In our earlier post, ‘How to Continue EPPP Study over the Holidays (part 1)’ we talked about balancing your EPPP study with holiday celebrations. We gave advice on creating a flexible study schedule that allows you to continue studying little and often.
Clearly this type of study routine cannot be achieved without being pro-active and deliberate about the times when you are studying and the times when you are not studying.
By being deliberate, you will preserve the integrity of your study times as well as experience the full benefits of the holiday season.
The Worst of Both Worlds
Here is a typical situation that often arises when we enter the holidays without a plan. Your extended family gets together for the Christmas holidays. Like everyone else in the family, you’re expected to enter into the fun and festivities. The only problem is that you are also in the midst of an intense regime of EPPP study. As a result, when you do participate in family holiday activities, you are unable to fully enjoy yourself because of feeling guilty that you aren’t studying. On the other hand, when you are studying, you are unable to fully concentrate on your EPPP prep work because of feeling guilty that you are being unsociable.
In this type of scenario, what you end up getting is the worst of both worlds: you are unable to enjoy the holidays and you are also unable to apply yourself to an effective EPPP study regime.
The solution is to be deliberate about setting regular structured times when you are studying and when you are not studying. Without a schedule, we go into our holidays with ambitious plans of how much we are going to study, but time somehow gets away from us. Before we know it, the holidays are over and we haven’t done anything productive. Or alternatively, we become like the gentleman in the above picture, who tried to study all the time during his holidays, even taking his laptop with him on the sled.
When planning your holiday study schedule, take into account days when you know studying will be impossible and block those days out.
Being deliberate about structured study doesn’t mean you need to be stupid. If you have already done your study period for one day and suddenly find yourself with some extra uninterrupted time (holidays are full of transitions periods that a student can easily put to productive use), go ahead and use that as another opportunity for study. Studying during car journeys is an example of that.
The point is to find a natural organic method that works well for you and your family.
Once you have determined your study schedule, set boundaries for yourself and others.
It’s important that your loved ones know not to disturb you during your study sessions, but it’s also important that you commit not to let your EPPP study intrude into the time you have set aside for being with your family and loved ones.
Explain to your friends and loved ones the situation you are in, and ask them to help keep you accountable for continuing your regime of holiday study. Involving them in the process will help them as well as yourself.
Mornings Are Best
All things being equal it is best for your holiday studying to take place in the morning so you have the entire day ahead of you to enjoy. If you save your EPPP prep for the evening, you may have to pull yourself away from an enjoyable activity with family and friends, or risk leaving it until too late once everyone else has gone to bed and you are too tired to study effectively (see our earlier posts ‘Don’t Get Too Tired Part 1’ and ‘Don’t Get Too Tired Part 2’)
Find a Distraction-Free Environment
One of the reasons that studying in the holidays is difficult is not that we don’t have enough time – quite often we have even more time. Rather, the difficulty comes from there being so many distractions.
It would be better to study for half an hour by yourself in a quiet room then four 3 hours around the Christmas tree having to fight off distractions and getting frustrated with everyone.
Finding a distraction-free environment may not be possible during the holidays, especially if you are sharing a house with relatives or vacationing with your family. But wherever possible, we recommend you try to achieve some seclusion when doing your holiday studies. This will work for your benefit as well as the benefit of those around you. Places to study could include a local library, a coffee shop, or even just sitting alone in your car.
The importance of limiting distractions during your holiday study can hardly be overemphasized, since distractions suck valuable juice out of the short-term memory, as we explained in our earlier post ‘Don’t Overcrowd Your Working Memory.’
Protect Your Working Memory
Even when secluded by yourself, you may still have to contend with a myriad of mental distractions. For example, as you are going through your EPPP preparation materials, you may suddenly remember a present you forgot to buy or an arrangements that needs to be made in time for Christmas. All of this holiday noise buzzing around the brain overloads your working memory (also called ‘short-term memory’), which only has a capacity to hold seven things in it at any given time (plus or minus two). As a result, your ability to recall crucial EPPP material diminishes.
Fortunately, the solution to holiday mental overload is fairly simple. During your holiday studies, keep a pad of paper on hand. As things to do come to mind, write them down on the paper and then forget about it and return immediately to your studies. The act of committing a thought to paper is enormously helpful in freeing the brain to no longer feel the need to hold onto that.