(PLUS – An explanation of why I have been MIA!)
As much as I pretend that reading and writing are my adult job and therefore nothing else matters – sadly that isn’t the truth. I do have an adult job that I am expected to wake up early and show up to at least 5 days a week.
This information is relevant to this post because earlier this year, a wizard eviler than I am captured my brain and bewitched me into thinking that pursuing a certification at work would be a good idea. I spent four days in April at a training, and then had 60 days to study and sit for my certification exam. First important thing to note is that I have not had to study for anything in about 7 years, so obviously… PANIC. Second important thing to note is that I was provided with an 834 page non-fiction educational book to assist with my studying. That is A LOT of pages. Even as a lover of words, that is A LOT OF WORDS. Furthermore, that is a lot of words that I DO NOT PARTICULARLY CARE TO READ BECAUSE IT’S NOT ABOUT MAGIC, OR WARRIORS, OR LOVE, OR ANYTHING FUN, so NOPE.
As I tend to do when facing something I don’t particularly want to do, I procrastinated. I kept about my normal life of eating, sleeping, and reading for enjoyment… things were wonderful! Then, while packing for a trip to visit my family, my husband asked me if I was going to bring my book to study on the 4 hour car ride, pointing out that “you only have a month left before your exam.”
So then I was facing an 834 page book, many, many, many practice exams, and a shit ton of memorization with basically no time. Once I remembered how to breathe again, I derived a plan. Goal #1: Read the book twice, taking notes the first time and Goal #2: Take at least 2-3 full length practice exams (that is 400-600 questions) and review all of the answers for explanations of why it was right/wrong. Seems simple enough with 30 days. Sure…except for the slight problem that I really, REALLY hate reading things that I’m not interested in (especially if it trying to force me to learn something that isn’t about history), and will basically find anything else to do with my time in order to avoid having to read a non-fiction educational book cover to cover.
I do realize that I put this pain on myself. (Actually it was the evil wizard that I told you about earlier, but we’ll let that go for now I guess). That didn’t make the “why in the hell am I reading this?” and “I should just stop, YOLO and all that, there are too many books in the world to waste my life reading this boring ass book TWICE” thoughts subside though. I’d say about 95% of the times that I picked up the book, I had at least one of those thoughts. Okay FINE, I lied, it was 100%. Stop giving me those accusing eyes…
I’m happy to report that I successfully met both of the goals that I outlined for myself, I successfully passed my exam last week, and I can now go back to my wonderful, non-studying life!
I know that you’re all super excited that I passed and that I’m back to posting, but you probably want me to get to the real point of this post, don’t you? That’s fair, as I’ve rambled enough. In an attempt to help those who may suffer from a similar hatred of reading something they don’t want to read, I’ve decided to share some of my tips and tricks that I did in order to get through the ridiculously boring material that I read for my certification exam:
I rewarded myself. This one is simple, who doesn’t like presents and rewards? The answer is NO ONE. It was anything from “If you read 20 pages of this book you don’t want to read, then you can read 20 pages of that book over there that you actually want to read.” to “If you read 20 pages of this book you don’t want to read, then you can buy yourself an iced chai tea latte.” The rewards weren’t monstrous or extravagant, but it usually worked. I did something similar when I was taking the practice exams: “If you finish 50 of these questions and read the 50 explanations of why they were right or wrong, then you can buy yourself one new book at the bookstore tomorrow.” For me, I found that shorter, more attainable goals (20 pages or 50 questions) were easier for me to achieve. When I tried to sit myself down and plow through 150 pages or a 200 question exam, my body rebelled and I ended up laying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling while contemplating my poor life decision to try to get certified.
I punished myself. It got to a point (pretty early on, sadly) where I had to put my own foot down and forbid myself from reading anything fiction and enjoyable in order to focus on the boring book. So yes, unfortunately the reward of getting to read something I enjoyed when out the window, but I did get to use that one on myself a few times in the beginning! The books that I wanted to read were far too distracting for me, I found myself saying “just one more chapter”, and then I had been sitting there for 2 hours with the boring book staring accusingly at me from the table, untouched. So, as much as it broke my heart, I had to take an enjoyment reading hiatus, which was drastic, but necessary.
I made people yell at me and punish me by depriving me of things that I loved. I’m pretty great at not doing something when I don’t want to do it – it’s basically a super power. Towards the end of my studying month, I gave my family permission to yell at me if they saw me without my flash cards, my notes, or my book in my hands. They also had permission to not give me things that I wanted (like beer or snacks). Sometimes I overruled them, but for the most part this was pretty effective for me. I don’t like when people are disappointed in me, so the upsetting looks that accompanied the yelling almost always resulted in me going and studying some.
I went on vacation. TWICE. I know this one sounds a little bit odd because vacations are supposed to be fun and everything about this post makes it quite clear that studying was NOT fun for me, but I needed minimal distractions if I was going to study effectively, and I wasn’t getting that with having to go to work, and travel for work, and grocery shop, and move, and be social, etc. So, luckily I had a little bit of flexibility and was able to take two separate weeks where I worked remotely (only about 10 hours per week) from rural, low populated areas with lakes and woods and sun and blue skies and animals. I think this helped me for a few reasons: (1) I really enjoy being in rural, low populated areas with lakes and woods and sun and blue skies and animals, so I was in a very happy mood which allowed me to be a little bit more positive about studying and (2) As I had hoped, it eliminated almost all of the distractions, and with little else to worry about besides studying, it was easier to put that as my main focus.
I studying in public. Being out in the world, either at a coffee shop, or a restaurant, or just outside in the grass helps me to focus. I don’t know why, but I am so much more productive when I’m in a location that is different than my normal surroundings. It’s refreshing, I don’t feel like a hermit, and I’m usually a bit happier being there, all of which contribute to me wanting to actually be productive.
I went outside of the book and looked at other material if I wasn’t getting something or was struggling with the material too much. Sometimes just the thought of going over the material in the book made me want to chuck the actual book into the oven and burn in. So, as a compromise, I took those times to review the material using other methods: flash cards that I had made, my notes, YouTube videos, certified websites, other books about the topic, etc. While I made the book my #1 focus on learning the material, having other references and resources to use when I needed a bit of a big boring book break helped to reduce the monotony and please my mind and soul while still giving me information that was helpful.
And lastly…I made a “study schedule” and I stuck to it. Now, I know everything I’ve written thus far makes it seem like all I did was study 24/7 for 30 days, and that is absolutely, 100% FALSE. I wasn’t able to eliminate all distractions all of the time, and I still had to do things like go to work, sleep, eat, be somewhat social, etc. I also went on vacation (twice!), so of course I still gave myself the opportunity to enjoy those vacations. To help keep my studying on point while also not entirely alienating myself from the world, I created a study schedule. I dedicated anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours per day to studying, and most of the things I’ve listed above are things that I applied to those specific chunks of hours. I created my weekly studying schedule one week in advance based on what I had going on and my availability. This helped to keep me accountable and helped me to prepare for what I needed to do. It made the studying process a bit more manageable, also! If I was 2 hours into a study session and was really struggling, I could adjust accordingly to help perk myself up and make the most of the session based on how many hours that I knew I had left.
ALRIGHT, so there you have it! All of my wonderful words of wisdom on how I battled reading something (and studying for something) that I really did not want to read (or study). Hopefully this list was thought provoking, made you laugh, or helps you out a bit if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Thanks for reading and cheers!