Top Tips from the Virtual Study Hall

By Tanmoy Newaz
Virtual Study Hall volunteer

Hello! My name is Tanmoy Newaz and I am entering my fourth year of Honours Cellular, Molecular, Microbial Biology at the University of Calgary. I am especially passionate about public health and geriatric research.

With the development of the current COVID-19 pandemic, I have found the need to alter my studying strategies in order to maximize my productivity while minimizing any tendencies for procrastination. In particular, I am currently studying for the MCAT while simultaneously working on three separate research projects, and therefore have felt the need to structure my days in a way that yields me the best results. Here’s what works for me:

  1. Invest in an agenda/journal: I have found that writing down my goals prior to tackling them ensures that I am in a productive headspace going into my study sessions. I personally prefer writing down my goals by hand in a journal, however, I have also attempted to track my goals electronically and found little difference between the two strategies.
  2. Write out your goals in advance: I strongly believe that in order to be as productive as possible, one must prepare for tasks well in advance. Personally, I aim to sort out my weekly schedules every Sunday night. However, schedules often change due to unexpected circumstances. For this reason, I aim to adjust my plans as soon as possible in order to maintain structure within my schedule.
  3. Organize your study space: This may seem obvious, but a cluttered workspace is guaranteed to distract you at one point or another. I strive to ensure that my desk only contains my lamp, laptop, relevant textbooks, pencil/pen, and a surface to write on (either on paper or an iPad/tablet).
  4. Turn off all distractions: To study efficiently, one must give their undivided attention to the task at hand. Personally, my phone tends to be the reason my study sessions often last longer than I originally anticipate. If this issue applies to you as well, I have two possible suggestions; distance yourself from your phone as much as possible during the study session, or use your phone as a device to keep you accountable during your study session.
  5. Try the Pomodoro Technique: This trend has recently become quite popular on social media, particularly among the YouTube community. Often, students find it helpful to watch a “STUDY WITH ME” video in order to follow the study and break times used by their favourite influencers. While this method has merit, it may distract you from your studies if the temptation to click on one of your recommended videos becomes too great. The basis of these videos is the Pomodoro method, which usually consists of 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break. However, you can definitely experiment to determine your optimum study-to-break ratio. I typically follow an 85 minute study session with 10 minute breaks between sittings (to simulate testing conditions). I also recommend the “Flora – Focus Habit Tracker” app by AppFinca Inc (free on the App Store) to help practice the Pomodoro technique.
  6. Stay active during breaks: Although you may want to take advantage of your breaks by relaxing, the best way to ensure that your next study period will be productive is by getting your blood pumping! Remember, your brain is an oxygen and nutrient-hungry organ! Even if you want to browse through TikTok, message your friends, or grab some snacks, try to stand up and walk around for a few minutes as well.
  7. Check your progress: At the end of a study session, cross out everything you finished that day. Although this may seem pointless at first, it can help you stay motivated, and the satisfaction of crossing out completed tasks is unparalleled!
  8. Repeat!

To meet the rest of the Virtual Study Hall team, connect with your peers, and gain more support with your studies, check out the Virtual Study Hall!