5 Tips To Make Studying Easier And Funfilled
Hands up if you have ever found yourself considering staging an “all-nighter” in order to cram every last nugget of information in preparation for an exam, sales pitch or job interview?
For the vast majority of us this is a shared experience and one we can relate to at many stages of our growth from high school exams through to seeking promotion in our career.
If your hand stayed down….congratulations, this likely means you have the discipline of a saint and don’t really need to pick up any new angles (or you’re just not human).
Studying to be tested and examined on your knowledge is not the most fun way to spend time.
So it’s no small wonder that even with time pressure building up we procrastinate and put off the task for as long as humanly possible.
Any old excuse will do.
Similar to training for a marathon, studying requires commitment.
For a marathon, months of training following a precise training schedule is accompanied by analyzing data collected by GPS tracking apps. Nothing is left up to chance in the lead up to the big day.
What now if there were equivalent “training” tips and tactics that could be applied to studying?
The following evidence based tips offer simple wins to make study time easier and more effective.
Afford yourself more time in bed
The belief that sleep is intrinsically connected to many aspects of a healthy lifestyle has become somewhat of a hot topic in recent years.
Fuelled by marketing teams worldwide and sold as a revolution despite being suspected for many decades.
I mean, just look at how the interest in mattresses bought online has trended over the last 5 years.
The savvy marketing teams having sold the benefits of getting a good nights sleep above the features of the actual product itself.
Whilst the ‘mattresses in a box’ phase may be relatively new, the science supporting the benefits of getting a good nights sleep is not.
A decent nights sleep has been connected to decreased anxiety, improved concentration, and improved academic performance.
Another study explored the influence of sleep deprivation upon cognitive function.
It found that even partial sleep deprivation had an impact upon attention whilst total sleep deprivation impacted long-term memory and decision making.
Any less than 6 hours sleep per night beings to bring about a noticeable decrease in learning performance.
You should also attempt to establish a regular sleep pattern (the time getting to bed and waking in the morning) as this has been proven to be as crucial to academic performance as the impact of sleep deprivation itself.
Set your alarm as a reminder to both start as well as the end of sleep time each day of the week!
Sing to improve memory
Take a moment to think about how many paragraphs of your favourite book you would be willing to bet you can recite word for word right this moment?
And now think about how naturally it comes to sing song after song from your favourite playlist. No contest right?
Singing has long been lauded as an aid to memory and this proclamation has been backed up by many scientific studies.
And with a little planning this innate ability to recall song can be used to hack exam revision.
When you need to learn or memorise entirely new terminology, concepts, or language it’s been proven that singing the information you wish to learn helps it stick.
Singing information you wish to learn vastly outperformed simply repeating the information by talking, or even rhythmic talking, in memory recall tests.
Moreover singing as a study method appears to align really well with exams as music can also help reduce anxiety, agitation and stress. All common complaints when under the pressure to perform in a test.
To apply this tip practically try reading the material you wish to commit to memory whilst listening to some royalty free background music. Without vocals this provides a blank canvas for your to begin creating your own ‘knowledge’ lyrics.
Ironically a good example of a track from bensound.com that you could use is called ‘Memories’.
Using caffeine as a study strategy
A good quality cup of coffee or tea in the morning is a beautiful thing.
Waking up and getting in the mindset to do anything, let alone study just wouldn’t be same without a cup of Joe.
Appreciated worldwide the caffeine within coffee and tea helps stimulates the central nervous system, specifically the portion of the brain responsible for planning, attention and monitoring.
This helps with studying but caffeine can also assist on the day of the exam itself.
Caffeine is also suspected to help cope with stressful situations, such as exams, by increasing concentration.
Varying caffeine sensitivity between individuals makes it difficult to pinpoint a precise quantity of caffeine that best improves studying performance.
Studies have shown however that between low (0.5mg per kg) to moderate (3.0mg per kg) caffeine intake improves cognition.
For a 60kg (130lb) adult the magic range would be between 30mg – 180mg of caffeine ingested across the day.
With that said it would be useful to know that the quantities of caffeine vary between different drinks. Here’s a quick table that we pulled together.
At the top end of the scale generally up to 400mg of caffeine per day is considered safe for most adults. This is roughly equal to the caffeine contained in 8 cups of black tea.
Be aware though that it’s best not to exceed this amount if you want to be the best version of yourself.
The effect of having one too many coffees can cause restlessness, headaches or even anxiety.
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Be generous with breaks
Traditional thought would have it that the more time you spend preparing for an exam the better your outcome will be.
Whilst spending a lot of time studying for an important exam is never a bad idea, there is a smarter way to spend your time during preparation.
Often in our eagerness to do well we’ll burn the candle at both ends, going past the point of fatigue without really realising it.
As we become more tired it can be even more difficult to reason with our rational heads that the information being studied is just not being absorbed.
This results in wasted time.
So if you were motivated and committed to study just what is the length of time that you can study well without diminished returns?
In a study of 40,000 workers who worked across the same shift pattern it was found that the most productive workers worked at their computer for 52 minutes followed by a break away from the computer for 17 minutes.
Not only were workers in this study found to be more productive with their time when breaks were taken, they were also found to be more accurate when completing tasks.
For your own study set a countdown timer to remind you when that 52 minute mark has been reached.
Practice mindfulness to help studying
It seems that no matter what good intentions are in place at the start of the day, when it comes to switching off our devices and cracking open the textbooks we’ll allow our train of thought to wander off the subject matter being studied.
This distraction reduces mental performance in the lead up to exams.
It is however possible to train our minds to ignore the noise inside our heads and stay focused.
One such tip is to begin practicing mindfulness.
Our team have experimented with Headspace, who have collected data that suggest their self guided audio
- lowers stress by 32% after thirty days
- reduces burnout by 14% after just four sessions
- increases focus by 14% after four weeks
- cuts mind-wandering by 22% after just a single session
Regardless of how mindfulness is approached it seems that results are quickly appreciated.