I heard a story on NPR (National Public Radio) today that called April a transition month. I have decided to find it charming, despite the fact that, in the last seven days, we have enjoyed a bit of spring, summer, and winter weather. It is a study transition month too, shifting from regular study to exam preparation. While wistfully remembering the 88-degree, sunny day we enjoyed last Sunday and contemplating the snow squalls we are enjoying today it occurred to me it could be useful to contemplate the things that helped me succeed in our programs and on previous exams.
Sometimes you just have to work a little harder. The trick, I think, is to work as smart as possible, maximize the results and get everything done on time and to the highest standards. That might be easier said than done, as the old saying goes. Still, I am an optimist, so every day I review my calendar to decide what must be completed today and outline the best way to get it done. For me the most difficult things are switching from one task to another, making sure all of my library materials are on hand when I need them, and getting to bed early enough to wake up refreshed and ready to go at four o’clock in the morning. With three weeks until my first exam now is the time to set a few lofty and inflexible goals.
Do you ever feel like you cannot work fast enough? As exams approach, I am feeling a bit like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory on I love Lucy. This might be the busiest I have ever been in my life. Over the years, some wonderful role models and mentors have given me some very good advice about time and project management. I will share them here because they are particularly helpful to me now, as I prepare for four exams. First, you can only do one thing at a time. Second, if something is unmanageable, it helps to break it down into pieces that are easy to manage. Third, keep the monkey on the other guy’s back. Finally, good time management means doing what has to be done, not a little bit of everything every day.
Week one of my preparations for exams is complete and my anxiety about Victorian literature has reduced considerably. I did not accomplish as much as I wanted to but I am not exactly behind schedule, and the work I accomplished is high quality and satisfying. Today, while reviewing my week’s work and remembering last year’s exam prep, I realized one week per course is probably not realistic. But if I switch to a two-weeks per course timetable it will take my revision right up to my first exam, which feels a little risky. Here is the first time and material management puzzle to solve on the way to exams.
It is almost exactly eight weeks until my first exam. The schedule is printed and framed on my desk so there is no mistaking the timeline. Since the last few weeks have been so busy professionally, I have had to adjust my study plan. An hour each morning and an hour at night have been all the time available. I do not feel too far behind, but I also feel that I am a bit behind. This weekend I made some notes about how to manage the next four weeks then begin to revise in April.
Last week was full of professional deadlines and next week is going to be even busier while exams are just 9 weeks away. It is a major crunch and I wonder how to manage it. The first quarter of the calendar year is usually rather quiet professionally but not this year. The projects I am working on are very exciting and stimulating but they require a lot of time. With just a few weeks to go before my first exam and a mountain of secondary reading on my desk, it feels like I need to regroup a bit to be sure my study outcomes stay on schedule. Read the rest of this entry »
This week my reading and study time settled into a particularly productive schedule. It is kind of a relief because I have been waiting to hit this study sweet spot. Something clicks, the penny drops, it all comes together – whichever phrase you think best describes that moment of increased confidence in, and command of, the topics and texts I am studying. How and why it happens is an open question. How to maximize this opportunity and develop a better grasp and expression of my material is the more urgent one. Read the rest of this entry »