This is my final year here at the U of A and I’ve handled my time as I feel most students’ have - with general confusion and bursts of both productivity and procrastination. Will I sleep this week? Who knows! Will I put everything off and blissfully manage to get good grades regardless? It's a gamble really.
I’ll be honest, that method prioritizing works because it’s adaptable. As long as you have a good sense of the responsibilities you have and the deadlines of each, you’re left with enough room to tweak the small stuff (a.k.a. sleep). But, we’ve all been told that this isn’t the way to get by and to do your best in university. There are plenty of studies out there that suggest different habits and routines that will allow us to become the quote unquote “perfect student.”
So! I’ve taken it upon myself to try out a few of these studies – specifically three of them: optimal sleep hours, the ideal amount of exercise, and the perfect study schedule.
I gave myself three weeks to follow their guidelines to see if they’ll actually help me to survive as a fully functioning human being.
Before I get started though, it’s important to know my loose definition of “the perfect student.” For now, I’m using the very loose view that they should be a happy, healthy individual who is successful in their coursework and extra extracurricular activities. Now, on to the studies!
The ideal amount of sleep is: Over 8 hours
I have problems sleeping well so hopefully this will help… if not though, I’m counting the hours of me lying in bed staring at the ceiling as sleep time, just to meet the quota.
The ideal amount of exercise is: 2-3 hours a week of moderate exercise
Since I am a regular at the gym and am used to approximately 5 hours in the gym a week, I’ll be sticking to that, in order to give the most accurate results across the board – in case students who don’t already work out or who do so less frequently than me are hoping to apply these results to their own lives.
The ideal amount of study time is: About 17 hours per week
I realize that programs are different in their demands and those with labs etc. might require more time, but I tried to get the median here – and if we’re being honest I might normally only study about 5 hours a week, if that (let’s just pretend I’m good at what I study), so this is going to be the biggest challenge for me.
Extra "Things", including class time, extra curricular, and self care hours
In class time is generally 15 hours a week.
As for extra curricular hours, I’ve accounted for an hour of soccer (not included in workout time because I like to make myself suffer) and volunteer hours (which vary per week).
Self Care: Of course this wasn’t mentioned in studies, but I’m counting on 3 hours a week of self-care, either yoga, reading (non-required), watching Netflix, hanging out with friends, bubble baths, naps or wine drinking. You do you.
My Experimental Schedule
At first glance you might be thinking, “Wow this chick has zero social life!” Correct - kind of. I have good friends in all of my courses so I get my social time in class and if I’m lucky my friends will come work out with me or will meet up during class breaks. As far as a nightlife goes, that had to be sacrificed for the sleep quota of eight hours, but I gave myself one night a week for festivities.
I don’t really feel like I’ve changed much around yet since going to the gym has already been a regular part of my schedule. As for study hours, I’ve just been putting them in here and there so it hasn’t been as hard as I was expecting, 17 hours looks like a lot but I’ve only been dong about 2-5 hours per day with more on the weekends, and that adds up quickly. I definitely feel tired though, I’ve been meaning to wake up around my usual time at 6 but on days where I don’t go to the gym before class I can’t help but hit the snooze about 20 times. I feel really guilty afterwards but can’t seem to motivate myself to do anything very productive in that time. Not a great feeling, especially when I set out to accomplish this. Next week I will focus on making those mornings count!
5 Hours of gym / physical activity
1 Hour of extra curricular
2 Hours of self-care (yoga & Netflix)
17 Hours of studying
8 Hours of sleep a night – I’m in bed on time, but have not been able to fall asleep no matter how tired I am (hence the tougher mornings). I’m averaging about 6 hours of sleep a night instead.
At the start of the week I was feeling really anxious all the time, even waking up in the middle of the night because I felt like I needed to get something, anything, done. All these unintentional late nights have caught up with me and I caught some mean kind of stomach bug, setting me back even further from my goals.
2 Hours of physical activity (which is below my norm. I don’t feel guilty about this because too many times I’ve worked out sick and put myself in the hospital – mainly because I have the immune system of a child- so I don’t mess around with sickness, you’ve got to let your body rest!)
1 Hour of extra curricular
2 Hours of self-care (painting & writing)
6 Hours of studying (It was so painful trying to study extra hours when I could hardly keep my eyes focused on the research, but with the fall break ahead, I’ll make up for these missed hours. Unlike the gym, I feel really guilty about the lack of hours here.)
8 Hours of sleep a night (I probably surpassed this since I was napping a lot)
Because this week was Fall Reading Week, I had no problem at all fitting in all the extra studying hours I needed as well as plenty of self-care time and gym time. Despite that, I still haven’t managed to shake the feeling that I’m not doing enough, or am not busy enough, and on a few occasions I had to get out of bed at 12 a.m. to keep working on projects because I just couldn’t sleep with that feeling of uselessness-and would still wake up at 8 anyway. So sleep has suffered this week, and because of that I feel myself catching a cold again.
5 hours of physical activity
1 hour of extra curricular
2 hours of self-care
25 hours of studying
6 hours of sleep a night (or less)
Have my marks gone up? Yes.
Do I feel well physically? Yes.
Am I well rested? Definitely not.
Am I content overall, and in good mental health? Yes and no; I accept that there is only so much that I can do in a day, but the anxiety of not getting enough done has only resulted in me not being able to sleep – making me less productive in the long run. I now have to re-wire my brain to allow myself to be content with the work that I’ve put in.
While I must agree that there are always areas that can be improved upon in any student’s schedule, I can’t say that following studies is the best way to go about doing that. The best way to improve anything in your life is to listen to what your mind and body need, as well as making yourself aware of the aspects of your routine that are and are not working in your favour. By being open to change and allowing yourself to operate on your needs alone (not based on studies or what other students are doing), you will be far more likely to succeed.
Paige is a fourth year BA student with a double major in French and Spanish. She is passionate about anything cultural (especially cuisine) and loves to travel anywhere new. Her hobbies include feeling guilty for taking naps but doing it anyways, watching old French films, and running long distance.