Balancing Exams and Christmas

I never thought that I would be writing studying posts over Christmas, but this is the first time that I have ever had exams in January so here we are… having to revise over the Christmas break. I know a lot of people also have mock exams for GCSE or A levels when they go back so I think this will be useful for lots of students. I have established that it is very hard to manage revising whilst also having a Christmas break (and also blogmas in my case) so I thought I would offer some tips and advice on how to manage everything and stay on top of work, whilst also having a well deserved break over the festive period. 

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At the beginning of the holiday make sure to set aside time and plan, as it can get overwhelming having such a busy schedule of both studying and socialising… I know that Christmas is the busiest time of year for me and I expect a lot of you to be the same and it can get stressful having studying always at the back of your mind! I use a month view calendar that you can print from google images, and use that to plan my time and look for opportunities to revise.  There will be days where you can’t work for some of the day (for example one of the days I am going for lunch) but you know that you can work on the evening, so write it all down and you should end up with the periods where you are free and therefore can dedicate to work. I dont do a rigid revision timetable because it stresses me out having such restrictions on my time but I think that loosely planning what time you can work (such as saying Monday morning) means that you have an estimate as to how much time you have and therefore you can start planning what you need to do in them times. The key to staying organised is to plan in advance and make sure that you have enough time to get all of your work done, which is hard to work out enough time but once you have, you need to be dedicated to actually getting you head down and getting work done in them slots. 

My biggest tip is to make sure that do not work on certain days and stick to it, no matter how much work you have to do! If you even think about working on Christmas Day then you are mad and you need to ultimately prioritise Christmas over studying. You need time to divert your attention away from work, and it is definitely is worth it as you deserve a break like everyone else does at christmas time. There are a number of day that you can’t work and you need to block them off in your timetable, for example I am not working Christmas Day, Boxing Day and there are also some times that I am going away. I then also blocked off some half days too, for instance I can’t work on the afternoon/evening of New Years eve but I will be able to work in the morning. Studying is important but will you look back fondly on the Christmas memories with your loved ones or the times that you locked yourself down to your desk? You need to find a balance. 

Something that I think is useful is talking to your family and explaining to them that you have exams soon and that you need to dedicate time to studying as well as Christmas fun, so that they are on the same page as you and don’t expect you to be joining in with everything.  The house can be a very loud and bustling place over Christmas (especially if you have a big family) and it can be hard to get a moment to yourself, never mind long periods undisturbed to study. Plus if you are the type of person to go the library to study (I don’t find that environment helpful but I know a lot of people do) then they are usually closed over the Christmas break so you may be forced to work at home. Be open and honest with your family that you might not be able to join in all of the festivities and you need to prioritise studying some days, and that the house needs to quieten down sometimes so you can focus! Im sure that they will understand if you plan together and involve them in the process, and it will make the whole revision plan go more smoothly and less stressful. 

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That being said my next tip is to not say no to anything festive if you do want to go. Revision can wait and although it can’t wait for the whole holiday until the night before you go back, if your family or friends want to do something or you are invited to a party then just go! It is one of the most magical times of the year and if you spend the whole of it at a desk then you aren’t going to enjoy yourself in the slightest, and it is the best time of year. Yeah revision is important but it isn’t everything and when you look back on your life you are going to remember good memories and not sitting and studying for hours on end. Say yes and find that balance that works for you, which is still being productive but having fun. 

Christmas is so busy that fitting in revision when you can is going to be the most efficient. I work best in huge chunks (like sitting down and doing 8-10 hours of studying) but over the Christmas period that is just not feasible, as there always seems to be plans at some point in the day. I have to break my revision up into smaller chunks, which I have to plan thoroughly because it isn’t my normal style of studying. It is better to have smaller chunks of focused time rather than long periods of interrupted studying! The way that helps me best is to make a list of very specific ‘hour long’ tasks that you can do (even if it is as small as one worksheet or a piece of homework) and then if you have 2 hours then try and focus on 2 of the tasks. It means that even if you can only work for a little bit, you are still ticking things off your list and feeling productive! 

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Another tip is to not waste any time from travelling, and just take your work on the go. If your family live far away, I know that a lot of people travel around Christmas so utilise the usual ‘dead’ time you spend travelling and channel it into something productive. I always do work on the train back home from Leeds as it means that I can get an hour of work in that I would usually spend just listening to music. Use the time you have wisely!

So there are my best tips to making the most from your Christmas break and actually get your studying done whilst still having fun and enjoying the festivities. The main thing to remember is to not burn yourself out, its hard to take time out for yourself when there is such a long to do list… but if there is a time where you can relax its Christmas! 

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