Studying can sometimes feel like an insurmountable task. Whether you have a single chapter or 15 chapters to read by Friday, or you’ve got an exam coming up, these 15 tips and tricks are guaranteed to help you have a PERFECT study session.
1. Eliminate Distractions
This sounds like a no-brainer, but removing distractions (other humans and technology) is by far one of the most important factors to having a kick-butt study session.
Find a quiet place where the door won’t constantly be opening requiring you to look up in case your best friends just walked into the library or coffee shop you’ve chosen. Then, leave your phone in your backpack. I know it’s hard to be without your phone, but that text message you think you’re missing will still be there after your study session is over.
2. Choose an environment that will help you to focus on your studies
Everyone thrives in different environments. So what works for your roommate or your best friend, might not work for you. If you do your best work in your dorm room, clear your desk off so that only the things you need for that subject are in your space. If you’re like me, sitting alone in a room will drive you crazy and only cause you to be more distracted, so sitting in a coffee shop with your headphones in might be your best option.
Choose an environment that works for you and if you suddenly need a change of location, go for it!
3. Clear your mind
Take a few minutes before you start your study session, or between subjects, to close your eyes and clear your mind of everything else. It may sound crazy, but those few minutes will help you to create the right headspace to focus in on what you need to.
And if you’re switching between subjects, taking a minute to clear your mind will help you stop thinking about that calculus problem you’ve been working through so you don’t accidentally write an equation into your history term paper.
4. What you’re munching on matters
It can be really easy to snack on junk food while you’re studying. My argument was always that Flaming Hot Cheetos helped me stay awake, but munching on something crunchy and healthy like carrots or celery probably would have done the same thing.
Eating a solid breakfast as well as a few healthy snacks throughout the day will help your energy levels and keep you going through the day.
5. Stay hydrated
It’s common knowledge that 8 ounces of water 8 times a day will help you to stay healthy. But did you know that it can also help you to stay focused? Multiple studies have found that drinking water can improve brain function and help your brain work more rapidly, which in turn will help you stay focused and retain more information. Drinking water will also help you stay refreshed and awake during your study sessions.
Caffeine is great and for many people, it’s a necessary part of any study session. But, it is important to remember that if you study caffeinated, you also need to be caffeinated while you’re taking your tests or writing your papers.
6. Take breaks
Refusing to take a break while you’re studying is a sure-fire way to feel overloaded and run down during your study session. Taking a five-minute break to walk around or check your email will actually help your brain to process all of the information that you’ve been studying.
(Pro tip: If you’re studying on the computer, take a break every 25 minutes to give your eyes a break. It will help you focus longer, and combat those nasty headaches that come from looking at a screen for too long.)
7. Choose your music wisely
Most students study better to some type of music. But did you know that there are certain types of music that can actually improve your brain function (check out our Spotify article to find out more)? Listening to music without any lyrics works best if you’re reading so you’re not distracted by the words. And listening to video game soundtracks has been proven to increase your focus.
Try out some of our Spotify playlists and see what works for you!
8. Create a system for taking notes
It can be incredibly helpful to organize all of your notes in the same way. Not only does it make the information you’re looking for easier to find, but it gives your brain a pattern to follow and a quick way to retrieve information. So set a system of colors, indents, tabs, bullet points–whatever works for you–and organize your notes.
Just don’t be afraid to tweak! If you’ve been using the same format and it’s suddenly not working (or you’re human and you’re bored), changing up your system will help you refocus.
9. Mindset matters
Have you ever noticed that if you tell yourself that you don’t want to be somewhere or do something you automatically don’t have a good time? But, if you psych yourself up that everything is going to go well, you tend to have more fun? The same can be said for studying. If you walk into the library feeling like you’ll never make it through all of the work you have to do, chances are you won’t.
So, approach your study sessions with positive vibes. Your more cheerful mood will make it easier to get started and stay focused. If you’re studying with a group, your good mood will rub off on them too!
10. Lose the clutter
Taking a minute to declutter your study area will do wonders for helping you get into the right frame of mind. If you’re studying in your room, pick up a little. If you’re studying in public, don’t put everything you brought with you on your table. Only having the things you need around you while you study will help you to stay focused.
Plus, the physical act of picking things up is a great way to declutter your thoughts at the same time.
11. Go through your notes ASAP after class
This can be a tough one, especially if you’ve just gotten out of a two-hour lecture and you’ve got another one coming up in 10 minutes. But, taking a few minutes to review your notes right after class can help cement the new information in your mind. The information will never be as fresh as it is right after you’ve learned it so use that to your advantage.
Helpful Hint: If you take notes by hand during class, which can help you to retain more information and improve your memory, type them up later that day. Doing this will give you an automatic mini-study session and you’ll have a chance to read through things while they’re fresh in your mind. There’s nothing worse than looking over notes you took a week ago and not having a clue what you meant when you wrote them.
12. Stay well-rested
Getting enough sleep is vital to brain function. It can be tough to lock in a full 8 hours a night though so don’t be afraid to take a nap during the day. While you sleep, your brain processes the information stored in your short term memory, so taking a nap after an intense study session or class can actually help you to retain more information. Studies say that 20 minutes is just the right amount to recharge, but a full 90 minutes is best.
13. Track your progress
There are tons of different ways to track your progress while you’re studying. You can do things the old fashioned way and tick off boxes on a to-do list, or go new school and use one of the many different study apps available to students.
No matter how you choose to keep track of things, tracking your progress is a good way to keep yourself motivated. For me, there is no better feeling than seeing what felt like an endless list of things to do dwindle down to nothing.
14. Reward yourself for a solid study session
Sometimes finishing a study session can feel like you’ve just finished running a marathon. It’s exhausting, and it can take hours. But if you’ve just finished a solid study session, reward yourself for your hard work!
Whether you take yourself out for frozen yogurt (my favorite reward) or you buy yourself that new fleece pullover you’ve been eyeing, make sure you’re treating yourself for a job well done.
15. Organize your study session before you start
Have you ever sat down to study with a pile of books and papers and felt so overwhelmed that you just decide to put it off “one more day”? I know that I have.
Starting a study session can feel like you’re standing at the bottom of Mount Everest. So do what the sherpas do, and make a plan. Start by setting small, reachable (but challenging) goals for yourself and then organize them into a schedule. If you give yourself a schedule to follow, you only have to tackle the first part of that schedule rather than the whole thing.
For more tips, tricks, and tools, take a look at our Tips and Tools section!