Nothing takes the edge off of finals week like 1,000 calories of caffeinated sugar and syrup. Photo by flickr user D’Arcy Norman

We start off our Finals Week Prep feature with a classic: rewarding yourself for studying. The idea is self-explanatory: you study for a little while, and then reward yourself for distraction-free studying.

The Psychology

While it would be great to be able to be 100% productive all the time, the human brain tends to get distracted. Rewarding yourself for studying is a good way to force yourself to stay focused. There are several non-finals week methods for staying on track and capping off short bursts of productivity with a reward. These all fall under different names such as 50/10 (50 minutes of work, 10 minutes of reward) or 10 2*5 (10 minutes of productivity, 2 minutes of reward, repeated 5 times).

So don’t feel guilty about popping a chocolate or squeezing in a round of Modern Warfare 2 during the week, just make sure it’s proportional to the amount you’re studying.

Pick Your Pattern

Different majors and different lifestyles will be conducive to different methods of rewards. If you tend to lose focus quickly and consider Facebook a reward, choose a time-base system, probably 10 2*5.

If you like to stick to a 9-5 schedule, consider rewarding yourself with a going to a movie or doing something out and about after full day’s work. I would recommend against drinking too much, since that will affect your studying schedule the next day.

Whatever pattern you pick, don’t forget to reward yourself. You always the have time to be selfish, and don’t postpone those opportunities because you’re crunched!

Choosing a Good Reward

So what makes a good reward? Something that makes you happy, obviously. Your brain might be cramped thinking about organic chemistry, though, so we’ve got some suggestions.

  • Fancy Food Item or Drink: Think like some nice dark chocolate or a cup of coffee from a pricey cafe. Warning: don’t go overboard with the caffeine intake, you don’t want to mess up your sleep schedule.
  • One Round in a Video/Board Game: And make sure it’s just one. I made the mistake of picking up Modern Warfare 2 last week. It’s very difficult to play “just one” round of that game. Nothing relieves stress like going 20-and-1 on a round.
  • Take a Stroll: I’ve been becoming a bigger fan of the destinationless walk to blow off some steam. If there’s not snow on the ground outside, give it a try to give yourself some fresh air.
  • Facebook Binge: Because you’re monitoring your Facebook intake during finals week (hell, consider blocking the site), Facebook becomes a reward. It’s amazing how much you don’t miss by only checking Facebook once a day…
  • Watch a Movie: Preferably something light and brainless, but not frustratingly bad. That means avoiding Transformers 2 at all costs. 

What are some of the ways you reward yourself during finals week? Let us know in the comments!