I am on your same boat. I took mine in November 14' and am scheduled to take it again 2/24/2015. As soon as I get myself to study, I get anxious, I read the same thing over and over just to understand it, then remembering it becomes a whole different struggle! These are some tips I am using to hopefully get me to pass.
1. DEDICATE SPACE FOR STUDYING.
I can't study in my kitchen, dining room, on my bed or at work. I utilize downtime at work to take practice questions, but it is way too distracting to focus study time in any of those areas. I literally went to a thrift shop, bought a $10 desk and chair that was small enough to fit in my room and I dedicate that space for JUST STUDYING. I've been told to do this in the past, never did it till now and I am actually proud of having that space!
2. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SCHEDULE
Seriously, get a calendar, print one off, ANYTHING! I know that I have one hour from when I get off work to shower, eat and get ready to study. I know that during my workweek, I study from 6-10. I am disciplining myself and micromanaging myself to keep ME accountable of my time. If I don't adhere to my schedule, I have 'procedures' that follow.
3. DISCIPLINE YOURSELF
If you fail to stick to your schedule, or something unavoidable pops up, you have to make up for it. THIS IS YOUR CAREER. Be your boss. If I veer off my track, I usually use the weekends to make up for it. I'll double the amount of questions I usually have or whatever I feel is necessary depending on how much I feel I missed out on.
4.THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN EXCUSE
You'll have family, relationships, work, etc., pulling you away from your study time. You just have to say no. When you refuse to hang out or when you have to tell your work that you have a full schedule and can't come in for an on call shift or stay late for a meeting, YOU ARE ONLY TELLING THE TRUTH. Again, THIS IS YOUR CAREER.
5. BE REALISTIC
Don't plan to study for 8 hours if you know you can't. I started out by doing 50 questions a day (split in half actually) and worked my way up to 100-150 a day. Start with something you know you can deal with and challenge your self by adding more everyday. Again, be realistic. If your test is in a few weeks, think of how much you need to challenge yourself and how much more studying you need to add to be more confident everyday to pass your test. It goes both ways, this is the NCLEX after all.
6. PLAN ON WHAT TO STUDY
I wish I could be detailed enough to say how many hours I will spend studying certain topics, but the truth is, I find out what I need to study as I do it. You have to tailor it to yourself. Some programs help organize information for you, but you have to study that information according to your needs. For example, as I answer questions from Kaplan or Saunders, I focus on why I got questions wrong. If it was lack of knowledge, I spend extra time on the subject to feel like I thoroughly understand it. When I come across meds I don't know, I write them down. Same with Labs. Right before I finish studying, I look at my paper of 'need to knows' and I either make flash cards or read up extra on whatever I wrote down. Once you start looking up certain things like meds or labs or disease processes, it will take you on a journey of learning lol. There will be something else related to that one little thing you looked up that you will want to know about. Remember to stay on track!
7. PLAN AHEAD
I know I'm saying planning a lot. But it's just about anticipating your needs and staying organized to not feel overwhelmed about doing so much. I know that I utilize flash cards a lot. So I cut up flashcards Sunday night so I don't spend extra study time on things like that. I also do my planning for the week on Sundays, I grocery shop, put gas in, everything I can think of that I'll need during the week, I do it on Sundays. It may sound excessive, but think of how much all these little things get in the way during your week when you can be studying. I dedicate half a day to being prepared for the week and even though my week doesn't turn out perfect, it does go by smoother and I have been more successful with staying focused.
This doesn't really go into detail of all I do, surprisingly, but you get the idea. I have a notepad that I use to jot down things I need to look up. I do this so that I can finish whatever it is I'm reading and avoid getting off track with what I initially was focusing on.
Also, I end the day with things I want to start with the next day. Let's say I was studying cardiovascular, if I had a bunch of meds I didn't know related to that subject, the next day I use that to begin my study session. I focus on med classifications and try to memorize meds within that category using my flash cards.
Kaplan is a great review. They have great questions and the more questions I take, the more topics I look up and the more knowledgable I feel.
I hope this novel of mine helps somewhat. I'm looking for a study partner/group because I've found that going over information with people, even if it's brief, helps me retain my knowledge more because it's more interactive for me. I'm a kinesthetic learner so I have to feel motivated to learn and actually do it. Connecting with people that are learning the same thing makes it more real for me.