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Three ways to study smarter, not harder

Posted on 18/11/2015 by
Do you often find yourself daydreaming about where you'd rather be when you're meant to be studying? Although fun, this can actually cause you to study for twice as long as you need to!

Do you find it hard to stay focused and motivated when studying? See below for tips on how to improve your study techniques and get better results.

Do you have a limited amount of time to study each day? If so, this post is for you. We understand that not everyone has eight hours a day to spend memorising their notes. This is why we encourage our students to ‘study smarter, not harder’.

So what does this mean, exactly? Smart study is all about making the most of the time you have available to you – whether it’s 30 minutes or two hours. Here are three ways you can maximise your study productivity so that not a second is wasted. You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve within a short amount of time if you really focus!

Work in short intervals

Many people dread studying because they believe it will involve hours of sitting in the same spot, struggling not to fall asleep. The reality is, there’s a limit to how long the human brain can stay focused before needing a break.

The biggest mistake of people who ‘study hard but not smart’ is not giving themselves regular breaks. Not only will this exhaust your mind really quickly, it’ll also make procrastination more tempting. When you have hours of study stretched out before you, you’re bound to spend more time browsing Facebook, rewriting your to-do lists and doing anything that’s not study just to pass the time. Then before you know it, you’ve got an hour left and panic sets in!

So how can you avoid this common trap? The answer is simple: set a timer. Use an alarm clock, an online stopwatch or anything to track the time, and give yourself a 10 to 15 minute break every 45 minutes – no exceptions. The only catch? You must focus for those 45 minutes. Everything else can wait – no checking your text messages, Instagram feed or emails. You can do this once the 45 minutes are up, not a second before.

Setting a timer has a huge psychological impact on the way you study; you can literally see the minutes slipping by. The promise of a break in less than an hour is also a great motivator and will encourage you to focus so you can enjoy 10-15 minutes of fun – the light at the end of the tunnel. Why not give it a try?

Reward yourself regularly

Let’s face it: study takes hard work and commitment. You have to say no to a lot of things you’d rather be doing, like watching reruns of your favourite television show or hanging out with your friends and family.

The overall reward is huge – you’ll get to graduate with a qualification in a subject you enjoy, and this can be used to advance your career and help you find a job you love. But in the middle of a tough assignment, this reward can seem like a distant dot on the horizon.

That’s why it’s important to reward yourself on a regular basis. Why wait until graduation to celebrate little milestones along the way? Each time you finish an essay, hand in assignment or complete a test, take a moment to celebrate this achievement.

Some rewards might be small, like a night off from study or eating your favourite meal for dinner. Others might be a bit bigger, like treating yourself to a new piece of clothing or organising a fun night out with friends. As long as your rewards help you stay motivated towards achieving your qualification, then what you do is entirely up to you.

Ground yourself in the present moment  

Okay, this piece of advice might be a bit too spiritual for some, but please hear us out: staying grounded in the present moment is one of the best ways you can improve your study habits.

How many times do you struggle to study because you’d rather be somewhere else? Perhaps on the beach enjoying the sun or on the couch watching television?

While daydreaming can seem like fun at first, eventually it’s just going to make you feel depressed and frustrated about your current predicament.

The only way to overcome this yearning to be somewhere different is to do your best to accept your present situation. Dreaming about the beach isn’t going to take you there, so your brain-power is much better spent focusing on the present moment and blocking out all other alternatives.

It’s pretty simple, really: don’t waste your precious energy wishing you were somewhere else, because it’s not going to change your present reality! Much better to accept that you need to study and get on with it – the sooner you’ve finished, the sooner you can reward yourself with something nice.

We hope these tips help you to study smarter, not harder – remember, the more focused you are, the less time it will take to learn.

Do you have any study tips to share with us? What works for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts – share in the comments below!

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