Do you want to get more studying done in less time?
Of course, you do.
But it’s the night before your exams. You’ve been seated at your study table for three long hours. But you’ve hardly made progress.
There are too many distractions: social media, text messages, snacks, and videos.
You’ve revisited the same paragraph five times and still have no idea what it’s about. No matter how hard you try, you can’t absorb anything you read.
Frustrating, isn’t it?
If you study productively, you’ll have time to relax, hang out with friends and family, and do other things you love!
The powerful strategies in this article will help you deal with productivity killers like procrastination and burnout.
Let’s get started!
(If you struggle with procrastination and distractions, make sure to also download the quick action guide below.)
Tip #1: Record yourself on camera while studying
Using your phone’s camera to record yourself makes it seem like someone is watching you as you study.
That might sound a bit creepy, but you’ll be less likely to give in to distractions. And you’ll be more likely to stick to your study plan.
Give this tip a try during your next study session!
Tip #2: Study with an online accountability partner
Have you ever had a study session with friends?
Group study sessions work for some people, but not everyone.
A tool like Focusmate can come in handy in these situations. With Focusmate, you’ll be paired with a real-life accountability partner (who’s a stranger) online.
During each session, you’ll both work independently on your own tasks. At the same time, you’ll leave your camera and audio on so you can see and hear each other.
No hanging out or chatting is allowed while you’re both working.
Your accountability partner can report you if you’re late, don’t show up, or goof off during the session. If your compliance score falls too low, you may be booted off the system.
This is a great way to establish accountability while you study!
Tip #3: Create a study plan for each week
A study plan helps you clarify your goals for the week.
Something vague like “study chemistry” isn’t going to cut it. Instead, include enough details so you can track your progress along the way.
For example, “read chemistry notes for chapters 1 to 5 and create flashcards for all equations” is much better as a target to achieve for chemistry for the week.
Focus on the bigger picture. Plan out your week in terms of the specific work you need to complete by the end of the week.
If you have a clear and specific weekly plan, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate because you know exactly where to start.
Tip #4: Create a plan for each study session
This is an excellent method to help you focus while studying.
Before you start the study session, write down the tasks you want to work on during the session.
For example, your plan could list the following tasks:
- Read chapter 1 of math textbook
- Create summary notes for chapter 1
- List formulas to memorize for chapter 1
- Do online quiz for chapter 1
You can leave this written plan on your desk as a reminder of what you’re aiming to accomplish.
Tip #5: Create a study-friendly environment
Reducing clutter and distractions creates a conducive environment to study in.
Studies have found that a cluttered desk increases stress. It can also negatively affect productivity and reduce motivation.
So it’s a good idea to keep only the items, books, and materials you’ll need on your desk for each task.
For example, keep only a calculator, pen, pencil, eraser, and the assignment on your table while doing your math homework. If your desk is untidy, take a few minutes to organize it before you start studying.
Keeping your desk clutter-free is one piece of the puzzle. The next step is to keep it distraction-free.
In this study, researchers found that more smartphone use led to lower productivity. (No surprise there, right?)
Smartphone use may interfere with how well your brain engages with the material you’re studying. Smartphone use can also make your tasks less enjoyable and harder to complete.
So if you’re frequently distracted by your digital devices, put them away while you study. You can place them in a different room or you can turn them off completely.
Tip #6: Block out distracting sounds with headphones
Wearing headphones or earphones helps to reduce distractions and reminds you that you’re in the middle of a study session.
Doing this also lets other people know you’re busy. As such, they’ll be less likely to interrupt you.
If you really don’t enjoy listening to music while studying, you can still wear headphones or earphones without any music playing.
That being said, listening to music while studying can improve your focus and mood. Research shows that listening to music can reduce mind-wandering.
Classical music is a good place to start. But if you don’t like classical music, check out Brain.fm. This platform offers music designed to help you create and maintain deep focus.
Tip #7: Take deep breaths before each study session
This research study found that breathing exercises increase alertness. They can also reduce stress, anger, and confusion.
By regulating your breathing, you can lower your levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. You’ll also get more oxygen flowing to your brain, thus improving your focus and mood.
Here’s how to get started with a simple breathing exercise before your next study session:
- Close your eyes
- Breathe in through your nose for four seconds
- Breathe out through your mouth for four seconds
- Repeat this three times
Bonus tip: Try this right before bed to fall asleep faster!
Tip #8: Write down any distracting thoughts
Part of learning how to study productively involves finding a strategy to deal with distractions.
As much as you can try to reduce distractions, they’ll still occur. What’s crucial is how you deal with them when they do.
Here’s what you can do the next time distraction comes knocking on your door…
Write it down.
Let me explain. Let’s say you’re studying for a biology test. Out of the blue, you feel the urge to search for a new show to watch during your leisure time.
You know this will lead you down a rabbit hole. And you can’t afford for that to happen now. So write down “look for new show” on a piece of paper, then go back to studying.
Every time a distracting thought pops into your head, write it down. Then during your next study break, go ahead and “do” the items or activities written on the piece of paper.
Why does this technique work?
Because you’ve acknowledged your urge without giving in to it. With that, your brain can redirect its focus back to what you were doing.
Tip #9: Follow a routine
You’re not alone if you have trouble getting motivated to study.
That’s where following a routine helps. When you establish a routine, it becomes easier for you to get started on your tasks.
Routines empower you to form beneficial, long-lasting study habits.
Let’s say you want to create a timeslot for studying or homework in your schedule. In this case, your routine might be: “Study from 5 pm to 6:30 pm every weekday.”
If this feels too restrictive, start by following the routine for just a couple of days each week. For instance, you could start with only Wednesdays and Thursdays.
With a well-established routine, you won’t have to rely on motivation to get started. You’ll get started simply because it’s a part of your routine.
That said, developing a cue will make your routine even more effective.
What’s a cue?
A cue signals to your brain, “Hey, it’s time to get moving!” It creates an impulse to act.
Researchers have found that cues are a vital part of habit formation.
You can create a cue by associating a specific behavior or place with starting a study session. Some examples include:
- Hanging a sign on your door that says “Study session in progress”
- Putting on your noise-canceling headphones
- Going to the library
- Placing your electronic devices in another room
- Brewing a cup of tea
Find a cue that works for you. Then you’ll realize that it isn’t so hard to get started on your schoolwork after all!
Tip #10: Limit your study hours
This probably isn’t the advice you’d expect. After all, isn’t studying more the secret to succeeding in school?
I always encourage students to study smart. Here’s how you can study effectively and get better grades in school: Get enough sleep.
According to the American Academy of Sleep, those between the ages of 13 and 18 should sleep 8 to 10 hours per day.
Doing so improves concentration and reduces the risk of health problems. It also enhances memory and facilitates learning.
Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard. But it’s also important to lead a balanced life.
Set a strict deadline to stop studying each day, e.g. 9:30 pm. Then make sure you don’t do any work after that time.
Setting a fixed end time like this establishes a firm boundary, so you’ll be far more likely to get all your work done before then.
Tip #11: Time your study sessions and breaks
Does your focus dwindle after a long study session?
Here’s how to study productively: Take a 5- to 10-minute break every 30 to 45 minutes.
Time your study sessions so you know when to take a break. Likewise, time your breaks so you know when to start studying again.
You don’t want to fall into the trap of procrastination or losing track of time.
To avoid this, set the alarm to go off when it’s time to get back to work.
Tip #12: Prepare a pre-study session checklist
Checklists ensure you don’t miss any steps in an important process.
Pilots, astronauts, and surgeons use checklists to ensure that things go smoothly.
In the same way, you (or your parents) might bring a list to the grocery store to make sure you get everything you need.
Checklists are a practical tool to help you as you learn how to study productively. Plus, they’ll enable you to stay organized as a student.
So what should you put in your pre-study session checklist?
You can include some of the following:
- Set up study space
- Place devices in another room
- Fill a bottle of water
- Set up timer
- Hang up “do not disturb” sign
- Turn on study music
Tip #13: Sit straight and maintain good posture
Research shows that good posture improves mood and productivity. At the same time, it reduces your risk of injury.
Here are some posture tips if you spend hours each day sitting at a desk:
- Keep your feet flat on the floor
- Sit with a straight back
- Your knees should be at the same level as your hips
- Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed
Here’s a related tip: Whenever you take a study break, move around. Do some squats or some jumping jacks. This approach is called “exercise snacking” and has loads of health benefits.
Also, do your best to avoid studying in bed. You can’t maintain good posture while lying in bed, and you might just fall asleep accidentally!
Tip #14: Break big tasks into smaller ones
Most people get overwhelmed by big and complex tasks. This can cause you to become demotivated.
The trick is to break big projects into smaller, more manageable chunks.
For example, you could break a physics poster presentation down into the following sub-tasks:
- Read chapter 1 and 2
- Summarize the main points
- Research new points to include
- Plan out the sub-headings for the poster
- Plan out content to include in bullet points
- Write the paper
- Decorate the poster
- Write the presentation script in bullet points
- Flesh out the presentation script
- Practice the presentation three times from start to end
There’s no need to write down all the sub-tasks at one go. Just make sure that you always know what the next sub-task to work on is.
Productive studying is a skill any student can master.
The tips in this article will help you maximize the progress you make during each study session.
Choose two or three strategies from the list and implement them in the coming week. After you get used to applying those strategies, pick a couple more to add to your study routine.
Eventually, you’ll learn how to get into a flow state when studying.
It’ll be worth the effort, I promise!
I encourage you to get started today. 🙂
(And don’t forget to download your quick action guide below, if you haven’t already done so.)