It may seem like a fairytale but I promise you it’s possible to get more studying done in less time.
Without realising it, you are likely wasting a hefty amount of your precious time on ineffective and inefficient studying. And I know that you don’t have lots of time to waste.
You wanna tick off those tasks and reach your academic goals WITHOUT spending every spare hour chained to your desk.
So let’s do it. In this post you'll find out 8 simple ways you can get more studying done in less time.
It’s time to study smarter, not harder so you can achieve the university grades you want in a lot less time and with a lot less stress.
This post originated as a podcast episode which you can listen to below or search for episode 141 of the Chloe Made Me Study podcast. Or, if you’re a more of a learn-by-reading student, carry on for the rough-and-ready blog version based on the script.
Do you often find yourself thinking or saying… ‘I just don’t have enough time to study!' Or… ‘Arghhh I wish I had more time in the day!'
It’s pretty common to think one of the main reasons we struggle with our studying is a lack of time. That if we just had more time in the day we’d be fine. I am VERY guilty of telling myself this. I even bought myself a time turner necklace, the one Hermione uses in Harry Potter to repeat hours again.
While there ARE times where we physically don’t have enough time to do everything we want to…what is more likely and more often the truth is that we DO have enough time for our priorities, we’re just not using that time as efficiently as we could.
*Sidenote* – my aim is not to turn you into a robot student who’s 100% focused and efficient. We’re human so this just isn’t possible. However, what we CAN do is be more intentional with our time to attempt to squeeze as much value out of it as possible.
Now there’s likely 2 obstacles getting in the way of you getting more studying done in less time:
1. You’re filling your study time with ineffective tasks – you’re not studying in the most strategic way for your course or learning goals
2. You’re not studying efficiently – it’s taking way longer than necessary to complete your tasks.
This is a topic for another podcast episode…and something that I help my members with in the Kickbutt Students Club. Members can ask questions in the community at any time. They might want to know how best to take notes or prioritise their reading or prepare for assignments or revise for exams. By sharing with me their study situation and info about their course I can then recommend the best methods for them to use, that will allow them to achieve the best results in the fastest time…rather than potentially using a method that may work for some students and courses but is a waste of time for them or their course.
that it’s taking way longer than necessary to complete your study tasks – this is what we’re going to look at in today’s episode. We’re going to focus on how to use our time more efficiently.
Here's 8 ways that we might consciously or unconsciously waste our study time (that if you can resolve will help you get more studying done in less time):
- Time lost to overwhelm about what to work on
When you feel like there’s so much to do and you don’t know where to start so you waste 5/10/100 minutes staring at the wall numbly.
- Time lost to worrying about future tasks and problems
Rather than focusing on what’s right in front of you. Part-way through a study session you start thinking about the next assignment you need to start, then panicking about your exam in a few months and then worrying about how on earth you’re going to cope when your course ramps up next year. You’ve moved out of the present-tense where you can actually make progress and into time-wastey future land where time is wasted panicking.
- Time lost to picking up your phone and having a scroll
If my phone is on my desk while I work I find myself picking it up without even realising! 10 or 20 minutes can go by and then I’m like CRAPPP…put my phone down and then waste a few more minutes trying to get back into the flow.
- Time lost to ‘quickly’ checking emails or replying to messages that ping on your phone
These can feel like quick interruptions that only take a second but these add up over a study session.
- Time lost trying to get back into the flow of studying after an interruption
…not only do these interruptions add up, they also incur switching costs which is time it takes to get our brain to refocus back on the task at hand. This is wasted time to continually try to get back into the flow of our studying.
- Time lost procrastinating when you should be studying
This could be anything, cleaning, laundry, online shopping, deciding to arrange your bookshelf into a rainbow. Tasks that aren’t urgent that you do INSTEAD of studying are time wasters…especially because you spend that time feeling super guilty!
- Time lost convincing yourself to get off the sofa to head to your desk
This could also be time spent in bed on your phone or just staring into space. Knowing that you need to get up and get cracking on your studying but feeling completely stuck.
- Time lost by forcing yourself to sit at your desk for hours without breaks
When we have tons to do or if we’ve faffed about for ages before studying, we can try to force ourselves to study for hours at a time without proper breaks. But if we don’t take regular breaks, it can be just 5 minutes every 25 minutes…then we’re going to slowly become less and less focused and productive. So a task that might take us 10 minutes at the beginning of a study session takes 20 minutes a few hours in…i.e. wasted time. This can also happen if we find ourselves in an unhelpful state during our studying. Maybe you’ve lost focus, or you’ve started to doubt ourselves, or you’ve become overwhelmed and suddenly start panicking…but you continue to sit at your desk. Sometimes, THE most productive thing you can do is stop studying. Either take a break and get back to it, or call it a day. This may feel counterintuitive but just because your butt is sat on your chair and your textbooks are open…it does NOT mean that you’re getting good, productive studying done. We need to take action when we get into a slump, not just waste time feeling spaced out.
OK, so that’s 8 common ways that we can waste time in our studying. Time that we’ve carved out for studying or we’re thinking about studying but not actually studying or that we’re sat at our desks but no progress is being made.
So out of the time we block off or consider ‘study time,’ how much is actually spent making progress on your tasks?
Let’s say you plan on studying between 10am and midday on a Saturday. But you faff around and have a good Tiktok scroll beforehand so you don’t sit down until 10:15. You’re not sure what to work on first so you take 10-15 minutes deciding that and then you go for one last scroll on Instagram before you finally start at 10:30. At 10:45 you decide you need a wee so you go to the bathroom, then take another quick check of your phone and respond to a Whatsapp. Now it’s 10:55 and you crack on with more studying. As you’re studying you see an email come through at 11:20 that reminds you today is the last day of the 99p Kindle sale so you stop studying to quickly take a look and see if you want anything. You get back to studying at 11:30. At 11:45 you hit a tricky part of the reading where you have to reread a paragraph a few times to make sense of it. Without realising it you’ve picked up your phone and have watched a few Instagram stories. Crap! You realise at 11:50 so you get back to your studying for the final 10 minutes.
So…out of the 2-hour planned study session…you managed to actively study for 1 hour and 5 minutes. And that doesn’t include the time it takes you to get back into the flow after each interruption.
Now this example may closely resemble what happens to you at times, or you may find that different activities from the time-wasting list we went over earlier are applicable to you.
But can you see the issue? Ultimately, how much of your study time is actually spent making progress on your tasks?
It could be 80-90%…or 50-60%? Or it could be much less than that which is pretty common in a society that’s addicted to devices and has been trained to have a short attention span.
What’s the cost of this wasted time? How could it be impacting your studying?
– Spending way more hours than necessary “studying” when you could actually be resting, having fun, spending time with friends or family
– Lower motivation because you regularly feel like you’re not making progress and you’re losing out on the motivation boost of gaining regular, faster momentum
– Lower grades because you don’t have time for the study tasks that will ACTUALLY improve your grades
– Higher stress from having to spend more time studying and not enough time relaxing
– Lower energy for other activities because of your increased study time
Can you see how it’s not that you need MORE time to study…it’s that you need to make better use of the time you DO have.
What I want you to do is take a piece of paper or open a note on your phone and note down your common time wasters, from the list of 8 that I shared with you. Then I want you to identify one step that you could take this week, one piece of action you could take to reduce one of these time wasters. What if you could gain back 30 minutes of your study time this week? Or 1 hour? What if you could implement a few actions and gain back 2/3/4/5 or more?
Here’s a few suggestions:
– taking 2 minutes at the end of a study session to clear your desk and set yourself up for the next day. You could leave your textbook open at the next section, or open up the webpages and programmes you’ll need for your next tasks. You could write your next 1-3 tasks on a sticky note and stick it on your laptop screen. These few minutes will gain you back 5 to 10 times that much because you’ll reduce the resistance to sitting down to study, you won’t lose time to overwhelm because you’ll know exactly what to focus on first and then after that
– you could build a habit of putting your phone in another room while you study. When I do this it’s shocking the difference it makes! I can kid myself that I need my phone next to me at all times, that’s maybe true about 5% of the time. But the majority of the time I don’t need it and I can get double the amount done in 1 hour without my phone than if I had it next to me
– you could study using the pomodoro technique which typically means studying for 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break. If you’ve got longer study sessions planned then this a great technique. Yes, you’re taking time to rest and replenish your energy, but it’ll pay back many times over in increased focus and productivity.
I could go on and on and on with strategies to help you with this. But I don’t want this episode to become a time waster in itself haha! I want you to take action on ONE of these time wasters – I know you know one strategy you could try.
So…no matter how much time you have available for studying each day, whether it’s multiple hours or just one…it can often seem like nowhere near enough…but I promise you that’s not the case. If you only have 60 minutes to study…you need to make those 60 minutes count.
You won’t catch me saying this phrase often cos I think it’s a bit gimmicky and it diminishes the fact that studying DOES require hard work…but a lot of the time the answer is to study smarter, not harder.
The next time you catch yourself thinking or saying…I just don’t have enough time to study…I want you to reframe this to…I have the ability to make better use of the time I DO control.
Ways to listen:
- Listen in the player above
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