For many non-traditional students, school is NOT out for summer. While most traditional students in the UK have a few months off over the summer, many non-traditional students all around the world are studying during the summer. Either because they have a different timetable or because they’re resitting classes ready for autumn exams.
For students in the northern hemisphere, studying during the summer entails locking yourself away throughout what is (hopefully) the sunniest, warmest months of the year. And for non-traditional students with families, studying during the summer often means trying to juggle hitting the books with childcare.
During my business degree with The Open University, I never had a summer break. I planned my modules to run one after the other with a maximum of 1-2 weeks in between (sometimes they overlapped instead!). This did mean I completed my degree faster but it also meant I spent three years studying during the summer - painful!
I could hear the birds chirping outside and the bees buzzing around the flowers in my garden. I could hear children playing outside and the jolly sound of the ice cream van coming down the street. I got to refuse many an invitation to the pub, for a walk, a picnic, a row down the river. All because I had essays to write and exams to revise for.
I’ve got some strategies you can use to make studying during the summer suck a lot less and save you time so you can make space for fun and relaxation.
But first, sign up to my free resource library where you can download my bloomin’ awesome study session planner. You’ll also get access to TONS of other printables and worksheets to help you become a happier, more confident and more successful student.
5 ways to make studying during the summer suck less
1. Prep for success
Just as a chef would prep her ingredients and gather her equipment before starting to cook, a successful student should do the same. Before each of your summer study sessions, spend a few minutes setting yourself up for awesome productivity and focus.
Clear your desk of cups and rubbish, file any completed notes and move anything you don’t need for the study session. I’m NOT a tidy person but the one place I make an exception is my desk.
Then, grab all the stationery and study materials you’ll need as well as a drink and some snacks (I’m currently eating Skittles while writing this post!).
Finally, make yourself comfortable. Go to the bathroom, grab a lamp or get a cushion for your chair. This way, when you do sit down for some studying during the summer, you’re starting off on the right foot and setting yourself up for an awesome study session.
2. Make the most of your small blocks of time
I know my best studying happens during longer sessions of a few hours as I find it easier to get into the flow. But, studying while working full-time made for a bloody busy life so often I had to snatch 30 minutes here and there throughout my week. This practice has made me pretty good at being productive in short bursts.
If you have children, finding massive blocks of study time is more difficult. A lot of my clients with families say that it’s easier for them to find blocks of 20-30 minutes during nap time and in between activities, but it’s not so easy to actually be productive and get stuff done.
The first thing you need to do is make the time you are studying during the summer efficient. The simplest and quickest way to do this for most students is to GET RID OF YOUR DAMN PHONE! If you’ve only got 30 minutes to study and you spend ten of those on your phone, are you really gonna achieve much? Do whatever you need to do to remove your phone as a distraction. I set mine to Do Not Disturb and chuck it out of reach.
Commit to studying with intention and you’ll find it easier to stay focused AND you’ll complete your tasks in less time giving you more time for summer fun!
The best way to structure your study sessions is with the Pomodoro Technique which involves studying in intervals. The most common is 25 minutes of studying with a five-minute break...and then repeat. This technique will improve your focus during longer study sessions and will help you achieve SO MUCH MORE with the time you DO have. Here’s a blog post explaining the Pomodoro Technique in more detail.
3. Reward yourself with every study session
Rewards work. Reward a dog with treats and training becomes easier. The same works for humans. Rather than watch that Netflix show or eat that chocolate bar BEFORE you start studying, set it as a reward for AFTER you complete your study tasks.
Download some copies of my study session planner as there’s a section for you to plan your small post-study reward before you start studying.
Knowing you have a treat coming up will help you stay motivated and focused, and builds the habit of celebrating when you do the hard thing (studying) instead of the easy thing (sacking it off).
4. Change the scenery...but only if it’s worth it for your productivity
When the weather’s nice it seems like a good idea to move your studying outside. This may be a good method for studying during the summer for some of you but if you’re like me - not so much.
When I was revising for my A-Level exams aged 18 it was hot, hot, hot in the UK. I decided to move my maths revision outside so I could enjoy the sun. But after only about ten minutes I gave up and just sunbathed because the glare of the white pages was annoying and I was more comfortable lying down! (This is one of the 11,774 reasons I did so badly at Sixth Form!)
If studying in your garden, on your balcony or in your local park will improve your productivity - because you’re getting to enjoy the summer at the same time - go for it. If studying outside just means your study tasks are taking you longer, don’t do it. Instead, focus on the other steps in this post so you can complete your studying in less time, THEN you can go out and enjoy the wonders of mother nature.
5. Work on your priorities first
This is a big mistake I see a lot of students making without realising. Most to-do lists are poor ways of planning your time because they don’t split your tasks into priority tasks and nice-to-have tasks. We work our way through our lists, often leaving the more difficult ones to the end. At the weekend, you then have to turn down fun plans because the important stuff isn’t done yet.
Make your studying during the summer easier by working on your priority tasks first. Focus on the tasks relating to upcoming essays and exams first and then, once they’re complete, move onto the less-important tasks. That way, if something does come up later in the week, there’s a much higher chance you can say yes AND still make progress.
And don't forget to sign up to my resource library and grab alllll my best resources to help you save time each week, improve your study skills and achieve the grades you've always wanted.