As we round out another year of fast-paced living and move into the holiday season and year’s end, there’s a natural shift for many of us to desire to slow down, recover, and understand the fatigue we’ve gone through in the last year of our technology-driven world. When so much of our world revolves around digital media, such as online classes, communication with family and friends, and work, turning away from the technologies which power us isn’t easy.
Adding to that is the fact that things don’t just stop when we’re ready for them to; new meetings, new classes, and new opportunities for engaging online present themselves all the time. The key, then, is not to cut digital technology out of our lives, but to understand how we’re impacted by the overwhelm of digital tech, and make a plan to battle the fatigue that comes with our online world.
As many of you study for the CHES®/MCHES® exams, taking advantage of technology is a key factor in success. In order to battle digital fatigue, we’ve put together a few tips to make the most of your study time.
Take a digital inventory
To-do lists and reminders are a part of everyday life. It helps us organize and make sense of our world and puts some structure in place where otherwise we lack control. Our digital worlds are no different. If we’re constantly using our phones, computers, and apps to interact with our world, it can be hard to truly understand how much of our world relies on screen time.
Use built-in mobile tools like Screen Time or Digital Wellbeing to get a sense of how you’re using your screens. Are there certain times of the day you can cut out digital work? Start a log of your stress levels, and cross-check those with screen time - is there a correlation between the two?
Another thing to note when taking an inventory is the usage of digital tools. Think about how you’re using your screen time. Is it primarily for utility and communication, or have your traditionally offline habits transitioned online in the form of entertainment, streaming, apps, games, etc.?
Once you understand how your digital habits contribute to your stress, you may find that cutting out specific activities (like late-night social scrolling) help you feel more refreshed the next day. Small changes like daily screen limits can snowball into big changes in your levels of digital fatigue, and better equip you for moments where screens are an effective tool for productivity.
A big part of digital fatigue can be attributed to the sense of being active or “on” that we often associate with digital activities. As things move fast, it’s natural to feel like you have to actively engage any time you’re online and synchronize with others, even if your schedules are different. This overwhelm is more common now than ever, with more than 30% of US consumers saying they are overwhelmed with the number of devices and services they have to manage at once.
While digital tools are great for productivity on the go, it’s important to consider downtime and how it plays a role in digital fatigue. Taking activities offline (like making flashcards, for example) can provide a break from screens and also help battle the physical fatigue we experience from so much screen time.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
Developed in the late 1980s, by college student Francesco Cirillo, The Pomodoro (Italian for Tomato) method of time management is an effective tool for task completion. Using a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato, Cirillo told himself that if he could focus on the task at hand for just 10 minutes, then he’d earn himself a mental break.
Now widely used as an effective task management tool, pomodoro timers, like this online version, are a beloved tool for productivity improvement. The theory is simple. Spend a dedicated amount of time on the task at hand, before taking a break. So, for example, set a timer for 25 minutes of distraction-free study time. Once your timer rings, take a 3-5 minute break. Spend that time offline, or give yourself a dose of serotonin by scrolling through your favorite feed. Once the predetermined break is over, dive back into focused study time.
This method is especially useful when staying on task is difficult, as the promise of a reward in a short amount of time is helpful in promoting healthy study habits. It can also help you break complex problems into digestible parts. In addition to studying, pomodoro timers are effective in completing a variety of activities, from work activities to personal goals, and can be used broadly to help focus your time and energy in any area.
Prepare your space
Once you’ve prepared yourself to make the most of your online time, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and the mental impact that our physical space has on our mental fatigue. If you’re pressured by outside forces or any distractions, it can compound fatigue and make it harder to focus.
Finding a study space that is organized, and free of distractions helps you focus on the task at hand. By minimizing distractions, we’re lessening the chances that our focus drifts from the tasks at hand. Find what works for you by thinking back to how you’ve prepped in the past. Do you work better from the comfort of sweats and a comfy chair, or do you focus better when you’re wearing shoes and in a professional setting? Whatever works best for you, understanding how you can mimic that during moments of stress is important for success.
In addition to physical space, take time to learn about the technologies you’ll be required to access for your exam. Practice downloading any programs and understand how to navigate any unfamiliar systems ahead of time, to minimize any technical difficulties on the day of the exam.
In addition to prepping your space for success, prepping your mind to learn, and setting yourself up for success is important. Create a small ritual before studying that signals to your body that focused time is in the future. A simple stretching routine or moment of targeted breathwork can reduce stress and prime your brain to handle what’s ahead.
Before a study session for the CHES/MCHES exam, try to turn off other screens or sources of distractions. Place your mobile phone out of immediate reach to avoid temptation for an untimed break, silence unnecessary communication tools, and turn off other devices, such as TVs or radios that are distracting. By limiting distractions, our focus can remain in one place. This pinpointed focus battles the digital fatigue that comes from managing multiple devices and eliminates multitasking tendencies that influence our levels of stress or anxiousness.
Go through the motions of test day
Once your test has been scheduled, practice the rituals and screen-specific habits you’ve built up through studying into practice. Set your space, eliminate distractions, and focus on the task at hand - earning the specialist certification you’ve worked hard for through years of studying and development in your field.
Take a few minutes before the test to congratulate yourself on the prep work and mental acuity you’ve gained through the process, and visualize success prior to the test starting. Your proctoring resource will provide specific instructions leading up to the exam that will cover what to expect on the day of. Read through those instructions carefully, and more than once. If you have questions prior to the test, it’s important to address those ahead of time, both to get an answer to your question in a timely manner, but also to stay present and focused on taking the exam.
What’s your best fatigue-fighting study tip?
Using these tips as you study for the CHES®/MCHES® exam will eliminate overstimulation and help you feel focused and prepared for exam day. As you build good digital habits that work to eliminate stress, develop your own set of success strategies that you can carry into your exam day. While the build-up to the exam is an exciting time, remember that you’ve prepared and equipped yourself for success, and channel the excitement into confidence.
Do you have a tip to add that’s helped you fight digital fatigue as you study for the CHES® or MCHES® exams? We’d love to hear from you. Head over to our Facebook page and share your tips with others who are preparing to take the exam.
Are you ready to register for the exam? Learn more about your eligibility.