“Do your homework!” We’ve all been there. Whether it was our parents telling us as kids or us telling our own kids, we’ve all seen the lack of interest and efficiency in doing our school work. It wasn’t until I was in my second year in college that I really understood the best way for me to tackle all my school work effectively. Developing effective study habits should ideally be accomplished in grade school but for those of us who didn’t make it to valedictorian we know that our grades suffered because of our less than stellar study habits.
Udemy provides various courses on how to learn different study tips and get help with exam anxiety. Learning how to study effectively can put you ahead of the game.
Quality over Quantity
So many students time and time again have it in their head that studying for many, many hours will guarantee you the best grade. Not necessarily. One thing I’ve learned in my 21 years as a student is that quality trumps quantity any day of the week.
When we realize this, we begin to maximize our time and learn how to focus on what really matters. Once you know what methods work for you to understand and retain important material, you can attack any subject with maximum efficiency and ease.
Find a Consistent Study Space
When we go to the gym, we’re more inclined to exercise effectively as opposed to working out at home. Why is that? Well, once we’re on a treadmill or once we’ve stepped into a Zumba class, we’re not going to sit down and eat pizza. We know we’re there to put in work for our bodies. Same thing for studying.
Studies show that if you consistently study in the same space, you can program your mind into study mode whenever you’re present in that space. So, try studying in a few different places to see what works best for you. Places to try: the library (try a private room versus a study carrel or just a table in the library), your apartment or dorm room, a local coffee shop, a study room at your local public library, or in one of the study areas around campus (many schools have lounge areas with quiet study areas). Once you find a place that works best for you, try to study there each day until it becomes a habit.
When its Time to Study, Study! No Distractions
This one is so key. I struggled so much with getting anything done effectively because of not following (or really realizing) this one rule. I would be like a dog at a park. Every little thing would grab my attention and I’d go after it, leaving my books behind. But once someone pointed this out to me I was changed forever.
The old me would always have my books open for hours on end but I would be on my phone, turn on the television, maybe have a conversation with anyone who was nearby, clean my room up and down and then by the day’s end I’d only done very minimal studying. Then one day I asked a friend of mine (who always did really well in the hardest of classes) what’s the best way to study. He simply said, give yourself a time frame for only studying and then take good breaks. Slowly I began to build up blocks of time from 20 minutes to eventually 2-3 hours at a time where I would only study. Maybe a water or bathroom break but I disciplined my mind to just study without distractions then once my time was up I could be as distracted as I wanted to be and then if needed, back to studying, then break, and so on and so on. This study habit was hands down the best one I could have ever developed.
Give Yourself Rewards!
Because so many people view studying as a chore or task, it’s human nature to avoid it. If, however, you find rewards to help reinforce what you’re doing, you may be pleasantly surprised by the change you may find in your attitude over time.
Rewards start by chunking study time into manageable components. Studying for 4 hours at a time with no breaks is not realistic or fun for most people. Studying for 1 hour, and then taking a 5 minute break and grabbing a snack is usually more sustainable and enjoyable. Divide study time into segments that make sense and work for you. If you have to digest a whole textbook chapter, find sections in the chapter and commit to reading and taking notes on one section at a time. Maybe you only do one section in a sitting, maybe you do two. Find the limits that seem to work for you.
If you succeed in your goals (such as doing two sections of a chapter in one sitting), give yourself a real reward. Perhaps it’s saying, “I’ll treat myself to some good dessert tonight at dinner,” or “I can buy a new tune online,” or “I can spend an extra 30 minutes gaming for every 2 sections of a book chapter I read.” The point is to find a reward that is small but real, and to stick to it. Some may view this as absurd, since you’re setting limits you can easily ignore. But by setting these limits on your behavior, you’re actually teaching yourself discipline, which will be a handy skill to have throughout life.
Develop Memory Tricks
Memory games, or mnemonic devices, are methods for remembering pieces of information using a simple association of common words. Most often people string together words to form a nonsense sentence that is easy to remember. The first letter of each word can then be used to stand for something else – the piece of information you’re trying to remember. The most common mnemonic device example is “Every Good Boy Deserves Fun.” Putting the first letters of every word together – EGBDF – gives a music student the five notes for treble clef.
The key to such memory devices is the new phrase or sentence you come up with has to be more memorable and easier to remember than the terms or information you’re trying to learn. These don’t work for everyone, so if they don’t work for you, don’t use them.
Mnemonic devices are helpful because you use more of your brain to remember visual and active images than you do to remember just a list of items. Using more of your brain means better memory.
Treat Each Study Time as a New Opportunity to Learn
The attitude we have when we approach learning any subject is key in determining how well we will do. Learning anything new and/or difficult can be an automatic depressant. No one wants to be faced with how crappy they are at something. But the problem is that when we we’re faced with adversity at first, we can either pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and tackle the problem head on or we can drag our feet and let it feel like torture every time we work our way through the subject.
Treating each new time we approach learning something as a new opportunity to learn instead of another opportunity to get our butt kicked (even if that’s what actually does happen) is the difference between an A and a B or C. When we’re too hard on ourselves for not mastering the subject right away or early on, we can easily semi give up and miss that golden window to actually learn.
Studying is something anyone can master and the sooner you figure it out the better you’ll be!
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