Let’s face it: studying can be a challenge. With exams in full swing, students from all over now find themselves in that all too familiar scenario – sitting at a desk, books laid out, laptop open, mug of piping hot coffee or tea. The stage is set, and it’s time to get the head down and (gulp) study.
It’s at this point, the human brain becomes extremely good – exceptional, even – at one thing. You all know what I’m talking about.
That’s right. The self-inflicted study session sends our brains desperately searching for anything even remotely more interesting to occupy itself with, instead of the subject at hand. That mammoth textbook staring back at you from the desk looks too intimidating, and so perhaps you’d rather see what’s on YouTube instead.
‘Just 10 minutes, then I’ll hit the books,’ you think. ‘Pinkie promise.’
Chances are, you may have even stumbled across this very blog because you’re on a procrastination binge right now. We forgive you.
It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed when it comes to studying – which in turn leads to ineffective study sessions, wandering attention and procrastination.
So, let’s get back on track, shall we? The following tried-and-tested methods will help turn even the most prolific procrastinator into studying machine.
1. Clear your desk
With the exception of Albert Einstein and his infamous messy desk, clearing away the clutter can have a positive effect on the mind.
It’s common to feel overwhelmed when studying, and having a desk that’s covered with books, paper and other clutter can add to those feelings. So, focus on a single area of study and clear away anything that is not related to that task.
Maintaining an organised study space will give you a sense of control and help keep you on top of things.
2. Break it down
This one sounds very simple, but you’d be amazed how often this helps people who are fighting revision boredom and procrastination. Every task, no matter how seemingly insurmountable, can be broken down into smaller and more manageable parts.
Have 200-page text book to read? Just read chapter one, read paragraph one of chapter one or even read the first sentence of that paragraph. It sounds ridiculous, but you’re teaching your brain to overcome ‘study inertia’. Adopting this approach gives you a ‘micro reward’ by actually accomplishing something, no matter how small and finding out that it wasn’t so scary after all.
Once you’ve tackled that very first step, continuing on to do a little more becomes easier and easier – until presto! You’re studying. Go you.
3. Eat the frog
‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.’Mark Twain
Ok, put that poor frog down and step away. We’re not being literal here. The concept of ‘eating the frog’ is just a metaphor for organising your tasks by priority – specifically, your biggest and most challenging task (your ‘frog’) first! By getting your biggest task out of the way first, you gain the maximum sense of achievement right from the start, fuelling you to knock out the rest of your study sessions for that day.
Here’s another easy way to remember this tip (without the frog):
Do the worst first.
4. Pump up the volume (not too loud, though)
For some people, when it comes to studying, silence can be deafening. If you’re one of those people that can’t stand the silence, perhaps putting on some music will help act as white noise and allow you to focus in on the task at hand.
Now, we aren’t going to cite the usual age-old studies that classical music is the only music you should study to (personally, it puts us to sleep). But we would recommend songs without lyrics, as these can cause you to be more easily distracted. Instrumental music like movie soundtracks or even ambient sounds are usually a good bet.
5. Partner up
This tip comes with its own note of caution: for many finding a study partner is a great way to mix up studying sessions, allowing ideas and conversation to bounce back and forth during a study session. For others, it can be counterproductive.
Be careful who you choose as a study buddy and be honest enough with yourself to recognise if you’re actually being more productive or you have just found another fellow procrastinator to play PS4 with.
6. Get inspired
Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees.
Diving headfirst into heavy theory and study material can sometimes cause you to lose sight of why you’re studying this subject in the first place. This kills motivation and breeds boredom.
If you find yourself in this situation, take a step back and rediscover the topic at a simpler level. Go onto YouTube and find interesting, real-world cases of this subject in action – from David Attenborough and his love of the natural world, to Carl Sagan and Bill Nye the Science Guy. These popularisers of their field are responsible for igniting the passions of a generation, and can give you the fuel you need to get you through those study sessions when you find yourself getting ‘into the weeds’.
7. Perfection is the enemy of progress
This is one of our all-time favourite phrases.
At the end of the day, we can be our own worst enemy. Overcoming the initial inertia in order to buckle down and study can be challenging, and often at the heart of this is a deeply held fear that we either aren’t good enough, smart enough or disciplined enough to start, so why bother?
However, by understanding that nothing in this world is perfect, putting in the work and giving something your best effort is infinitely better than not starting at all for fear of failure. Sometimes, ‘good enough’, is good enough (stick that on a post-it!)