Reading week is a one-week break where students can recharge and prepare for upcoming midterms. Some students choose to spend reading week similarly to winter break, and party and relax entirely. Since many midterm exams happen after reading week, this might lead to having a hard time trying to return to focus mode, and perhaps even to experience burnout. Others will treat this break as a midterm preparation week in which they spend countless hours studying, without taking some time to rest. These people might experience burnout from constant studying. In my experience I have found it best to achieve a balance by both relaxing and studying! Here are some ways students can strike a balance between relaxing and studying during the reading week.
Reflect on the last two months and plan upcoming months
Reading week is the best time for you to take a step back from an intense period of studying and reflect on yourself in the previous two months. You can start by asking yourself:
- “What did I do well during this term?”
- “What other areas do I need to improve on for upcoming months?”
- “How would I rate my performance [in school, work, or otherwise] this past month and why?”
Your answers do not have to be grammatically correct or make sense; they are just for your own reflection. Journaling down your thoughts will help you become more aware of your weaknesses and strengths and find a way to work on your weaknesses. Not only that, journaling about your thoughts and reflections can improve your well-being; it is a technique used by many to help organize and make sense of thoughts and experiences. When you write down your thoughts, you are letting all of your frustrations and happiness pour down onto that piece of paper. You will be more conscious and understanding of your own emotions, and can let your brain relax from all the stressful deadlines.
After writing down and reviewing all your thoughts, it’s time to plan out the upcoming months. You can start by looking at your weaknesses and set yourself several achievable SMART goals. In case you are not familiar with SMART goals, these are Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Relevant and Timely goals. You should make goals that are straight-forward and achieve it within this term. I would recommend checking out our Time Management Student Toolkit about how to effectively set your long-term and short-term goals.
Apply an organized and relaxing study routine
Even though reading week is only a one-week break, I recommend that you do not push yourself to study too hard or relax too much. Having a balanced relaxing and studying routine can help you avoid burnout.
You can start by having a short to-do list. Instead of having 10 different tasks lined up in my to-do lists, which can be overwhelming, I start by identifying up to 4 tasks per day during reading week. From my experience, it is more advisable to begin with easy tasks that use less brain energy such as washing your dishes or even making tea in the morning, as these can give you a sense of accomplishment and will boost your motivation for more challenging tasks.
Instead of going straight to doing a big assignment, you can start with small quizzes or catch up with readings. These small tasks will take less time for you to do and can motivate you to keep this productivity. I used to try to do long and more challenging assignments first and it was not a great time. I spent hours doing one single thing and ended up feeling super exhausted. That’s why I would recommend starting with easy tasks, so you can cross off those tasks immediately. For more resources on how to effectively build a to-do list, consider checking out our blog post about how to build to-do lists that could boost your productivity.
Try out different hobbies and RELAX!
Even though midterm and deadlines seasons are right after reading week, it is still important to keep in mind that reading week is designed to allow you some time to rest in the middle of the term. Instead of working hard 24 hours per day for seven days, take some time to rest and support your mental health to improve your overall well-being and improve your productivity. You can try different hobbies during the reading week such as making a new dish or trying out different genres of movies. Another thing you can do is to catch up with your friends. Due to the online learning environment, there are extra challenges when it comes to keeping in touch with friends. So why not take this short break to talk to your friends? You don’t have to meet them in person to call it a “catch-up”. It can be in many forms, such as a virtual game night or even movie night. I tried a virtual art hangout with my friend, and it was so nice catching up with her. We spent around five hours trying to paint only one picture but spent most of that time talking about random topics. And if you have done all of that and want to try out more hobbies, check out our blog posts for different ideas. One of our Chapman Learning Assistants, Tiffany, suggested a great idea of trying out the Mysterious Box Challenge where you are given a box of mystery ingredients every week to challenge yourself to create new dishes. If you think you are not a cooking expert, take a look at our recommended reading lists for Reading Week. There are so many hobbies you can try out during your downtime. Rather than stressing out too much on studying, finding new hobbies can help you shift the stress away and enjoy a more quality break.
Last but not least, HAVE FUN. Reading week is a week for you to take some time to relax and shift your focus away from intense studying sessions. During my first year, I mistakenly tried studying for exams during reading week. Instead of having a balanced study and relaxing plan, I focused my entire energy into catching up with courses and preparing for my midterms. At the end, I was exhausted from having little sleep and completely burned out from having no social life. So I would recommend you to not push yourself too hard and relax as much as possible.