Presently, I am not at school and, yet, by some miracle, I seem to know that it is midterm season. Something — something — in the air evokes dreamy visions of stoic proctors making pilgrimage along rows and columns of decaying desks, the scratching symphony of #2 HB against the fibre of a scantron sheet, and the perfume — nay, bouquet — of skipped showers.

Must be students’ intuition.

Alternatively, I may have consulted the Undergraduate Calendar.

This is besides the point.

Though you may suffer from unrelenting anguish in anticipation of the examinations to come, I hope that I can offer you some comfort in my proposal of autopilot mode.

Autopilot mode is exactly as it sounds and as the Oxford Dictionary defines, “A device for keeping an aircraft on a set course without the intervention of the pilot”.

By charting a base schedule for yourself in advance of midterms, you avoid overworking yourself and last-minute panicking.

Here’s how you go about autopilot mode:

To your current scheduling system (which I am assuming includes your lecture / lab/ examination times) and for the length of midterm season:

  1. Add sleep as a daily event
  2. Add mealtimes as daily events
  3. Add showers as regular events
  4. Schedule in times for exercise
  5. Schedule a day to prepare and organize materials for each midterm
  6. Schedule social activities, or blocks of “free” time

You may insist that sleep, nourishment, fitness, and social activities/ blocks of “free” time can and ought to be compromised for the sake of studying.

This is as sustainable as pulling an all-nighter.

At the risk of sounding condescending, it is naive. I know because I have thought this too. Against your judgement and for your sake, I push that you schedule as much or as little of the above events as you need.

We will adjust in the next step.

In the blocks of time leftover, schedule in blocks of study time. Be realistic and be specific.

How long will it take you to master X material? 1 hour? You may be overestimating – Try 1.5 hours.

Moreover, what will you be doing in that 1 hour? Studying? Sure. Reading, annotating, summarizing, recalling, explaining, mind-mapping, etc. are better, more directive words.

This is when you look at your syllabus and the lecturer’s recommendations and divide testable material up over study sessions.

If you find yourself coming up short on time, then it is time to cut back on social activities, or your “free” time.

If effort is dedicated to this endeavour, you will end up with a schedule you merely have to follow. The security and peace of knowing that you will get your studying done — on time and healthily and to the best of your ability — is invaluable.

I leave you with the advice and encouraging words of Dennis Coles (also known as Ghostface Killah):

Exercising the mind is scientifically proven

To increase your lifeline, strengthen your heart

Eat fish, that brain food will get you smart

Yoga, deep meditational tactics

You no good then just practice, cause practice makes perfect

Food, Sour Soul (2015).

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