You wouldn’t turn up to run a marathon in the wrong clothes, with no sleep, no plan and on an empty stomach.
So don’t turn up to a study session unprepared either.
Don't waste time on pointless tasks, searching for notes, fetching snacks or wondering what to do next.
It’s a lot easier to be productive if you’re prepared.
This doesn’t have to take long, but spend 5 minutes at the start of each study session going through these 5 steps.
But first, sign up to my free resource library where you can download my bloomin’ awesome study session planner AND tons of other printables and worksheets to help you become a happier, more confident and more successful student.
1) Set up your study space
Clear your desk
It’s much easier to get lots done if your desk is clear. Try to remove anything that isn’t study related e.g. yesterday’s jumper, your Mum’s birthday present, your breakfast bowl.
I am NOT a tidy person so I struggle to keep my desk (currently my kitchen table) clean. Instead, at the start of each study session I take everything I won’t need that day and put it on a pile on the floor out the way.
Yes, at some point you might need your 17 notebooks but if you’re not using them TODAY, get it out the way.
This way you HAVE got space to spread out all your materials. It will be quicker to find the right notes and you’ll spend less time stressing when you can’t find something.
Get rid of distractions
It’s hard enough to get in the zone when studying a difficult concept so the last thing you need is your phone beeping or email pinging to distract you and make you lose focus.
Removing the things that distract you is hard, I understand. I get withdrawal symptoms whenever my phone is more than a metre away from me. But increasing your focus improves your productivity so you can get your studying done more quickly…so you’ll have more time for the things you WANT to do.
Here’s some ways to remove distractions:
· Ask whoever you live with to try not to disturb you or tempt you with fun activities
· Turn off the television/radio (unless the background noise *really* helps you)
· Turn off the notifications on your phone for most of your apps e.g. email, all social media, news websites
· Use free programmes/websites to temporarily block access to certain websites or the Internet – Cold Turkey
· Turn your Wi-Fi off on your computer if you’re not using it
· Put your phone in another room or ask someone you live with to take it away from you.
Click here for 14 more anti-procrastination methods.
Find some good music!
I LOVE studying and working with music. I know some people can study with the television or radio on but I struggle to focus if I can hear words or conversations. Non-lyrical music can help improve focus for subjects where you have to form your own thoughts i.e. essay type subjects.
Here’s a list of my favourite non-lyrical music (I listen on Spotify):
Electronic + random
· Epica by Audiomachine
· Invincible by Two Steps From Hell
· Every Harry Potter Soundtrack
· Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (just started listening!)
· The Imitation game
· Dark Knight Rises
· Assassins Creed 2
· Final Fantasy VII
Get the snacks in!
I’m definitely a snackaholic so have to make sure I have a good selection before I sit down at my desk. It’s important to keep your blood sugar from dipping too low if you want to maintain brain function and focus.
Similarly, you want to keep hydrated. I often forget to drink – pair that with staring at a screen for hours and a headache is inevitable. Try to always have a glass of water on your desk, or even a jug with some lemon slices in if you’re in for a long session. Hot drinks are also great so get a mug of your favourite and refill during your breaks.
I am also a bit of a sugar fiend. I eat pretty healthy meals but I LOVE sugary snacks. So I normally have some sweets or chocolate on my desk to keep me going.
Of course, healthy snacks are a lot better for you but sometimes, when you have an essay due tomorrow, only chocolate and crisps are gonna get you through it!
But, when I am being good – these are my favourite healthy snacks:
· Apple slices with cinnamon
· Pistachios or cashews
· Carrot sticks with aioli/hummus
· Ham slices
· Small bowl of porridge with strawberries.
2) Make your to do list BUT work out the 1-3 priorities of your study session
Now list the tasks you want to complete today. I normally separate these into groups such as:
· Personal (haircut, book dentist appointment)
· Housework (load of washing, clean kitchen)
· Studying (notes for unit 4, create essay plan)
· Business (write weekly newsletter).
It’s helpful to see the tasks you have to complete so you can work on the right things.
Next, take this list and mark the 1 to 3 tasks that are key priorities. If you only achieve these tasks today the day will still be a success. It’s important to work out your priorities so you don’t waste time on pointless easy tasks. There’s no point spending hours creating revision notes for your exam in 6 months when you have an essay due this week.
3) Decide on your study session's work/break ratio
I may have to change my middle name to Pomodoro soon as I am slightly obsessed with this technique. You all know you should be taking breaks during your studying. When you’re working to a tight deadline it may not seem like you have the time but breaks WILL help.
I’m not giving you permission to spend an hour on Facebook for every hour of studying, but breaks are important to refresh your mind and body. Studies have also shown your brain continues to make connections while you’re relaxing so you could come back to studying with new ideas.
So, the Pomodoro method requires you to work with complete focus for 25 minutes.
No chatting to your housemate or family, no scrolling through Facebook, no looking at the menu for the restaurant you’re going to tomorrow…
You’ll be surprised what you can get done in 25 minutes of intense studying.
Then you can take a break for 5 minutes. Use this time to move around and stretch, grab some new snacks and congratulate yourself on completing 1 Pomodoro.
Repeat this 3 times then you can have a longer 30 minute break.
Now this is the standard Pomodoro technique. I like to change it up for different activities. If I’m writing or working on an essay I’ll work for 45 minutes then break for 10/15. So try out a few different ratios and see which one allows you to get the most work done, but also stay focused.
It can be really tempting to procrastinate while you’re studying so take a look at this blog post for 14 other tips to overcome procrastination.
4) Eat the ugly frog first
Hand up who fills their time with easy tasks instead of tackling that one big, scary task?
If you have to eat two frogs, you should eat the ugliest frog first to get it over with. If you have two tasks in front of you, the biggest, ugliest task should be completed first.
So ask yourself, which task can I do first that will make the rest of my day easier?
This task may seem long or complicated; or you might think you’re not capable of doing it.
By putting it off you can make the ‘ugly’ task appear worse than it is. And you’ll find yourself distracted as you keep pushing it back down the queue. So make this ‘ugly’ task the first thing you tackle. You’ll feel like a weight has been lifted and you next task should feel easier.
5) Plan your treat now
It’s easier to study knowing there’s a treat planned for later. Sometimes it feels like all you do is study, work, eat and sleep. You may think there’s no time to relax, or that spending time doing something fun is lazy. But working all day every day is a sure way to lead to burnout. I’ve been there and maybe some of you have too.
So it’s important to find some time each day to do something you enjoy. Plan this at the start of your study session to make sure you don’t forget and so you have something to look forward to.
Knowing there’s a reward later will reduce the temptation to procrastinate now.
· An early night!
· Pamper yourself with a bath, face mask or paint your nails
· Read a chapter of a great book
· Call a friend or family member for a catch up
· Go for a walk or go to the gym
· A cheeky takeaway dinner or your favourite sweet treat
· An episode of your favourite TV show.
Making these tweaks to your studying can set you apart from other students and build the skills to achieve higher grades.
You should now have lots of ideas to put into practice to make each study session start on fire.
To help, grab my FREE printable study planner below to keep you on track, focused and productive