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It’s no secret that procrastination has ensnared us all at some point. The resultant dysregulation and stress then press us to react, so we “cram,” or as the 2012 UCLA Newsroom article, “Cramming for a test? Don’t Do It” suggests, fruitlessly fight our way out of our self-made trap by studying just before an exam and then follow up with an obligatory prayer to the gods above that we’ll never put off our responsibilities again if only the information we’ve inhaled at the last moment will miraculously spare us from disastrous failure.

Sadly, cramming or “binge” studying is a high risk, low yield gamble. The question isn’t if, but when it will wipe us out.  Harvard Magazine’s 2009 article, “Learning by Degrees,” among other educational sources, advises the “Spacing Effect” as a strategy to alleviate test anxiety and foster genuine learning. “When you present and repeat information over intervals of time [as opposed to ‘binges’], you can increase the uptake of knowledge…And it’s encoded in ways that cause it to be preferentially retained.” Furthermore,  Psychology Today’s Dr. Nate Kornell’s article, “Study Better: Space It Out and Mix It Up,” emphasizes, “You don’t necessarily have to study more, you just have to distribute your study time differently.” In essence, allow some time to pass between receiving the information and reviewing it, but review it multiple times over a period of time nonetheless. So if most professionals agree, why are proficient study skills so difficult to implement for some of us?

Time management craftily eludes us yet again! Cumulative review requires “spacing,” and consistent studying of new material, which consumes our precious time and effort. So where do we begin?

With the basics- a daily to-do list or weekly calendar. The College Board’s “8 Ways to Take Control of Time” concisely simplifies the first step: ”Put the most important tasks at the top, even if they’re things you’re dreading, and tackle them first.” Whether we’re students, teachers or other professionals, effective time management is critical to penciling in everything from playtime to “spaced education.”

Tip of the Day: Try printing out a free online daily to-do list image with hourly time increments or downloading a to do list app on your phone (if you’re willing to sign up and create an account) such as Smartsheet.

Then color code (blue, yellow, green) tasks such as studying as “priority,” “moderate” and “maybe.” For example, highlight and label Cumulative Review Math from 9am- 10am as “priority” and identify eating out with friends from 6pm-7pm as “maybe.”

If daily to-do lists aren’t your thing, maybe a weekly schedule is. Mapping out times and days on a google or desk calendar works for many. Some of us may even find a simple list on a notepad sufficient.

Regardless of the method, master your time and you will ensure that at the very least, you will begin to plan cumulative study time. From there, you are on the path to staving off the procrastination that threatens your progress.