8 tips on how to study effectively while on vacation
Have you ever had to study, take exams or complete homework whilst on vacation?
I happily booked all my hotels and bought all my train tickets etc before I checked my course schedule. Out of 7 weeks of lessons+exams, 3 of those co-incided with my vacation. GROAN.
As if it couldn’t get any worse – my final exams co-incided with the last leg of my trip in London. Meaning that I’d have to spend a good two days researching and writing 4 essays and an online MCQ exam. To ace the MCQ you have to know most of the content at your fingertips, which meant I had to spend time doing extra revisions on my trip. (No, I didn’t do that in the end)
Whilst I’d have preferred not having to study AT ALL when I was vacationing, turns out, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. You just need to figure some things out and make tiny adjustments along the way.
So if you have an upcoming trip where you’d be lugging around textbooks and homework, I’ve got some tips for you.
Have a plan
Yup. I guess you can’t really run away from planning! I don’t mean that you have to have each day planned down to the exact minute, but having a general feel of when you’d be out sightseeing etc and when you might have more free time helps.
There are a couple of things to pay attention to:
- The number of tasks, lectures and assignments you have to complete each week
- Type of tasks you have. Quizzes, lecture notes to read or listen to, research papers to read etc.
- How much prep work you need for each. I.E. Lecture notes just require you to read them, with no prep, whereas quizzes require a certain level of revision and prep work
My school releases new content each Tuesday. These would consist of online lectures, compulsory online class discussions, quizzes and research papers to read. The combination might differ each week. Some weeks had lectures that were extremely content heavy, so I took that into account too.
I then batched similar items together.
Lecture note readings were batched together, so was the prep work for quizzes/online discussions.
I’d also switch things up when I got too bored with one thing. I tend to get restless with too much readings, so I might pair it with say, some prep work for my quizzes.
Take note of your energy levels
You’d want to reserve your best mood/energy times for sightseeing. There would be other times when you’d prefer something less physical and would prefer lazing around in your room or in a cafe.
I think those are the best times to study.
When I was in Madrid, I timed my study sessions according to the meal times of restaurants and the weather outside.
Temperatures usually hit 33 degrees around 12noon/1pm and would climb steadily til about 40 at 7 or 8pm. I’d usually be outside before and after these times and in my room studying when the temperatures outside were too unbearable for me. Meal times are different in Spain as well – tends to be later than others – so I’d study intensively for 2 hours, go out for a quick bite nearby and then return to carry on.
So know the city you are in, the things you are affected by and how your energy levels differ during the day.
Adjusting your sleep schedule
Depending on your sleep habits, you might need to make small sacrifices and probably sleep a little later or a wake up earlier than you usually would. This also gives you some time to yourself if you are travelling with others.
As I was staying with friends on some parts of my London trip, I’d arrange reading times after they went to bed and when they were out of the house.
If you are travelling with or staying with others, it might help to inform them that you might need some time alone here and there just to get things done.
Ensure you can access all your materials anywhere
Before you leave for your trip, make a list of the study materials you’d need. Laptop? Notes? Files? Stationery?
Make a list and then discard those that aren’t necessary. You still want to travel light.
I usually print out my notes so that I can highlight and refer to them whenever I could. I prefer hard copies of things. But I just couldn’t afford to do it on this trip as there was way too much content which meant I had to lug around 500 pages worth of notes.
Instead, I chose to lug around a laptop and a thumbdrive. So that I could still do my work wherever I went – cafe, train, plane, airport, whatever.
I also took photos of important pages in my textbooks so that I could leave them behind. The photos were saved on my phone/google drive and were accessible anywhere.
Do not assume that stable, accessible internet connection is available everywhere
This is a continuation of the previous point.
The reason why I used a thumb drive mostly and took photos of important pages and notes was cause internet just wasn’t that readily available everywhere.
Coming from a very connected country I assumed that it was, which was rather presumptuous of me really.
Free wifi in cafes, trains, airports etc weren’t always stable and worse, I couldn’t even connect to the network on many of them. In the earlier parts of my trip, I saved lots of reading material into Dropbox and was super pleased with myself, assuming I could just whip out my phone, open up the app and read my stuff anywhere.
Sometimes even the hotels I was staying at had poor wifi connection and I couldn’t get any work done.
So, ensure your study materials are always available to you and you aren’t dependent on external factors like WiFi etc to access them.
Make use of commutes and wait times
One of my favourite hacks.
All the time you spend sitting around waiting for people to appear or food to arrive; or sitting on a plane/bus/train, is a great time to whip out your stuff and get to work.
I got the majority of my work done this way, freeing up a lot of my time to go explore with a peace of mind.
Of course it helps if you have your materials with you all the time. So, I’d save my readings as offline dropbox files before I leave my hotel and read them in the cafe whilst having my post-lunch coffee.
You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in 20 minutes.
The last tip is really to just be flexible about your study schedule, listen to your body and go with the flow.
If you’re exhausted after a late night but had initial plans to wake up early to study, then try to look for alternative slots to study instead.
There were plenty of times I had to toss my study plans out the window cause I was either too tired or just not feeling it.
It’s ok to make changes. Don’t feel guilty if you have to do so. Vacations are meant for fun and rest. Pushing yourself to study when you are not in the mood to do so isn’t the way to go.
So listen to what your body is telling you, be ready to make changes to your study plans and have fun!
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With 10 years of experience as a Researcher (MSc) in Psychology, Neuroscience, Mental Health, Consumer and Organisational Behaviour; I help action-oriented, time-strapped people and solopreneurs crush their inner critics, navigate toxic workplaces and relationships and build their self-esteem so that you can have the freedom, happiness and confidence you desire. I spend the rest of my time daydreaming and downing cups of tea/coffee – my life’s vice.