The Finals Four

Story by Eric Larson

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A lot of people complain/tweet about finals week being the most stressful time of the semester (#wehavealldoneitonce). To be honest, though, I kind of disagree. Sure, exams — especially cumulative exams — are never a walk in the park. But overall, I don’t think the week is that bad: There are no classes, there’s time to sleep in, and, as a special perk to someone as cheap as me, there’s free coffee in the library (yes!).

In the five years I’ve spent here (or, as I like to call it, four years plus a victory lap), I’ve seen my fair share of finals weeks. And during my five-year stretch I’ve picked up on often over-looked tactics to making it through the week sanely and successfully.

It wasn’t easy: During my first semester I lost a class-full of study guides at finals time after my roommate drunkenly urinated on my backpack (#peoplewhosuck). But through the stress and soggy history books, I managed to make it through. I even took some notes along the way.

Below are four quick tips to making next week a little more bearable:

Facebook limitations

Yep … this one’s pretty obvious. If you’re like me, Facebook — despite being a remarkably innovative social media tool — is also a remarkably innovative distraction. I’ve often found myself logging in for a “quick break” from homework, only to snap back to reality two hours later, no smarter academically but well-advanced in my Farmville garden.

Thankfully, onetipaday.com offers a program to set a time-limit per day on any website you choose. Registration is easy: login to the website, enter the URL you’d like (in this case, www.facebook.com), set a time limit, and click “Please.” Voila! Limit per day set and distraction ELIMINATED.

You can cancel at any time, but for the sake of this column, I’d recommend leaving it up for the entire week.

Find a location to plant

“Way to plant, Ann!” Any “Arrested Development” fans out there? Hope so.

Anyway, another key to doing well is to find your own “study spot” — a place to return to again and again throughout the week. For some reason, it always seems to help when you choose one distinct spot to work. Whether it’s in the library, Davies, your house, dorm room or somewhere around town, pick a place that’s comfortable to you — and preferably quiet — and plant. You’ll become adapted to the environment and effective studying will ensue!

Keep your plant locale quiet

Admittedly, I found this next tip online, so I can’t take credit for it. Apparently it works, though!

If your chosen spot suddenly becomes bombarded by background noise (you know, that obnoxious girl talking on her cell phone about whether or not “Brad” from last weekend like-likes her, or the seemingly-oblivious-to-studying guys arguing over how many keg stands certify a “bro” status), you can politely ask them to keep it down a bit. How so? You can always flat-out ask them to be quiet, but that rarely works, as it will most likely stir up hostility and a vengeful desire to keep talking.

According to Kelly C. Roell, a certified lecturer and self-proclaimed “motivation cheerleader,” the best method is to instead outsmart your distracters by humbly reciting the following: “You might get upset with me for saying this, but I’m having a tough time concentrating on my work.” Then, she says, smile your most pathetic smile.

Doing so, says Roell, will put you in a very vulnerable position, because it causes the noise-maker to remedy an initially angry response — who wants to kick someone who’s already down?

Passive aggressive (and a little pathetic)? Most definitely. But effective? Roell seems to think so. And in relation to every other method of getting people to pipe down, she says, this seems to work best (note: you may want to start rehearsing your speech in the mirror).

Therapy dogs

Do you like dogs? How about fluffy, adorable ones that are trained to promote relaxation and a stress-free environment? You do? Cool — me too!

Therapy Dogs International will be bringing their collection of cute canines to the library next week for students to visit (#awwwwwwww). The dogs — known as “therapy and leader” dogs — will be on the first floor on Monday at 6 p.m. and Wednesday at 5 p.m.

The Therapy Dogs International website says the dogs have a “remarkable temperament” and will gladly be petted, played with and adored by students wishing to take a break from studying. Not a bad way to forget about that darn periodic table, I’d say — even if only for a few minutes.

So there you have it. Set a time-limit to your Facebook, find a place to plant, passive-aggressively ensure it’s quiet and visit the therapy dogs when you get stressed. It’s not perfect, but hopefully it will make your week (at least a little) less stressful.

If all else fails, just drink tons of caffeine.

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