Exam season is fast approaching, and that means that students all around the country are hitting the books in preparation. But there are more than just students that spend their days studying. People of all ages spend time studying a given topic such as language, history, or technology, sometimes for their own enjoyment. However, if you are setting aside a period for studying, it can be difficult to make that time effective. Despite the difficulties, there are little ways to make the time you spend studying more effective.
Find the Best Time of Day for You
Finding the right time of day to study is crucial to focusing. Scientists have found that late at night before you go to bed, your brain is naturally more creative. In the morning, on the other hand, your mind is clear and not distracted by the events of the day. Depending on what you are studying and the degree of focus you need, you should choose a time of day when your mind is least distracted.
Stick to a Schedule
Everything is more effective when it is organized according to a plan. Vacations, parties, and even study sessions. Sticking to the schedule is just as important as making it. If you vary your times too often, you'll lose motivation and won't be as dedicated. Work your schedule around your responsibilities, so you're not tempted to use them as an excuse for not studying. You don't have to do it at the same time every day; versatility will help you from becoming burned out.
Pick a Place That Contributes to Your Mindset
Some people can't focus when their environment is noisy, and some can't focus when it's too quiet. You should find the right place for you, but there are certain areas that should generally be avoided. Your bed isn't the best option because it will tempt you to relax and let your mind wander, and a car or train is too cramped. Libraries, offices, classrooms, and even coffee shops can all work.
Organize Your Study Time
Studying shouldn't just be a pointless, long, boring session of drills and books. Focus on the topics you need the most help with and devote the most time to those. If you struggle with mathematics, organize your time by minutes or percentages so that the majority of your time is spent on those subjects. Narrow it down even further: which part of mathematics do you struggle with? Identifying weaknesses helps you have a more productive study period.
Take Breaks in Between Sessions
Everybody needs a break. Workplaces offer lunch breaks and 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon because it has been scientifically proven to increase productivity and employee happiness. Your study periods should be no different. After covering a chapter, topic, or subject, give yourself a little bit of time to recuperate. Take a walk, eat a healthy snack, or even spend some time talking to a friend.
Study With a Friend or a Group
Some people study best with a group, especially for projects and literary studying. Having the opportunity to bounce ideas off of another person and discuss what you read can help you remember facts and events more clearly. Friends can also help keep each other focused, and positive peer pressure will help even more. When you see everyone else working hard, it'll influence you to do the same. Some people are easily distracted by friend study groups, though, so do what's best for you.
Simplify Your Topics
If you're studying physics, studying the entire history of physics and the leaders in the field isn't the most effective method. Simplify your topics, especially the more complex ones, into a digestible format. Review your pages of notes and try to condense them down to a page or two. Take the most important information and highlight it or write it on index cards. Breaking the information into bite-sized pieces, as it were, will help you remember the most important facts first.
Find Memorization Methods
The index cards mentioned in the previous slide aren't the only way to memorize your information. There are several other ways, including:
- Using mnemonic devices: Creating acronyms in your head are a great way to remember keywords, methodologies, and events.
- Create a timeline: The easiest way to simplify information and memorize events, especially historical events, is a timeline. Don't include every moment that a history book might mention; instead, look at what you're most likely to be tested on or what's most important for your own personal gain.
- Have somebody quiz you: This is especially effective for increasing your vocabulary when learning a language, and it's enjoyable too.
Your phone is a distraction, like it or not. Radios, television, cars, babies, family members, and even pets can all be a distraction as well. These all need to be eliminated or at least minimized to keep you focused. Ask family and friends to avoid calling you or texting you during this time. Put your phone on silent or airplane mode to keep notifications and social media from distracting you. Music can help, but make sure it's something that can be played in the background without grabbing your attention. If you need to, put your phone far away from you!
Have a Reward System
You deserve a reward after all of that hard work. This positive reinforcement, first researched by psychologist Ivan Pavlov, will help your brain associate something as grueling as studying with a positive emotion or outcome. So get a pizza, spend time with friends, or do something you've been waiting to do. Your brain will thank you and your next stud period will be even more effective.