Now that you’ve learned how to prep for exam season and create a study plan, it’s time to delve into how to actually do the studying. Today, I’m going to share with you three effective methods I’ve tested to go about your studying. Before I get into these methods, I want to give you five quick tips to set yourself up for success:
- Study in an area you will be productive. This sounds obvious but so many people haven’t actually discovered where they study best. For some people, being in a coffee shop will help them keep laser-focused. For others, they will become continuously distracted and never get anything done. For some, it’s best to study in a library. For others, the home is the best location. If you haven’t already, do some experimentation to find your best location to focus.
- Use smell association. I know this one sounds weird, but I have found it extremely effective. Choose a lotion, perfume, essential oil, room spray, hand sanitizer, etc. that you will use exclusively during work time. Use/apply this scent every time, and you’ll start to develop an association between the smell and studying.
- Always study in a clean workspace. I am a firm believer that your surroundings reflect your mental state. And if your study space is a mess, you will be more likely to get distracted. You can read further on the topic of creating a productive workspace here [LINK].
- Do NOT have your phone near you. Put it on airplane mode, turn it off, put it in the other room – hell, put it in a safe if you have to! I find that the most common distractor for students is their phone. I guarantee that you will live if you take your study time away from your phone. Remove the distraction all together to ensure your success. If you also find that you get distracted on your computer, there are programs that will allow you to block sites individually.
- Take breaks. In all of the below methods, you need to incorporate breaks. Everyone’s focus span will be different. It will take some trial and error to determine when you should take breaks. I find that, depending on the task, I can generally have good focus spans for between 45 and 90 minutes. Listen to your body and your mind, and don’t push it too far.
Method One: The Pomodoro Method
20 minutes work
5 minutes break
Repeat above 4 times
15 minute break
This is a popular method in time management and workflow. It focuses on time rather than content (methods two and three are content-based) by punctuating work with breaks. There have been numerous studies backing this up regarding concentration and efficiency. You may think that it’s better to study for hours straight rather than “wasting” time on breaks, but you will find that these short breaks allow you to be more efficient.
However, in order to make this effective you have to be careful of what you do during these breaks. I would recommend NOT scrolling through social media, checking email, or watching something on YouTube. I WOULD recommend taking a quick walk around, doing some yoga poses, doing some breathing exercises, getting some fresh air, interacting with a pet, or getting something healthy to eat/drink.
I actually went a bit more in depth on the pomodoro method in this blog post if you want to learn more.
Method Two: The Momentum Builder
Task 1 = easiest
Task 2 = most confident subject
Task 3 = harder task
Task 4 = lesser confident subject
Task 5 = mid-difficulty
Task 6 = mid-confidence subject
Task 7 = quickest task
The Momentum-Building strategy encourages the student to study by starting out with easier tasks that builds confidence and momentum to keep going. You start out with easy, confident tasks, and then move into harder tasks. If you find yourself frustrated, you can move to a mid-confidence task (switch 4 and 6 or 3 and 5) but the idea is to build up momentum with easy tasks that you are confident in and that will give you the motivation and momentum to tackle the things you don’t want to. Then, you can do the mid-range tasks at the end, ending with the quickest task to feel productive by the end.
I find when I follow this method, I feel extremely productive. If I start with hard tasks, I find I will procrastinate because I won’t want to start. If I end with harder tasks, I will feel crappy at the end of my study session. This is a formula I came up with and it’s worked well for students I’ve worked with as well.
Method Three: The Procrastination Killer
Task 1 = worst task
Task 2 = medium task
Task 3 = bad task
Task 4 = good task
Task 5 = medium task
Task 6 = best task
The Procrastination-Killing strategy is not the easiest to do – it requires an initial burst of motivation. But if you’re able to get yourself there, it’s incredibly worth it. You get the worst thing out of the way first (worst = you hate the subject or it’s really hard or both), which is such a great feeling. Getting that done will then help you build momentum to keep going. Use that initial momentum to do a medium task, gaining more momentum to do your bad task, then moving to a good one, then medium, then saving best for last.
In order to do this, you will have to learn to be critical and realistic about your confidence level and how hard a subject/assignment will be for you. You may be wondering how to get that initial burst of inspiration to start out with the worst task. For me, I find it helpful to regain energy by doing meditation/yoga/breathing, to watch some inspirational YouTube channels, or to simply think about and manifest how I’ll feel after getting the thing done.
I employ all three of these methods in my studying regularly depending on how I’m feeling. Keep these workflow options in your toolbox to employ as you go about your studying this season.
Do determine which method to use, try asking yourself the following questions:
- How motivated am I feeling right now?
- What am I dreading doing the most?
- How much do I feel like I can focus right now?
- Is there anything I can do to make myself more ready to study?
- Is there anything I’ve been procrastinating that I really need to get done?
I hope you all enjoyed these methods and find them helpful! Please share which ones you use, or you think you’ll use!