I am sure you know how tough it can be to concentrate on that assignment or chapter when it really matters, but can’t! This is especially true for those units that we do not love but cannot skip. In most of the Australian Universities, you can’t go to class without preparation, which means you have to do the readings, answer the homework questions and any other work that will contribute to participation marks. If you are not used to such study structures, it can be distressing, and procrastination could put you behind for the semester and lead to last-minute cramming.
I want to help you to make studying interesting, effortless and effective. The methods below helped me to concentrate and avoid procrastination, and I have seen the same had worked for others too.
Here we go…
How to get started?
1. What time of day works for you?
Before you dive in to any method, you need to figure out what are the times that work for you. I am an early bird, so I feel the most productive hours of the day for me are 7 am to 10 am. Whereas some are night owls, who works better during late nights. Once you know this, you can dedicate those hours for difficult units.
Are there any other specific things you require while you study? Study buddy? Jazz music in the background? Snacks? Stress ball? If so, great! Use it to your advantage.
2. Pick the right environment
We are very much affected by the environment and its energy. You need to pick an environment that make you comfortable and productive. For instance, natural lighting in a clean and clutter-free room is just right for me. International Students don’t have the luxury of their own space as most live in shared accommodation. Try to create or rearrange to make it suitable environment for you to study. Alternatively, you can opt for other options like the University library, public libraries or outdoor spaces like parks, University lawn – whatever you prefer.
3. Create a realistic and effective study schedule
Before the week commences create a realistic study schedule. Unless it is the week of the study break, you will have to incorporate other work like assignments, homework, readings etc. The point of creating a schedule is that a. you have assigned slots based on the necessity b. you are not wasting precious brain power to think what and when to study rather start studying right away. An ideal schedule will break down every hour to make most of the week. Time is precious.
I want to reiterate that you need to create a “realistic” schedule. Meaning you need to consider your priority for the week. International Students juggle four units and 20 hour work weeks, there is a chance your priorities may be jumbled. Ideally, study sessions must be broken in to 30 minutes with 5-10 minute breaks.
Consider the breaks to be your reward for studying effectively.
4. Remove distractions
Distractions could be anything that takes your focus away from the books. Most common distractions include people, pets, texting, scrolling on Facebook, notifications on your smart phone and Netflix. It is said that we need to separate our study area from our bedroom, whilst this is a great solution, it may not be so for International Students in shared accommodation. However, keep your smart phone or any other distractions away from arms reach. If it means old school method of writing with pen on paper, do it. This is why it is important to schedule in 5 to 10 minute breaks after every 30 minutes of effective studying – to allow you to utilise the time for entertainment.
Here is a simple thing that distracted me just last week. I unsubscribed from Netflix couple of months ago knowing that it was consuming lot of my time without adding value. Last week, I got an e-mail notification from Netflix that season five of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, one of my favourites, was now available on Netflix! I tried so hard resist, but I gave in and binge watched the entire season whilst feeling extremely guilty. Next month when I unsubscribe, I will definitely disable e-mail notifications.
How to study effectively?
In my opinion, effective studying means studying twice as much in half the time. There is no point spending 6 hours trying to gauge one chapter, rather spend an hour and have a deeper understanding of the same chapter.
Want to know few other effective study habits? Keep reading…
5. Don’t study hard, study smart
Everything in your textbook are not coming for the exam. So use the crystal ball method. You need to pick and choose the important areas and focus solely on those sections. It is your lecturer who makes the exam questions, so to study effectively in University listen in class to what areas are being emphasised, refer to questions, lecture notes and finally think like the lecturer.
Best way to understand how well you comprehended what you learnt, you must try to teach someone else. If you don’t have anyone around, just pretend there is someone next to you and try explaining. Sounds weird? Not really, if it helps.
6. Revising what you learnt
Our brain does not store information for weeks. You will remember tomorrow, only 50% of what you learnt today. The day after you will remember 25% and in a week, you might remember only 10%. Factoring this in your schedule is vital. This means it is important to revise what you learnt today within a couple of days. In order to do this, the best and easiest method would be making short notes of what you studied within the day. This way, you only need to refer these notes on revision day – quick and effective.
7. Using visual cues
This might not work for everyone, but using visual cues are great way to remember facts and figures without making it too difficult. Our brain is able to grasp and store the information longer when depicted in visual form. Learning through webinars and YouTube are useful additions to classroom learning and are entertaining. If there are any concepts that you are finding difficult to understand, try searching it in Khan Academy YouTube channel. Chances are you might find it. For me, and agreed by many students, his way of teaching is interesting and effective.
8. Using acronyms
From using it on text to now even using in verbal communication and making it popular enough to be added to the dictionary, our generation is the generation of Acronyms. Why not we incorporate this to studies? Acronyms are highly useful for courses with a lot of concepts and theory. It is an effective way to remember a sea of information by simply remembering a combination of letters.
Shout out to my loving mother for me teaching me this method back in high school.
9. Make studying effortless
How tough is brushing your teeth? Not that hard, right? That is because it is a habit. Similarly our motivation to study must be effortless and make studying interesting. In order to achieve this, start small. Try studying for 10 minutes, increase it to 15 within next few days, then 20 and finally 30 minutes. This is definitely not a short-term tactic but something to develop overtime. You will eventually learn to concentrate on studying for long hours without any trouble.
Accomplishing other small and easy tasks on a daily basis, also contributes to motivation.
Try this. As soon as you get out of bed, make your bed. It is am easy task, but a task you accomplished, whilst making your room cleaner. A clean bed is the key to a calm mind.
Regardless, there will be days you lack motivation or feel burnt out, then don’t force yourself, take a break!
10. Stay physically active and sleep 8 hours
As soon as exams creep in and schedules tighten, there are two activities we tend to drop right away: going to gym and proper sleep. Both are important to keep our mind stimulated during the stressful period of exams. They help with retaining information, releasing stress and relaxing your mind and body. Gym is not the only form of physical activity, you could do daily jogging or play a sport with a mate. In terms of sleep, it is always recommended to sleep during the night and wake early morning. However understandably, student life doesn’t always accommodate to proper schedules. So try to at least have 8 hours of sleep without distractions.
In the comment section, let me know if you use any of the above methods or what is your best study method?
Until next time…