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How I Write and Learn

Rise and Grind: How Studying Before Class Helped Me Academically

By Nikki, a Peer Tutor

As I’m sure many UNC students relate to, I feel like there is almost never enough time in the day to get everything done. Between juggling extracurriculars, managing part time jobs, and taking a full academic course load, it can feel overwhelming trying to do it all. What I ended up realizing, though, is maybe I don’t need to reprioritize the things but rather try restructuring the times at which I did things to maximize my efficiency. 

I often found myself studying late into the night with friends. As the night progressed, we would all get continuously more tired and more distracted. Focused study sessions would quickly slip into mindless chatter and complaining about the seemingly endless amounts of work we had left. This led to a vicious cycle of staying up later and later because the tiredness from the previous day would catch up with me. Thus, I got continually less effective in my studying. 

I knew I needed a change. One night I didn’t finish all of my work before going to bed and decided instead to set my alarm earlier than normal to finish before class. The results were better than I could have hoped for and this has permanently changed my study habits. I now get up before class early everyday to do my homework, and I’ve found I’ve been able to manage my time so much better as a result. I am able to be much more efficient because of the lack of distractions in the morning.

Here are the benefits I found from utilizing the mornings to do schoolwork and study before class 

Increased Productivity

I found that I was able to complete assignments and study nearly three times faster in the morning compared to the sluggish pace I would be going at the night before. Problems that would take 30 minutes the night before might only take 10 minutes that morning. For me, the morning offered a chance to reset my brain and tackle problems with a renewed sense of focus. Whenever I feel myself shutting off for the night, rather than power through, I just set my alarm and start anew in the morning. For me, it often leads to thinking of new ways to approach problems I was stumped on the night before.

Controlling Sleep

By setting an alarm for the morning and cutting myself off at a certain time each night, I am much better able to control my sleep schedule. I am able to force sleep to be a priority. While for some people it feels stressful to reserve some studying or assignment tasks till the morning and wondering if you’ll have enough time to devote to everything, I’ve found for me this is a personal motivator to be more efficient with my time. It actually provides a hard cut off for studying, which is good for me because otherwise, I will often study past the point of additional benefit. This forces me to accept that sometimes I just know what I know and that I have to trust that I am prepared enough to succeed on whatever exam I’m studying for. This often comes in the form of dedicating one hour the morning of an exam to self-test and then trusting that I am prepared enough after that. 

Nikki, the author, waking up from a good nights sleep
Getting enough sleep is really important because it will allow you to function a lot better during the day!

Time to Prepare for the Day

Getting up and doing work before my classes has also been really helpful for carrying into my performance throughout the day. By getting up early, I have time to collect myself and engage my brain before heading to class. This has been really helpful for allowing me both to feel mentally prepared for the day as well as better able to stay awake in classes since I’ve now had ample time to wake up before class begins instead of scrambling out the door. 

Not all of you are morning people, and that’s totally okay! Some tips for getting up that help me personally are as follows.


I personally motivate myself to get out of bed earlier than I would otherwise with “rewards” for waking up early. This can be things like doing my homework at a coffee shop instead of the library, making myself a cup of hot cocoa, or taking the time to do something I enjoy like going on a short run or doing my makeup before I begin my schoolwork. 

A coffee sitting on a table with pillows in the background
Getting up and going to a coffee shop before anyone else arrives is one of my favorite bribes for sure!

Structure It

The worst thing I’ve tried is saying, “Oh I’ll just wake up and do some homework,” which sounds harmless enough, but I will not in fact get up for just “some homework.” Rather, I need to have a layout of exactly what I want to accomplish in the morning (bonus points for writing the time you want each task to be accomplished by). Structuring my time reminds me that there is a specific reason I set my alarm for the time I did and that getting up at this time is imperative to the goals I am setting out to accomplish that day. If you want tips on goal setting, I recommend checking out this SMART goal handout. SMART goals are really helpful for me because they allow me to come up with goals that are both realistic and timebound which once again keep me accountable. 

Set Multiple Alarms 

This is a simple one, but it is my key to morning success. I always set at least six alarms just so there’s no chance of snoozing through all of them. I tend to set mine all about 5 minutes apart. I always sleep better knowing that I will definitely wake up on time. This works for me because sometimes it can be really easy to turn off an alarm by accident one or maybe two times, but with six alarms…I can feel confident that I will not sleep through all of them. I do five minutes apart just so that they aren’t spaced too far apart so that if I sleep through one of them I’m not severely off schedule. 

Those are my tips and tricks for waking up and doing some school work before class! Not everyone is an extreme morning person, but getting up and working before class can be a great way to start off your day. I’ve also found that I’ve gradually been able to get up earlier and earlier, so be patient with yourself, and it’ll get easier.

Caption: An example of what alarm setting on a typical day will look like for me.
An example of what alarm setting on a typical day will look like for me.

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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