Why studying more doesn’t always equal better results
When studying feels like a daunting task, creating a structured and organised plan can help you face the task head on. There’s no need to do 12 hour long study sessions to reach your potential. Here are my tried and tested hacks to help you maximise your studies.
Use a whiteboard
To support my learning, my best investment by far was a small whiteboard. When writing to-do lists, I found notebooks and planners never worked for me. A quick search online, and I found a decent whiteboard to put up in my uni room. Tasks and deadlines are clearly visible, and when I complete a task, I can rub it out. Using a whiteboard helps me to declutter my mind, which is great to relieve stress around deadlines. My whiteboard also came with magnets so I can organise tasks based on urgency, and this is very helpful when it comes to prioritising.
Quizlet is an app that allows you to make virtual flashcards (or use ones that other students have made). It is a great alternative to handwritten flashcards. They are quick and easy to make, and it uses an algorithm to work out which content you need to work on further. This really streamlines your revision process and it’s also great for when you are on the go or traveling. You can download the flashcards and quizzes you have created so they are usable offline. A bonus which makes it easy to study in short bursts during the day.
The Pomodoro Technique
This is a study technique based on studying in timed intervals and it is designed to help students to manage their time. This effective technique has been in use by students for over twenty years as it helps you break up large tasks into smaller manageable timed units (called “pomodoros”).
The Pomodoro Technique works by first deciding what you want to accomplish, and then you break up your work into sections that make sense to you. Set a timer for 25 minutes and start studying. There are many Pomodoro apps available to help you with this (try Pomodoro). Try to keep your focus during this interval by writing down any thoughts that pop into your head or putting your phone on do not disturb mode. After 25 minutes take a short 5–10-minute break. Try to do something relaxing during this time. Repeat this, and after 4 pomodoros take a longer break for 20-30 minutes. I have used this technique for years and I have found it to be the best way to maintain concentration and manage my time.
Virtual study companions
Studying with a friend works well for many people, but for me it only proves distracting. I find myself getting caught up in conversation, and this isn’t a good use of my time when I have a big deadline or exam coming up. “Study with me” is a YouTube phenomenon in which students’ video themselves studying, often using the pomodoro technique or some other technique that works for them. You simply focus on your work as they focus on theirs and take breaks when they do. I find watching these videos while studying holds me accountable and may be simpler than setting your own timers (which requires a certain amount of willpower!).
Motivational quotes and affirmations
This tip is based less on studying and more on mindset. We all know that when you don’t have the right headspace, studying is ineffective and adds more stress to your mind. The app Motivation sends you motivational quotes throughout the day, helping to keep you grounded. It allows you to set daily reminders. For example, I ask for 10 a day, starting at 8am and finishing at 10pm. You can also add a widget to your home screen so you can view your favorite ones whenever you open your phone. The app asks you what you feel you need the most guidance with, i.e., relationships, faith and spirituality, self-esteem and more. An alternative to this app is finding quotes that resonate with you or even making your own affirmations. Write these down and put them somewhere you frequently look at. This will help give you some encouragement and grounding to calm your mind, so you are ready to study to the best of your ability.
Try to remember, everyone is different and studying is not one size fits all. It took me a lot of trial and error to find the methods that work for me, so don’t be afraid to do your research and try out new techniques. Always make sure to give yourself a break and don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Being a student is hard work and you can only do your best.