Study Like It’s Your Job
It’s that time of year again. The sweet relief of summer is right at your finger tips, but before you can bask in the sunshine and all its glory, you have to make it through finals week. If you’re anything like me, most of your books have become paper weights and dust collectors. Well its time to crack ’em open and get to work! It may seem impossible, but I promise you – we can do this together with a few simple tips.
Location, Location, Location
Time and time again many studious studiers recall their parents saying, “you should go to the library to study.” While this statement holds some merit, it actually isn’t always the best place to study. Sometimes (especially at university libraries) students “studying” are actually louder in the library than they are in other buildings or classrooms. When preparing to soak in information, its best to find a quiet area without distraction. Studying materials that are foreign, hard to understand or just plain boring can cause the mind to wander. Reducing possible stimuli (things that distract you) make it much easier to focus. A good location should include a comfortable chair or couch with minimal noise and movement.
The necessities of any good studier include, but are not limited to:
- Writing utensils (preferably pens and pencils of multiple colors)
- Paper (lined paper, index cards, computer paper)
- Hole puncher / stapler
- Anything else you feel appropriate in your studying endeavors
And . . .Not So Important Materials
- Cell phone
- Computers (to go on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and anything else not study related)
- Music playing devices (unless it’s classical and non lyrical music)
The Game Plan
Relax! Clear your mind and prepare yourself to learn. If you spin material into real world examples and focus on learning for personal gain as opposed to learning because you have to, studying will come much easier. Make sure your environment is comfortable; find a location with a good temperature or a fan. Things like candles and essential oils can also be very calming. Some people find oils that create a sense of calmness and relaxation; others just find oils with their favorite smells. Either way, manipulate your environment to your liking.
Timing is Everything
Despite popular belief, complete material immersion is not as beneficial as people believe. Taking small breaks allows the mind to regroup for a second and absorb more materials later. A small break should be taken at least once every hour. During this break, it’s beneficial to go on a small walk, grab a quick bite to eat, or both! The combination of refueling your body with nutrients and the circulation of blood creates a winning combination for retention and success. However, choose foods that won’t spike your blood sugar because you may become tired after having a boost of energy. Study subjects should be switched every couple hours because the mind starts to become “numb” to large amounts of the same material. If you switch between similar subjects, your brain stays engaged and learning is more effective.
Effective Study Processes
The more information is reviewed and organized, the easier your brain can retain it. Also, the more senses you engage, the more likely you are to remember. Writing material and reviewing out loud (possibly with a partner) accesses more of your brains storage. If note cards, charts, and different colors are also utilized, boredom becomes less of a factor and words won’t blend together. I personally like to read over materials once, highlight important information, and condense. I then take my highlighted materials and organize it onto index cards or create different study guides on computer paper with many different colors. Test out techniques to find what works best, but as always, repetition is best.
No, Don’t Do That!
First and foremost, don’t panic; panicking causes mistakes and missed information. Try to sit down and not stray off topic. That means don’t listen to music (unless it helps you), don’t play on your phone, and minimize computer use to study relevant websites. Also, don’t study through the night; sleep is an integral part of your bodies functioning. Your brain needs time to relax and reboot, sleep deprivation puts more stress on the body and actually causes you to retain less.
You’re in the home stretch, diligence and determination is your middle name; all that’s left is review. Once you have studied and created your guides, all that remains is to periodically review the material. This ensures that you keep the majority of the information in your long term memory, allowing for easy access when you need it. Pack up your materials and reward yourself with something fun.
Congratulations, you are on your way to mastering knowledge retention. You buckled down, found a suitable environment, and focused until you understood your material. Breaks were taken and positive self talk was conducted. It may have killed you, but distractions like phones and computers were put away; all that’s left is to review from time to time. Remember, practice makes perfect and everyone learns differently, good luck on finding your perfect strategy.
- License: Creative Commons image source
This article was brought to you by Josh McCarthy. Josh is currently a finance major at one of the largest universities in the country and knows exactly what its like to be surrounded by distractions during finals. After 4 years of college though, he is basically a professional student – too bad he is about to graduate! Josh is also an occasional blogger for 21Drops.com. Be sure to check out his Google+ to get to know him!