-building ones:
1. Consider using the Pomodoro technique when studying
Having a study roster is one thing. Sticking to it is another. The Pomodoro (tomato-timer) technique is a fantastic and very empowering tool to get things done in a hyper-focused way, and can feel almost like a game, says Payne.
The way it works, is to sit down to your task with determination, then set a timer for 25 minutes and work intensely until the buzzer goes. Then get up, take a break of five minutes (do some stretches or take a quick walk – don’t check Facebook!) and get back to your books for another round. After every four rounds, take a break of about 30 minutes during which your time is your own to use as you please.
2. Resolve to quit social media cold-turkey for a week
It really does sound harder than it is, says Payne. She says that if you remove social media distractions and their temptations completely for a set period, your devices will soon lose their time-sucking lustre. You’ll also find that when you go back after your self-imposed period of abstinence, you would not have missed out on much at all – almost like going back to a soap or reality show after not watching it for a while.
On the pay-off side, your brain is likely to become much sharper for the experience, and potentially even less inclined to go back to unproductive time-sapping activities by default.
3. Sort out your workspace
Find a space where you can sit down and get to work immediately and optimally. Have all your books and tools ready, so that you don’t have to spend the first 15 minutes of each session tidying up and getting into the swing of things. Know what you are going to spend your time on – set a goal for each session – before you start. While it is tempting to procrastinate by filing, tidying, or reworking your roster, those are precious minutes that dilute your focus and can lead to you doing all kinds of admin unrelated to the work you need to be revising.
4. Stay mindful
While you are studying, focus on nothing else. At night, when you go to bed, and in the morning when you wake up, think about your future. Visualise why you are putting in all the hard work now, and picture your future – what you want to do with your life and how you are going to get there. The discipline and strategies you work on now will not only ensure you perform optimally when the time comes later this year, but also that you’ll continue on the solid path you’ve constructed throughout your studies and your career.
“In the world of work, most people are compensated financially according to time worked – whether that be hourly or monthly. Essentially, time is money. For matriculants, their focused investment of time pays off in results. It is therefore in a matriculant’s best interest now to take careful stock of their time and carefully budget it for the rest of the year,” says Payne.