What do you visualize when you hear the word “study”?
If you’re like most people, it's something like this:
When we think about “studying," we typically think about spending hours and hours each night pouring over a 39-pound textbook. Bonus points if you make it past midnight! Double bonus points if you fall asleep beneath, beside, or on top of that textbook! In undergrad, I did this ALL the time and I would be totally surprised when I just made an OK grade on a test... “But I studied for hours!” That’s because (luckily), it’s not necessary to study for hours!
Do you want to know what the absolutely, most effective amount of time to spend studying is? 20-50 minutes. (Yes. MINUTES). Why? Because our brains need some time to digest everything that they’ve just read. Think about it like a workout… you wouldn’t workout for 4 hours straight without any water breaks, would you? Absolutely not! It that would be totally dangerous and ineffective! Yet that’s what we expect our brains to be able to do all the time!
So, if you’re already getting burnt out on studying for the upcoming midterms (can you believe it’s already that far into the semester?!), try this process:
Divide your big project into 3 smaller tasks
If I write something like “finish research project” or “write research paper” on my to-do list, that’s gonna get done never. I am literally never going to wake up one morning, open up my computer with a huge smile and say “Well, today’s the perfect day! Time to get started on that 65-page paper!”.
It’s gotta be done little by little, piece by piece.
Instead, I write things like “Edit Action Plan (20 mins)”. I didn’t tell myself it had to be perfect. I didn’t even tell myself I had to finish it. I just told myself to work on it for 20 minutes. And 20 minutes is nothing, right?! That’s, like, 5 songs. That’s a lunch break. That’s a TV show. That’s DO-ABLE.
Set a timer and just start
Then set a timer and just start. Whatever the thing is that’s stressing you out the most, start with that thing! What have you been procrastinating about the longest? Just set aside the next 20 minutes and focus completely on that one thing. It may be reading a textbook. It may be writing a paper (for me right now, it’s editing a paper and adding some more resources).
When the timer goes off, take a break
Not a huge break, but enough to take your mind off of your work for a few minutes. Try to something physical because it will help you study more effectively! Put on Beyonce and dance around for 5 minutes, roll out your yoga mat and do a couple of your favorite poses. Go outside! I tell the kids in my class to go across the room and do some jumping jacks or to hop up and down until they feel like they can focus again! Try anything that will get you moving around!
Set your timer and start again
You are totally free to stop there. Write down what you got done during those 20 minutes and where you should pick up next time, then you’re totally free to walk away. BUT you may also have that feeling of “well, I could do just a little bit more” or “now that I have that much done, I might as well go ahead and finish that”. And that’s the best ever! That means that your break totally worked and that your mind feels refreshed and ready to do more! Just keep working in those 20-minute intervals!
And that’s it! 20 minutes at a time, as many times as you can, everyday.
No more falling asleep on those textbooks and hoping the information will jump into your brain! :)
How long do you usually spend studying for something? Are you guilty of studying for “too long” (I was the worst)? Have you tried studying in smaller intervals? How do you spend your study breaks?