Banish fear and find your focus.

Midterms are stressful at best and terrifying at worst. Let’s admit it, we steel ourselves, gather willpower and resolve to wake up early to study for the midterms. The reality? Even the best of us end up hitting snooze, lazing around for a couple of hours, panic-studying for an hour in the evening and then giving up. We then resolve yet again to “sleep early” (aka scroll on TikTok in bed) and “start fresh” the next day. Been there? Well, me too, and I’ve gotten tired of my procrastination, especially during exam season.

A cartoon character saying he didn't do any of the things he planned.

This got me thinking about better strategies to stay disciplined and focused during exams. It got me thinking about all my classmates who swear by studying on campus. Had they figured out a worthy hack that might help bad ol’ me? I decided to give it a shot, and instead of heading to the learning commons area, I picked IGNITE’s Zen Zone. The Zen Zone at Lakeshore is located on the lower level of IGNITE’s K Building and operates from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

Why pick this spot? I wanted someplace quiet on campus that also offered some distraction during breaks (unfortunately people-watching in the L isn’t my jam). After all, taking small breaks is essential to effective studying and learning new things, research shows. My week-long trial has been satisfying, to say the least. The quiet, cozy nature of the space was comforting, while the dedicated study area and campus environment made me feel more focused. Here are some takeaways:

My breaks were short and sweet.

A mini meditation garden.

At home, the distractions were endless. Do I smell my housemate cooking? Of course I should go fix myself a meal too (likely my 100th snack of the day!). And then, obviously, I need to watch Netflix while I eat, just twenty minutes tops. Uh oh, it’s 5:34 p.m… I might as well watch it until 6:00 pm now. Yada yada yada… you get the gist.

At the Zen Zone though, I set a silent alarm on my phone and spent my break either colouring on the adult colouring books, landscaping a mini garden or even just sipping on a cup of tea. These distractions were soothing but not excessively entertaining, allowing me to stick to ALL my planned break times. This got me studying for midterms with a lot more consistency and helped me cover the chapters I’d planned to (an incredible feat).

Seeing other students study was a boost.

Students studying at desks.

Unlike studying by my lonesome at home (midterms are always a time that everyone else seems to make the most exciting plans) the Zen Zone was highly motivating. Like me, countless other students came in to study judiciously. Seeing their dedication and motivation, as well as a few cathartic conversations venting about exams, was incredibly helpful in keeping me focused.

What’s more, I asked along a friend to join me in the middle of the week, and it was amazing. In fact, studying with a few friend can have many benefits. Not understanding a concept and having no one around to help can be very frustrating. A major benefit of studying in a group is being able to ask classmates if something doesn’t make sense.  Be careful though: two’s a company, three’s a crowd. If you ask along too many friends, things can quickly turn into a distraction rather than aid your preparation.

My brain knew it was study time. I swear.

I don’t know the science behind it, but my brain just knew it had to suck it up and study when I used the Zen Zone. Perhaps it associated being on campus and studying: often, our brains associate things with studying and when you’re in the same situation or environment, it makes it easier to study. For example, if you love doing math while listening to music, playing some tunes might actually help you solve questions better.

Whatever the reason, I found it infinitely easier to stay focused and tick off chapters once I was on campus. On the weekend after, when I tried to focus at home and study in the same manner, I just couldn’t. If you typically stay focused during class and enjoy lectures, perhaps just being on campus may trick all those pesky neurons into studying with more compliance.

I didn’t spend my breaks scrolling.

A woman holding out a colouring book smiling.

Taking breaks at the Zen Zone felt holistic. I used my phone and socials infrequently, a contrast to what I’d have done at home. Instead, I took walks on campus and even tried the meditation area. Some days I even visited the Sleep Lounge next door and took catnaps to boost my memory.

My favourite part though (as a self-proclaimed has-been childhood artist) was the adult colouring book. Selecting from countless colours available and filling in beautiful designs was so therapeutic and relaxing, I could do it for hours! There was something very satisfying about seeing my progress on the page after each break, bit by bit. It’s something I highly recommend.

Overall, I enjoyed my week of studying for midterms in the Zen Zone. Did it pay off? I don’t know about the marks yet, yikes, but I felt more focused without a doubt. Give it a shot for the next batch of exams and tag us on socials to let us know if it worked (don’t tell us if it didn’t… jk).

Are you looking for zen in other areas of your life too? Check out our article on how you can transform your personal space to offer you more peace and comfort.

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