The holiday season is officially here. Whether you are party planning, Christmas shopping, or preparing to entertain that extended family you forgot you had, the holidays are meant to be a time of relaxation and joy. But the holidays can also be a time of significant stress – especially if you are preparing for the EPPP.
Last year we posted a three part series, How to Continue EPPP Study over the Holidays, where we touched on how to maintain balance, stay productive and enjoy the holidays. We posed the question; is it possible to stay productive in your EPPP studies and enjoy time with family during the busy holiday season?
The answer to this question is yes. However, in order to make the most of the holiday season and continue progressing with your EPPP studies, it is important to beware of the five most common pitfalls to holiday studying.
Mistake #1: Studying Too Much or Not at All
The tendency to study too much or not at all are two sides of the same unhealthy coin. Spending all of your time studying can rob you of time spent enjoying the holidays while saving all of your studying for after the holidays can ultimately lead to over study. In our earlier article ‘How to Continue EPPP Study Over the Holidays (Part 1)‘ we make the point: “Because of how the brain works, studying little and often is better than intensive concentrated study punctuated by days of no work at all.”
Studying during the holidays is never going to be the most productive time. At TSM our program is designed for the kind of flexibility you need during the holidays. With our online tools you can specify how many hours each week you can dedicate to studying whether it is 45 minutes or two hours per day.
Mistake #2: Letting Time Pass Without a Plan
It is common to enter the holidays without a study plan. What this ends up looking like is distracted studying paired with distracted family time. For example, without a plan you might be thinking about all of the studying you should be doing while you are enjoying time by the Christmas tree. And when you get the chance at time away from family, you might find yourself unable to completely concentrate on your EPPP prep work due to feeling guilty for skipping out on festivities.
To avoid letting time pass without a plan, be deliberate with your schedule. Block out the days when you know it will be impossible to study. On the days you have time to study, get it done in the mornings so you have the rest of the day to enjoy the holidays.
Mistake #3. Getting Distracted
It isn’t lack of time that makes holiday studying so difficult; rather, the real difficulty comes in the form of distraction. Between preparation, parties, and out of town visitors it can be difficult to find a distraction-free environment.
Though it might be tough, we recommend finding some seclusion wherever possible when you fit in those hours of study. It can be a local coffee shop or sitting your parked car. This will allow you to concentrate on your EPPP prep as well as be fully present when you are around loved ones.
Although seclusion is key to getting away from outside distractions, there are still plenty of distractions in your head to deal with. Perhaps you suddenly remember something you forgot to pick up at the store or you remember last minute arrangements you needed to make. These thoughts can overcrowd your short-term memory, leaving less room to remember the important information you are studying. In our article ‘How to Develop an EPPP Course of Study Over the Holidays (Part 2)‘, we gave some specific tips for dealing with these types of mental distractions:
“During your holiday studies, keep a pad of paper on hand. As things come to mind, write them down on the paper and then forget about it and return immediately to your studies. The act of committing a thought to paper is enormously helpful in freeing the brain to no longer feel the need to hold onto that.”
Mistake #4: Ignoring the holidays
One mistake many students make is to simply ignore the holidays. However, the last thing you want to do is miss out on the holiday because of your EPPP studies. Missing out on the holiday not only means passing up festivities that happen only once a year, but it also denies your brain of much needed rest periods, which are good for retention.
Rest periods allow your brain to organize and store the information that you have learned. It is during rest that your brain lets knowledge “sink in.” By leaving a thought or an issue and coming back to it later, you are giving your brain time to process the information and make room for more. You have probably experienced your brain process and store information when you decide to “clear your head.” For example, have you ever been stuck on a difficult EPPP practice problem and find that you can solve it more easily after taking a walk or coming back to it the next day? This is because you have given your brain the time to put away what you have given it.
In order to effectively rest, allow yourself to enjoy the holiday during your times off of studying. As we touched on in ‘How to Develop an EPPP Course of Study Over the Holidays (Part 3)‘, try to avoid thinking about your study sessions when you are participating in holiday activities and use that restful time to connect with the family you might not have seen for a while.
Mistake #5. Over-commitment
Typically I encourage optimism. However, being overly optimistic about your productivity or family time might cause feelings of failure. For example, expecting to have the same study routine you would normally have could leave you discouraged and disappointed if you are traveling or have visitors coming to town leaving you with less opportunity to study. On the other hand, as mentioned in my second mistake, don’t leave your study materials in your suitcase to spend every minute wrapped up in holiday festivities. Instead, let your family in on what your study schedule is like.
Invite your family to hold you accountable to the hours you are able to study. Giving them a role in your studies will allow them to give you the time, space, and permission to study. Because they feel some responsibility for your productivity they are more likely to provide you with the time and seclusion you need to dedicate to EPPP preparation over the holiday. The act of holding you accountable to your studies inevitably holds them accountable to respecting your set aside hours by not interrupting them or making plans that intersect.
Making your family aware of and involved in your schedule will let them know you respect and appreciate the time they have set aside for you and will give them the opportunity to respect your time as well. Moreover, having some accountability will motivate you to stick to the schedule you have planned.