In my last blog post we talked about “Big picture” planning so, to complement it, I thought you may like to read about how I organize myself on a daily basis during weekdays. Perhaps you can get refreshing ideas!
This schedule relies heavily on my own preferences, habits and circumstances as a student. For example, I prefer working in the mornings because I know it is easier for me to focus then. Remember how important it is to know yourself in order to devise a suitable schedule for you.
Starting the day – 6 a.m
I like to start my days early, even though I have no need to do it. However, I have found that starting early gives me a vibe of productivity, if only by feeling like a huge accomplishment getting out of bed when I could sleep a bit more. The Little One is usually not awake by this time (but this may vary), so I take this as an opportunity to go for a short run around the neighborhood (about 1 km. and a bit). This is perfect for me as it really wakes me up and puts me in an active mood early on. Plus, this way I counteract a number of hours I spend sitting at my desk.
Breakfast – 7 a.m
The Little One is up by 7 at the latest but in general, she is awake earlier. By then I have been able to take a shower and I am all set. While she has her morning bottle, I prepare our breakfast. For a quick fix, I like to have a cup of coffee and a bowl of natural yoghurt with granola/muesli. This gives me fuel for the morning and keeps me satisfied, minimizing the desire to get up from the study table to grab something to eat. When I want something more, I also resort to the ubiquitous avocado toast with an egg, a breakfast rich in fiber, fat and protein. Eating right and exercising is as important as spending enough time hitting the books, and whenever I adopt this approach, I tend to perform better during study sessions.
Study session – 8 a.m to 12 p.m
By 8 a.m both the husband and The Little One are gone, sometimes a bit earlier than that. If they go early I make myself some tea and I take a quick look at the plan for the day, or re-read my last notes, as a way to enter into a “study mindset”. At 8 a.m I start with primary reading, and I spend one hour and a half to two hours on it. This is usually the setup for the beginning of the year, when I try to have all the critical texts read as soon as possible. Then, at 10 a.m I usually switch to secondary reading, I do a combination of secondary reading on a work that I have already finished and secondary reading related to genre/historical context. Whether it is primary or secondary reading, I always take notes, not focusing on them being pretty, but readable and clear. At the end of the study session I write in a reading journal, noting down how many pages I have read and a few thoughts on what I have read.
When all my primary reading is done, I just apply a rotating reading schedule of secondary texts, and I will switch between modules so as to keep myself focused for longer spans. When all my reading is done (primary and secondary) I devote four hours to essay practice.
Lunch – 12 p.m
I always have my lunch ready-made on Sunday when I do meal prepping for the whole week. This allows me to profit more study time during weekdays since I will not waste time deciding what to eat and cooking it. I eat lunch and then go to pick up The Little One from daycare.
In the afternoon I usually do not have much spare time to read or study. Occasionally, The Little One will take a 45 minute nap if she is really tired, and if that happens, I do my research of terms, because this is a less demanding activity for me but it still is productive, especially in the earlier stages of the course year. Nevertheless, as a norm, my afternoons are spent either playing with The Little One or doing things around the house (laundry, dinner, house chores) if she is entertained by herself.
Evening – 6 p.m
By this time, the husband is back from work. I need to disconnect a bit from housework and childcare, but I know I am not in my prime for a proper study session, so I generally resort to light reading, like easy or very engaging material that is not particularly demanding. I may take the opportunity to read biographies of the authors I am studying. If I do not feel up to any reading at all, I review my notes for the day or try to gauge my progress in relation to my big picture plan, or do something study-related that is not mentally tiring, like sorting notes, declutter my desk or other activity around studying. You want to prevent a burn-out. It is better to pace yourself and distribute your efforts than exert yourself in the beginning and then feel depleted of energy for future study endeavors.
Dinner – 8.30 p.m
Evenings with The Little One can get a bit stressful, depending on the level of activity she has endured during the day. If she has only taken one short nap at daycare, we are in for a ride. Her night routine starts with a bath, then she takes her dinner, we have a bit of family downtime (mild lights, no screens, no noisy toys), then we go up to her room, read Goodnight Moon and she takes a night bottle and goes to sleep. That is if everything goes well, sometimes she just needs to go straight to bed after her dinner because she literally cannot hold herself up and we struggle to give her the night bottle. Sometimes she will need a longer span of family downtime, especially if she has had a nap in the afternoon. She is usually in bed by 20.30, and our dinner is ready because I have it prepared during the afternoon so that it only needs a bit of reheating.
Going to bed – 9.30 to 10 p.m
While we have dinner we watch something on the TV. We tend to choose short episodes of light comedy, something to empty the head and just have a good time. Since I wake up early, I want to be in bed early too, so as to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation is a very bad idea when studying. If you work a full-time job or have many commitments during the day, choosing your bedtime as study time may not be a good idea, when your brain and your body are exhausted from a long day. Rest is best. It is preferable, if possible, to get up a bit earlier and study when your brain is refreshed, even if it is only for half an hour.
Weekends are my time to rest from a tightly scheduled week. I still get up at 6 a.m, so as not to lose the habit, but I generally spend the weekend relaxed, sometimes I rewrite my notes neatly, sometimes I journal a bit (more on this and how it helps with studies in a later blog post), I go out with friends or have friends over, or I may bake. Whatever feels relaxing. As a general note, though, I try to keep myself active, because not doing anything or spending the whole weekend in front of the TV puts me in an awful mood and, in the long run, it does not feel like I have rested. Weekends for me are the perfect moment to fully enjoy family activities or keeping in contact with my friends. This helps me recharge my batteries for the next week.
Whether you like a tightly scheduled day or a loose and free-as-a-bird approach, try to make your study time fit into your routine, and not outside of it. Considering it as a part of your day-to-day life will gradually make it easier to sit down and study.
Ana is studying the BA English by distance learning in Luxembourg.