Studying is hard, but it doesn’t have to be! Before we get into the 10 tips for doing your best in school and staying on top of your game, here are some facts you should know about focus time, task type and studying styles.
Young adults can typically hold their focus on one specific thing without struggling for about 15 to 20 minutes. Of course, this span is usually longer if you find the activity interesting; while you might only be able to focus for a little while at a lecture, you might have no trouble spending hours binge-watching or reading something interesting. Like all skills, being able to increase this focus time takes practice.
Another thing to consider is the time of day when you’re going to study. Research shows that the best time for any critical thinking is in the morning, when your powers of logic and deduction are at their sharpest. However, morning is generally not a great time for more simple tasks. Keep the email-checking, online shopping, and social media scrolling to a minimum. Instead, you might want to save those chores and distractions for the afternoon.
Also take note that not all good work gets done in the morning. The so-called afternoon slump is actually a great time to solve problems that rely on insight and creativity. Keep this in mind when you’re writing a paper or want to create something cool. The worst time of day for your brain tends to come crashing in around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. During this rough patch, you may want to recharge with a little coffee and then a 20-minute power nap. Of course, not everyone’s internal clock is wired the same way. So, take some time to think about and consider when and how you function best.
Try to avoid the pump and dump! This is one of the most common and tempting ways for many students to prepare for a test: by cramming. It’s when they pump as much info into their brains as they can over several hours, usually the night before or the morning of their test. Then their brains dump or forget about the info immediately afterwards. Of course, we all know that the main problem with this method is that nothing is actually learned – and, more importantly, nothing is retained for any length of time to build upon later.
Here are 10 tips which will help set you up for studying success:
1. Do a self-check
What are you doing well?
Where do you need to improve?
How do you like to learn about and study different subjects?
Is there someone who you trust to help with the really difficult material?
2. Get organized
Make a study plan and get it down on paper so you don’t forget anything.
Have all of your supplies ready to access.
Turn off apps that send notifications.
Get comfortable, but not too comfortable.
Set a timer for breaks.
3. Set aside time
Try not to cram or pump and dump! Get enough sleep and eat well so that you’re not too tired or hungry during class. Set aside time every day to do a little bit of knowledge building.
4. Stay focused
Focus on what’s in front of you. Remember, most people can only really focus on a single task for 60-90 minutes, broken down into 15- or 20-minute chunks. Try organizing your studying with that in mind.
5. Take breaks
Focus isn’t always easy, so take some time for yourself every now and then so that you don’t burn out! Brief walks, just a few minutes long, can help jog the brain. If you can’t get outside, that’s fine. Studies show that even walking around the house can help people think. A good rule of thumb is to try getting up about once an hour for five minutes or so.
6. Get help from others
If all else fails, ask for help from someone who knows how to study well. They’ll be able to give advice about how to approach the work, and they’ll probably even enjoy talking about it with someone else who struggles with studying as much as they did! Plus, there’s a lot of research that indicates if you can explain something to someone else, you retain and understand it better.
7. Start the day with a bite-sized review
Try things like a quick review of your ongoing work first thing in the morning, before you try to do anything else. You’ll get a jumpstart on it, and it’ll make it easier to focus on the rest of your day’s activities.
8. Eat a morning meal
Don’t skip breakfast! You need fuel to keep going during those times of studying, so grab something nutritious and healthy before learning and studying!
9. Put your apps to work
Use an app that allows you to track how much time you spend studying each day, so that you can see how productive you are overall (and increase or decrease your time accordingly). This will help motivate you as you can quickly see how those chunks of time add up!
10. Have fun!
Sure, some things are a real grind, but make them into a game with someone who you want to help and vice versa. Doodle, listen to music, or reward yourself with a treat after each accomplishment or study portion.
Combine the above with some additional tips and information in Indspire’s Rivers to Success mentoring program with some great resources on the Study Cycle, found here: Rivers to Success Study Cycles You’ll be set up for success in no time!