When your studies pile on during a busy semester, how do you handle the workload? Some students study for tests weeks in advance and begin their assignments the day they receive the syllabus. Other plod along gradually, making headway on class projects and studying a bit at a time. Several students approach schoolwork with a large caffeinated drink and the intention of staying up the night before to prepare. Regardless of your study habits, we recommend starting with these helpful tips to improve and change up your routine.
1. Prepare Your Study Space
Once you’ve established your ideal place to study, organize your space to make it easy to find highlighters, books, notes, and anything else you need to get started. Let each item have a designated place at your desk or table and remove all unnecessary books, papers and anything that would be a distraction.
Make it a habit to clean and organize your study space for 2-3 minutes before working and once you wrap up to ensure that your entire focus can be on your studying once you sit down.
2. Have Healthy Snacks on Hand
As you prepare for longer stretches of studying, plan to have a snack or two on hand that can motivate you and keep you energized. Avoid eating a large or heavy meal before you begin working, too, as that could cause you to feel weighed down or drowsy throughout your attempted studying.
While you may feel tempted to reach for junk food, especially if there’s a particularly stressful test or paper to focus on, avoid it and the inevitable “crash and burn” it brings a couple hours later. Instead, keep healthy snacks like yogurt, nuts, fruit, or beef jerky on hand to fuel you through your whole study session.
Just as it’s important to keep yourself fed and energized, also make sure you drink enough water. Make water a priority by filling a large glass of water during each break and aiming to finish it by your next break.
3. Take Timed Breaks
Every once in a while, it is best to step away from your books to keep your mind agile and ready to tackle another round of focused studying. Aim to spend 10 minutes out of every hour studying to get some fresh air and sunshine with a quick walk, refill your water, do those dishes you’ve been putting off, or anything that lets you decompress. You will return more focused than you expect.
Be disciplined with this break by setting a timer and returning back to your desk by the time the buzzer goes off. These breaks are rewarding and freeing, but their purpose is to help you be at the top of your game when you get back to work.
4. Take Care of Your Body
You’ll feel most successful in your studying routine when you’ve slept well and exercised regularly. Just as with the junk food temptation, you may feel like the occasional "all-nighter" before a test or avoiding working out is a good idea. But if your body is tired, your mind will not retain as much information compared to your peak mental and physical performance.
Get in the right amount of sleep to be alert and focused. Establish a consistent morning wake-up time and set an alarm for the time you should be preparing to get into bed, planning to get that ideal amount of shut-eye before another productive day.
Also, be intentional to exercise and make your health a priority. The mental discipline required to feel motivated and consistent in a workout routine will likely affect the patterns you set in your study routine.
5. Regularly Review Your Class Notes
Regardless of the projects, papers, or tests you have coming up, take time during each and every study session to review your notes from the past several classes in each subject. By reading through this material regularly, you can avoid last-minute cramming sessions or the feeling that there are too many pages of notes to process. Aim to fully learn the information taught in your courses to get the full value of the teaching material.
These adjustments will help you as you set aside hours each week to concentrate on studying. Master your routine to ensure you learn the material, manage your time, and fully concentrate on your work.
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