Revision… I hate it. I’m not particularly good at it. I’m a huge procrastinator and generally a pretty lazy person. But there comes a time when I need to actually do my intellectual duties as a student. Here’s some tips to make your studying more efficient and effective.
Add structure to your day.
We’ve all been there. You sit down to start writing an essay, check your phone just once, and suddenly it’s four hours later and Buzzfeed is telling you which “Bachelor” contestant you are based on your favourite kind of cheesy pasta. Don’t click that link. Trust me, it’s not worth it. But on the other hand, it’s boring to just study for hours and hours without a break, and actually not that efficient! What you need is a good balance of work time and break time.
Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It’s a dumb name for a great strategy. The basic concept is, work for 25 minutes, relax for 5. Decide what you want to get done first, set a timer (ideally, not on your phone) for 25 minutes, and work straight through those 25 minutes. When the time is up, set the timer for five minutes, and get up, stretch and get a snack or some tea. When the five minutes is up, get back to work! After four sessions like this (so, 2 hours) take a longer break. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in such a short period.
The key to this technique is, well, to actually follow it. During the 25 minutes, you can’t check your phone or let yourself get distracted. If your mind is wandering, check the time and see if you can just power through until your next break.
Set material goals.
The Pomodoro Technique is great for managing time, but it doesn’t work for everybody. If you find yourself picking at your cuticles for 25 minutes and achieving nothing, try setting yourself work-based, not time-based, goals. Instead of saying, “I’m going to work until lunchtime”, try “I’m going to work until I’ve finished reading this chapter” or “until I’ve written 750 words”. It can help to actually write your goal down. Depending on how you’re feeling, try setting yourself really achievable goals, and then stretching a little further – or set a challenging goal and just get as close as possible.
When you’ve completed whatever goals you’ve set for the day, or come as close as you’re going to, stop. Don’t keep working “just because you can” unless you really want to, or really need to. Watch something good, go out with your friends. Cut yourself some slack.
I like to have a little study snack nearby, and I can give myself mini-rewards for achieving mini-goals. Try keeping a bowl with some small sweets, grapes, nuts, etc. on hand and eating one whenever you finish reading a paragraph or lecture slide. It’s a good way to motivate yourself – just don’t eat an entire bag of Peanut M&Ms. Don’t be like me.
This isn’t really a “treat yourself” issue, but you should always have water on hand when you’re planning a long study session. Not just coffee or juice. Dehydration sucks.
Or, not really “exercise”, but try to avoid fusing to your chair. Get up, walk around, and stretch your legs. When you’re sitting, try to keep your posture good. This will help you avoid a sore back and shoulders. Go outside and take a brief walk, get your blood circulating!
Know your limits.
Some days should just be cancelled. You’re sick, you’re hungover, you just can’t focus on anything – sometimes, no valuable information is going to enter or leave your brain no matter what you do. If you can, give yourself at least a few hours off to watch something really mind-numbing, meet up with friends, or nap. You can get back to it tomorrow.