New time management tool Study Buddy to ease exam worries

With 95 per cent of teachers reporting that they have taught a child who is experiencing anxiety, mental health concerns in schools are a growing challenge, a new time management tool The Study Buddy, hopes to help teachers challenge this issue.

A father is helping to tackle this issue with the launch of a new visual time management tool, which helps young people to achieve a better study-life balance, and reduce exam stress.

A ‘back to basics’ approach to time management, The Study Buddy aims to lower anxiety and increase confidence by breaking learning down into manageable chunks – whilst removing the distractions of screens and technology.

Recent statistics show that 80% of young people feel exam pressure has significantly impacted on their mental health, while Childline has reported an 11% increase in counselling sessions given to school pupils about exam stress.

Nathan McGurl, founder of The Study Buddy, said: “Getting the right study-life balance is critical for the wellbeing of all young people, but particularly GCSE and A-level students. Achieving this balance is key to good mental health and an important life-skill. Something that can easily be forgotten with the pressure to succeed academically.”

McGurl first came up with the idea for The Study Buddy while helping his then 16-year-old son Jake deals with the pressure of his upcoming exams.

McGurl said, “I was growing increasingly worried about him. It was clear that the task ahead of him was so large that he just didn’t know where to start. Some young people procrastinate as a way of dealing with their anxiety – while others overwork themselves, devoting every spare moment to studying. Neither are an especially effective strategy for success, but both are likely to lead to anxiety and possibly depression.”

McGurl took matters into his own hands and meticulously broke down each of Jake’s exam subjects into manageable units, writing each one onto a magnetic card. He then drew up a visual time map, blocking out unavailable time – such as mealtimes, time for socialising, sports and hobbies, and the school day.

“This left us with the available revision hours, to which we could assign the units in the ‘to-do’ pile. At the end of the week we could move the completed work to the ‘done’ pile so he could visually see the progress he was making, “ he explained.

In this technological age, one of the surprising features of The Study Buddy is that is isn’t an app or a piece of software – a move that is quite deliberate.

“I wanted to create a tool that really goes back to basics,” explained McGurl, a self confessed digital nerd. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it can distract, and it can also be quite isolating. The system is designed to provide visibility, involving the whole family in supporting their teen to balance his or her time positively.”

Central to The Study Buddy approach is the idea of the parent coach: helping young people to make sense of daunting tasks by breaking them down, but allowing them to take control of the process. Whilst developed primarily as an exam revision aid, McGurl believes the principles of The Study Buddy can be adapted to variety of life situations and is keen to see more of an emphasis on promoting a positive study-life balance for young people.

“I made clear to Jake that he was in control of his time,” added McGurl. “It was up to him to choose what he wanted to study and when, whilst still factoring in all-important downtime. All I was doing was facilitating the process. By enabling him to see and make sense of this seemingly insurmountable task, he had the confidence to tackle it and a sense of accomplishment as he watched his ‘to-do ‘list shrinking.

“The entire approach helps develop prioritisation and task management skills, while the parental role becomes much more focused on support, not hassling”.

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