Studying alone for many is challenging and often times boring. This is because many people spend their valuable time staring a their books and notes for hours hoping that somehow the material will be absorbed into your head. So, rather than allowing you to continue to waste your time studying inefficiently, I have put together a list of 10 ways you can establish a study session routine that utilizes any or all of the things necessary to make your study sessions more productive.
1. Eliminate human distractions.
You don’t have to be a hermit but picking a study location where you can work uninterrupted is really advisable. Trying to retain information while your roommate has sex with her boyfriend
, beside you is both challenging and …creepy.
If possible, post a “do not disturb” sign on your door or use a sock on the door knob if you have to. If you’re interrupted anyway, be sure the guilty party knows that these interruptions are not acceptable.
You should play hard. But when the time comes to study, you should study hard too – your friends should be able to accept that.
Oh yeah, turn off your phone(s) too.
2. Clear your mind.
Now more than ever, our brains are jam piled with information. Gone are the days when college students had to manage only a handful of things – class, social life, and well, social life. Your life is now composed of more aspects than any other college students where in the past.
College students of today have to deal with and successfully juggle
- Cell phone calls
- RSS feeds/Twitter/Tumblr
- Facebook updates
- Internship concerns
- Email in addition
- Social life/Love life
- Class work
- Family life
And this is all before you even crack your books. So in order to effectively study, take a few minutes to clear your mind.
Close your eyes, breath deeply, and relax.
It’s ten minutes well spent to prepare your mind for maximum learning before you ever begin. You’ll be relaxed yet energetic and ready to bang out a couple of hours of studying.
3. Begin with the end in mind.
Now that your mind is rid unnecessary gobbledygook , take a second to establish some goals for what your objectives are. Set your game plan before hand or risk working on tasks for hours that have absolutely nothing to do with your initial reason for studying in the first place.
Studying from a textbook:
- If you’re studying from a textbook, use the objectives printed at the beginning of the chapter as a starting point.
Using your syllabus or study guide:
- Use your course syllabus to set you on the right track. As the old saying goes, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
Studying from the lecture slide:
- Some professors tell you that the exam will be all material from the lecture slide. Don’t think that they are out to get you. Rather than spending hours reading over textbook cases in your 10 pound book, print out your lecture slides and prepare to highlight like a champ.
The road to learning specific information is, itself, very specific. Be sure to chart your path in advance so that you don’t fall into a pattern of working without direction.
4. Use earplugs/ Kill the noise
I’m not a big fan of wearing earplugs when I study but I absolutely can see the benefits. They block out ambient noise, such as doors closing in the distance, chatter in the hallway, and sirens from outside the building.
As an added benefit, I’ve heard that using earplugs actually allows you to “hear yourself think.” I asked on classmate who I saw wearing them in the lounge why he wore them and what he said was pretty surprising.
” By wearing them I am able to hear the conversations I’m having in my head thereby enabling me to build networks of information (versus memorizing alone). Call me crazy, but it works.”
Personally, I like to use Rainymood.com
. It’s a rain sound generator that really makes everything better. If don’t mind a little noise in the background but are not interested in having the TV running I would definitely give Rainymood a try.
5. Clear Your Desk of Everything You Don’t Need
Have everything you need at hand and put away everything else. For people like me, studying is extremely difficult in a dirty or cluttered environment. If my desk is clean
, honestly I will just go without studying or move my study session to another area. So if you’re anything like me a study area that is clear of bills, bottles, unnecessary papers, etc will really set your mind at ease.
6. Develop a standard note taking method.
Different students like different note taking methods. Whether you prefer mind mapping, Cornell notes
, outline format, sentence format, or another method, find one that works for you and stick to it.
Tip: Become that highlighter kid.
I remember when I was a freshmen, their was this girl who sat next to me who had a highlighter for absolutely everything. If the professor mentioned something might be on the exam, out came her blue highlighter. Things she found to be noteworthy were highlighted in yellow and so on.
I personally do a lot of my studying on a dry erase board. I once spent an afternoon building a 6 foot tall one for my room because my hall mates became so irritated by the fact that I was always using the communal one.
Over time, you’ll develop your own version of studying and will be able to use this method for the rest of your life.
7. Take regular breaks.
Your brain can only take so much in one sitting. When your mind starts to wander, or you find yourself daydreaming or reading the same paragraph over and over again, it’s time to take a break.
Spend 10 minutes away from the books, doing what you enjoy. Do your best to avoid another activity that requires too much concentration or would result in distraction. Facebook is OK, but don’t get lured into stalking friends for 45 minutes.
You can also try taking the opportunity to
- Go to the bathroom
- Drink a bit of water (500mL is good)
- Watching a 1 or 2 funny clip on YouTube (don’t get sucked in)
- Nibble on a bite of food
- Stretch your back, neck, arms and legs
Did you know: Stretching promotes blood flow in the body and will serve to wake your brain up allowing you to get back into 100% concentration much faster.
When you’re ready to get back to it, don’t forget to clear your mind and begin with the end in mind again.
8. Chug Chug Chug.
Drink water while you study. If you’re brain is getting a workout, it needs water to function efficiently – just as your muscles do. Take advantage of internal interruptions like daydreaming or “oh-yeah, I’ve gotta do that” moments by taking a drink of water, writing down the interruption, and then get back to learning.
The goal is to sustain a 100% concentration level. Water will help to make this happen. As an added benefit, drinking water will also force you to take regular breaks as your kidneys do their job.
Did you know:
- Pain (achy low back muscles)
- Feeling dizzy (vertigo)
Are all signs of dehydration.
9. Food for thought.
Just as your brain needs water to run in a highly productive state, it also needs food (duh, right!). Studying is without a doubt the time when you stomach will remind you that you haven’t munched on anything in a while. So, snacking lightly while studying prevents you from getting hungry.
Light snacking also prevents you from having to eat large meals that result in the post meal food coma that we’re all so familiar with.
Consider some of these healthy snacks.
- Mixed nuts
- Apple and peanut butter
- A Banana
- Hummus and pita
- Greek yogurt
- Carrots and dressing
10. Tweak your routine.
After you’ve established a routine, don’t be afraid to tweak it to perfection. Over time you’ll find that you might find that you learn more in the library than you do in the coffee shop or that you hate writing your notes and prefer making power point slides.
Constant improvement is what makes you a bona fide lifelong learner and Study Session Pro.
Establishing a routine that combines these methods will allow you to integrate the information and build networks of knowledge much much faster. Which will in turn guarantee you an A++ on that huge exam.
Remember: No one, not even the brightest of students get A’s without studying.
What works for you?
Maximillian Garland | Bright Futura Columnist
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