Can’t identify? I envy you. Okay, how about this: exams are coming up and you’re running out of time fast, but you keep putting off studying because stuff just isn’t clicking. You sit down to study but it seems like you’re just spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
In either case, the problem isn’t the studying. That’s the easy part, once you get started. It’s that getting started that’s the killer. Luckily for you, there are a few hacks to help you get around that “student’s block.” It’s actually more of a process of how to start studying than independent study tips, but you get the idea. Ready to get cracking? Let’s go!
Clear a Study Space
The first thing you need to do when you sit down to study is make sure you have a clear study space. I don’t know about you, but my desk seems to be a black hole for everything in my room – stuff just sort of gravitates there. Despite the quote from Einstein, you do think better when you have a desk cleared of distractions.
“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” – Albert Einstein
Speaking of distractions…
Get Rid of Distractions
Turn off your cell phone. Log out of Facebook. Turn off the TV. Turn off your iPod. This is basic, people.
Actually, the thing about the iPod is kinda controversial. Some people do study better with music and that’s totally fine. As a general rule, though, if you’re tempted to sing along or do percussive things on your desk, don’t listen to it – it’ll only distract you.
Make a List
Okay, you’re free of distractions with an empty desk. What do you do now? Make a list. Write down all the tasks you need to accomplish today, breaking the bigger ones down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. How big is a bite? As a general rule of thumb, if it takes you longer than about 25 minutes to do, you need to break it up.
Some people like to prioritize their lists by putting stars next to the important stuff. Personally, I just write the list down in order from most important to least, with one important exception:
Start with something easy
This is a really cool little study tip psychological thing you can do to yourself. Basically, you start with something easy. Note that “easy” doesn’t mean “unimportant.” The idea is that it’s something that you can just knock out without much brainpower but that doesn’t waste time. Things like checking your email don’t count. Try something like typing up some of your class notes, or copying them to a different notebook. Something to get your noggin noggining.
It’s really important that you don’t waste time or get distracted doing this. If you use that first item on your list to check your email you’re highly likely to trail off into other things. Keep it study-related.
Use a system
I highly recommend that you use a system to keep yourself on track. I personally use the Pomodoro Technique, which you can read about in another post. It’s great at keeping you focused. I must confess that I don’t use the whole system (outlined in the book, which is really good and which I highly recommend). I modified it to fit my own style and circumstances. It doesn’t really matter what system you use to study – find something that works for you and stick to it.
Set up a goal and reward
It’s important that you set both a big goal and mini goals each day. The big goal might be to accomplish everything on that list you wrote down. Mini goals might be to finish XYZ by lunch. For both types of goal, make sure you have a reward to go with achieving it. For your mini goals, have a mini reward – maybe a snack or five minutes of surfing Facebook. For your big goal of finishing the list, have a big reward.
For example, as I write this, I have quite a few things left on my list for today. If I finish them in time, I’m planning on heading out for a movie night with some friends. If I finish early, I’m hoping to head out for a game of disc golf (one of my favorites and the weather is perfect). See how that works?
So if you’re sitting on your behind trying to get into the swing of things, give this study system a shot. I guarantee you’ll get a lot done! Speaking of which, time to cross this post off my list and move on!
What do you think?
What are some things you do to get yourself pumped up and in the zone? Any more study tips you’d like to share?
Tell me in the comments below!