“Studying” sounds unpleasant. Why? Because sometimes we get impatient when we want to succeed. Preparing for an important test is a long process when we want to score that A. It shouldn’t be something we dislike, especially since it’s something we all (should) do. Short, productive study sessions create a happy medium, and here’s how to do it:
In the same way you get into your workout zone when you hit the gym, your “study zone” hits a peak if you designate a place for it. Think about it this way: is working out in your room as effective as working out at the gym? As we all found out during quarantine, the answer is “NO”. Academic gains start by creating a “gym” for your studies!
Our brains naturally associate certain environments with actions. Our productivity is dependent on location. Setting aside a study area is a good start. Find a cafe, library, room, or any type of space that strengthens your focus and creates a good studying atmosphere.
Comfiness: But not too comfortable…zzz
Lighting: Anything that keeps you alert. The ambiance is key: go for one of these lamps to set a studying mood. Red, orange, and yellow light increase alertness.
Distractions: You know yourself better than anyone; figure out whether you like background noise or not.
– Do you need background noise to study? Try a few of these trendy cafes around Tokyo!
– Don’t like background noise? Yea, me neither. Try some of these libraries.
I don’t mean personalize the wall next to that cafe table where you always sit, so let’s not start taping your polaroids in public spaces. If your study area is in your house, go for it! An MIT study found that visuals are inspirational and can remind you of your goals. Photos evoke a range of emotions that create meaningful associations to past memories. Put up some special photos of good times, close friends, and family and get that extra motivating boost!
I was really bad at this BUT I recently recognized that organization and studying go hand in hand. Yea, losing your final paper somewhere in your desk ten minutes before it’s due is not great. Not that that’s happened to me. Now, I follow the trendy “minimalist” lifestyle that I picked up from Marie Kondo and put nothing on my desk unless I absolutely need it. Many studies have found that disorganization can lead to high levels of stress. Go ahead and take a look at your desk right now. Is it messy? Save yourself future headaches and take five minutes to clear it out.
When should you study? Ah, this one is also tricky. There are millions of different answers because when you study is entirely dependent on you. That being said, simple is better. Why? Because you’re more likely to follow it.
Why should you trust me? I’ve gone through all-nighters, last-minute cram sessions, and other stress-induced study methods enough times to know that it doesn’t work. Sure, some people think they work better under pressure. I thought so, too. Then I got an F on my physics final and almost had to retake the entire course. Not fun. I learned the risks of cram studying the hard way so you can stay on top of your game.
Still not convinced? It’s scientifically proven. Space your studying out and retain more information. Boom, that’s science.
So what’s the plan?
As I mentioned before, keep these study sessions short and sweet. Studying for hours on end isn’t realistic. So how do you study less and increase productivity?
– Hey, relax a little! I probably don’t have to tell you to take breaks but don’t feel guilty about taking breaks! Actually, please take breaks. They’re good for your productivity and mental health and increase your intrinsic motivation. You learn as you get older that a big part of studying is taking breaks.
– Schedule it. If having a calendar or schedule works for you, by all means, keep doing your thing. Not everyone reaps the same benefits, including myself. What I do find helpful is creating checklists. Visualizing everything I need to do for the day reduces stress and anxiety. Ticking boxes off is satisfying. That being said, everyone is different. Schedule your study sessions in a way that works best for you. You do you!
I’ll be honest. Every time I sit down to study, I get back up after five minutes to snack or check my phone for notifications. Without fail. Yes, I did say it’s okay to take breaks, however, we need time to focus.
Have you ever studied, hit your stride, and looked up what feels like seconds later and realized you were diligently working for the last two hours? You were in Flow and it is powerful. An easy way to recreate Flow is the Pomodoro Technique. It works like this:
– Set a timer for 25 minutes, and start your task.
– If you get distracted by something or by a thought, write it down and return to your task.
– When the timer sounds, put a checkmark (✔) on your paper. Every 25 minutes you complete is a Pomodoro.
– Take a short break. (We suggest 5 minutes)
– During this break you can look at the distractions you wrote down, stretch, grab a drink, etc.
– After 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break. (30 minutes)
Why should you try this? It’s portable, easy, and short! Try this anywhere – at the library, cafe, on the plane. Use the timer on your phone. Pomodoro study sessions are long enough to get stuff done but short enough so that it’s not painful.
It’s hard to ask for help. I suffered through AP Physics for weeks because I refused to admit I was falling behind. By the time I got an F, there was no amount of organization and planning that could save me. With the help of a tutor, I turned my grades around and saved my GPA from turmoil. Proud to say that was the last F I got in school.
At the end of the day, you know yourself the best. If you’re struggling with study habits, try a couple of these things out and see if they help. And if all else fails, you always have access to the best tutors in Tokyo!