Hi @Vindace! Absolutely loved your question, as it got me to thinking as well.
Brief exposition of my current life for context
I’m enrolled in Psychology at a very demanding private college in Brazil. While Brazilian education is notoriously known for its shortcomings, my college seems to still be holding onto its railings in a sea of budget cuts and governmental missteps. With that being said, I’m currently writing my TCC (roughly: “End of Course Paper”). It’s a paper you must write after passing all your mandatory classes in order to state to the world “this is what I’ve learned from these 5 years of slow death, please graduate me before I suicide.” I’ll share my strategies with you, and hope at least one of them comes handy!
Technical writing is hard, period. You can ease the pain, though. I don’t want to make this post super long, for your sake as well as mine
# haha I failed. With that in mind, I’ll blend what works for STUDYING as well as what works for WRITING. You can’t write what you don’t know or don’t remember, so these two walk hand-in-hand.
What works – for almost everyone
# Seriously, I got science to back me up.
Spaced Repetition // source
Spaced repetition is an evidence-based learning technique that is usually performed with flashcards. Newly introduced and more difficult flashcards are shown more frequently while older and less difficult flashcards are shown less frequently in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect. The use of spaced repetition has been shown to increase rate of learning.
A fun and interactive way you can read more about it in ~20 minutes:
– How I do it
I use a really handy, clear and easy-to-use software I discovered recently! It’s called
Mochi. https://mochi.cards/ // Available for: Windows, Linux & Mac. Free without cloud save.
It’s super intuitive and comes with a guide. If you’re INTERESTED and have any trouble at all or questions, let me know. Nicky should have you cover with the game I linked above, though.
Timeboxing // source
In time management, timeboxing allocates a fixed time period, called a timebox, within which planned activity takes place. It is employed by several project management approaches and for personal time management.
– How I do it
Just grab your phone or a clock or really anything that has a timer function and set a time for how long you’ll be writing your paper. Don’t set it for 2 hours, but for 30 minutes – or 25, which is how the famous Pomodoro technique works.
I leave my phone on airplane mode, turn off the internet on my computer if must be, and simply write. Once I head the ding! I get up, stretch, go to the bathroom and take a brief break and resume my clock.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated, go to the toilet often, don’t check on social media or other distracting things, stretch and write when you don’t have a billion other things to do.
Let me explain: if you got a pile of dishes in the sink, your dog needs to go for a walk and you still haven’t done the laundry, hurry and get those done so they don’t keep setting “you’ve still haven’t done your chores!” alarms in your head. When possible, that is.
Additionally, I find that having a reasonably tidy desk/workspace helps.
What works for me
– I’m a software nut, so I really can’t type in a banana. Tell me to write my paper on Notepad and I’ll bloody stab you with my fountain pen. I use Typora for focus, LibreOffice for formatting & spellchecking and JotterPad on my phone – desperate times call for desperate measures. I made a list of several suggestions of software for writing over here.
– Quit reading and start writing. My ScienceDirect account is more bloated than my father after Thanksgiving. I’m currently scourging the Journal of Environmental Psychology like some kind of rabid possum and some times I just really need to sit back, slap myself and say “you’ve read enough. Time to actually write.”
– Studying outside of my house. I purposely keep my portable computer with few games installed and loaded-up with my favorite productivity software. My gaming PC has too many games and cool things to distract me, so stepping out to the nearest library or coffee shop really helps me focus.
What doesn’t work
# Alright, this is mostly my experience, but I dare you to tell me these are good practices
– Sitting down for several hours straight and typing like a madman
That sweet knee popping when you get up to rush to the bathroom with a full bladder is not doctor-approved. Space your stuff. Write in bursts. Stretch. Pee.
– Checking on Instagram, Chrono.gg and talking on the phone with your SO while you write
‘Multitasking’ is a silly trend, fight me. What are the things that usually distract you the most? Take note of them, and take them out of your writing routine. Pair that with Timeboxing and avoid distractions when you’re set to do your stuff. There is no ‘multitasking’ in ‘writing my essay’ – really, I tried.
– Making ‘extra hours’ and denying yourself sleep
Don’t. Go the f*ck to sleep.
– Not exercising because you only need to write 'one more paragraph’
The day’s beautiful outside, take a stroll and then get back to writing. Especially when you have writer’s block, taking a break is the absolute best cure.
When you can, get a second pair of eyes.
Personally, I have two very bad habits: rereading and perfecting my prose. Together, that makes for really stylish writing that sounds good but that might have a bunch of typos because I read the passage so many times I can’t see my own mistakes anymore.
A second pair of eyes does two things for you:
- Lets you know how your writing sounds to a first-time reader – does it flow? Is it clear?
- Lets you know that you wrote “though” instead of “tough” – maybe this is a non-native thing but boy do I do it frequently and proudly ye-haw.
So don’t forget to get someone else’s opinion other than your own after you write big chunks of text!
# You rock, you can do this! You just gained: +1 faith and +1 knowledge.