November 03, 2016

How To Make the Most of Your Reading Week

Looking forward to Fall Reading Week? The Student Success Centre team shares their ideas on how to make the most of it. 

Fall Reading Week is only one year old and could not be more popular among students. Reading weeks are typically a time for catching up, planning ahead, and taking a break. All of us at the Student Success Centre want to remind you of how far you have come and offer some advice to make the most of this short break.

Take a minute to reflect on your semester so far.
September 1 - November 4 is 65 days. That is 66% of the semester, or nine weeks and two days, or 1560 hours. Take away one-third of those 65 days for sleep, and the remainder has been occupied with academics, work, family, socializing, and anything else you value. You have attended, listened, noted, reviewed, prepared, read, reflected, persevered, failed, succeeded, rebounded, tested, experimented, and practiced. And, you have arrived at Reading Week: nine days without classes (or 9% of the term).

Over the last 65 days, you have created your most powerful tool for this week: your momentum. Let’s look at some ways to maintain and build on that momentum for the 216 hours ahead.

Construct your own Stress-free Reading Week Plan.
Set aside an hour to plan out your week using the Stress-free Reading Week Plan. The aim of this plan is to prioritize one Catch-up Task, one Preparation Task, and one Treat Task each day. This will help you be productive, while also giving you the opportunity to recharge for the rest of the semester.
  1. Create a master list. Perform a “brain dump” of all the tasks you want/need to accomplish by the end of Reading Week. This means identifying those things you never got around to doing as well as taking stock of what’s coming up in each of your classes and what you need to do to prepare. Pull out each of your course outlines to see what you missed and what’s still to come. Next, add any additional upcoming tasks noted in your daytimer or monthly calendar. Don’t forget to include on this list activities that are treats, as well.
  2. Categorize. Sort your tasks into the 3 groups: Catch-up, Preparation, or Treat.
  3. Prioritize. Rank the tasks within each category according to their importance. You may wish to consider each task’s impact on your learning and/or grade, how much time and work are involved, and its urgency and due date.
  4. Schedule. Plug each of these tasks into a day on your calendar for the week, making sure to include at least one task from each group per day.
  5. Remind. Make sure to set alerts on your phone or calendar AND to keep a hard copy of the planning document somewhere you will see each day.
  6. Execute. Now, just follow your Stress Free Reading Week Plan, knowing that you have momentum on your side.

Our Suggestions
If you are having trouble brainstorming tasks, here are some suggestions to get you started:

Catch Up:
  • Read that assignment that got away from you during midterms. (See Mebbie’s article on Active Reading for tips on being effective.)
  • Ask someone for those notes you missed when you were sick.
  • Follow up with your professor about a less-than-satisfactory grade you received for feedback on how you can improve. Email to make an appointment. 
  • Spend some extra time this week reviewing course materials you have found most challenging. 
  • If any of your classes have required research participation, book it for this week if possible.

Plan for Exams:
  • Start preparing for an upcoming midterm or final by turning your lectures into mini-quizzes. This helps you to learn the material now, and gives the added benefit of creating a study guide to use closer to the Final Exam. 
  • Explore the SU’s exam registry. Practice exams taken under test conditions are helpful for preparing for the stress of an exam as well as for consolidating your learning. 
  • Set up a study group for one of your classes. This allows you to get your work done with company!
  • Create a monthly plan for November and December (see Mebbie’s Final Exam Planning article).

Prepare for Big Writing Projects:
  • Start by asking key questions: “What arguments should it contain, and what structure should it take?”
  • Have another look at the assignment sheet, grab a pen and paper, and start mapping out possible approaches.
    • Keep in mind that this structure will probably change, but even an early outline will help to inform a plan of attack: the sources you should read, the ideas you should explore, etc.
    • It will also give you something to discuss with your professor, in a personal meeting, before you start writing. That is bound to impress and give you a clearer path to success (see Rob’s article on Asking for Help with Your Writing).

Treat Yourself Well:
  • Check out the great activities happening across campus.
  • Plan your Winter Break travel and begin your holiday preparations. 
  • Come to campus to use the gym or try rock climbing.
  • Take a luxurious afternoon nap.
  • Connect with friends and family. 
  • Gather some friends to play laser tag, visit an escape room, see a movie, or while away an afternoon with board games.
Despite the more relaxed pace of Fall Reading Week, try not to disrupt your routine too much, especially your sleep routine (see Sharon’s article on the Art of Sleep).Your learning will benefit from regular study and consistent sleep throughout the 34% of the semester that remains!