Almost everyone I know under the age of 25 is doing some sort of educational studying at the moment, whether it be scrambling to finish a thesis, polishing up coursework, or buckling down for exams.
I’m firmly in the ‘buckling down for exams’ category. I know that preparation is key to me keeping my anxiety down (though of course it will never cure it) which means really putting in the hours pouring over textbooks and course material.
But I don’t want to do this at the expense of reading for pleasure.
Over the years, I’ve gathered a few tricks and loopholes to help with this problem and so I thought I’d compile a list to see if any of these could help someone else struggling at this awful time of year.
1. Admit you are not going to read as much.
For some people, their reading speed or number of books doesn’t fluctuate no matter how much effort they put into their studies. I assume if you’re reading this blogpost, however, you may not fit into this category. If this is the case, the most important piece of advice I can give is to admit that you may not be able to read the same number of books you do when the educational pressure is off.
I’ve neglected this before and as I’ve dived into studying, the longer I go without reading only makes me more stressed. If you’re a book reviewer or avid reader, you may feel like you have to reach a certain number of books each month or you’ve failed.
That’s wrong. You don’t owe anyone anything and if you know you need to spend that extra hour before bed going over that last component, then do it without guilt. Books will always wait for you, and you set your own pace.
Audiobook always seem to make it onto these ‘read more’ lists but I thought I’d expand a little on how audiobooks can specifically help during exam season. For me, when I’ve spent a lot of time studying, I get tension headaches and eye strain. This can range from extremely mild fatigue-like symptoms, to just having to go to bed in the middle of the day and try again tomorrow. The latter is really the one you want to avoid on the home straight to finals.
That’s where audiobooks come in. Instead of just listening to audiobooks on commutes or while doing things around the house, when I have a study break, I lie down, close my eyes, and put on an audiobook. Technically, I could read a physical book as my hands are free, but this break for my eyes really has helped with my stamina when it comes to both studying and reading.
I also always feel more refreshed when I return to studying after an audiobook-filled break than if I physically read. Looking after your body is even more difficult when you’re stressed about school but using audiobooks has, for me, helped me manage this a little more.
Short books are a beautiful thing. Sometimes when you’ve spent all day taxing yourself with intense studying, the sight of a 1000+ page book on your bedside table really doesn’t look all that appealing. I organised my bookshelf so that one shelf holds my shortest books, and seeing that pile makes me feel a lot more optimistic about reading than Les Miserables would.
It would also help with your reading challenge if that’s what you enjoy using, as those can be damaged by studying.
Everyone’s reading tastes are unique, and so I don’t think it’s universal to recommend just one specific genre to read. A comfort-genre is, I think, a good compromise.
For example, my comfort genre is either YA contemporary, or (as I’m discovering through Anna-Marie McLemore) magical realism. These are the genres that I can just inhale-read, that I don’t have to think too hard about, and ones I can dip in and out of. This provides a refreshing break from heavy revision.
For you, perhaps that comfort genre could be fantasy, or thrillers, or horror, or romance. Just think which books you’ve read fit into the criteria above, and see if they share a genre in common.
This is less of a ‘how to read more’ rather a ‘how to use books to study more’ but I thought I’d include it anyway. For a lot of us, we have a finish line. Whether that be the date of our last exam, or presentation day, or coursework deadline, or interview, we have something to work towards.
For us bookish people, the promise of good books can be a powerful incentive to get to that finish line. For me, I have a shelf of books I’m going to read after the 15th June, and over my summer of freedom. These include: The Belles, Wild Beauty, A Little Life, A Reaper at the Gates, and Leah on the Offbeat.
Just seeing them on my shelf gives me that push of excitement and motivation. Soon, my loves. Soon.
And there’s the end of my list! I may do another of these if I think of more, but I’ll leave you with this:
You don’t owe anyone. You are in control of your reading, you are in control of your studying. Finding the balance can be difficult, but you can do it. Take breaks and fill it with the things you love, whether that be reading or not.
We can get through.
If you have any tips for reading more during exam season, let me know in a comment and we can chat! Also, if you have a similar blog post, drop the link!
I believe in you.
Until the next one,