Homework Help: How to Study When You Literally Can’t Even

Posted by Pooja Khanna on 4/1/15 10:00 AM

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It happens all the time. You need to study, but your brain is so tired it’s numb, or a little voice in your head is chirping at you to watch a movie or spend time watching Youtube videos of goats. Anything instead of study! But your test is tomorrow, or you have something due soon, so how do you force yourself to focus? As a homework tutor for middle school kids in NYC, I encounter this problem a lot, but these methods work for students of all ages. Here are some tricks that I have found to work the best:

1. Reward yourself

Peppermint bark chocolate works for me. I reward myself with small bites when I get through a particular chapter or series of problems. Having something to look forward to helps get you through the most tedious part. Small bites of chocolate keep me interested in what I am reading or studying and makes it more worthwhile to study.

2. Bartering

This is especially important when you have something very specific in mind that you want to be doing instead of studying. So watch 10 minutes of Netflix for every chapter you get through. Catch 15 minutes of that baseball game for every problem set you solve. Bargain with yourself to force your tired or bored brain to study until you get to take a break.

3. Mnemonics can be fun

Word associations can perk up your bored brain and make learning a little more exciting. The more outrageous they are the more memorable they can be. My chemistry teacher in high school made us remember the ICE method of equilibrium calculations by dancing to a Vanilla Ice song. “Ice Ice Baby” starts playing in my head whenever I remember these equations.

4. Isolate yourself

 This is for when there is a very serious time crunch. Putting yourself physically out of reach of every possible form of temptation can be useful. The stacks in a library are a great place to force yourself to focus for long periods of time. Take a snack and a bottle of water with you so you do not have to leave.

5. Writing down what you learn

This is useful to reinforce what you know. Also, the fifth time you write down that sentence you cannot make sense of, it may magically start to have a meaning. Writing things (or typing them) is a useful step and can play into step #6 as well.

6. Make outlines!

Outlines or overviews can help reinforce the most important concepts which can be useful when you have a lot to memorize. The best part about this technique is that it saves a lot of time and energy when you go back to study later, which is a strong incentive to put time in to make a summary/overview now.

7. Group study

This is a bit tricky. You need to pick people who will be committed to studying and unresponsive to distraction. It can be a useful way to check back on what you have learned and catch up on what you have missed.

Any of these techniques can help motivate you on those days when you are tired or overwhelmed and have a hard time focusing on work. If you’re still having trouble coping with your workload, though, consider Cambridge Coaching. Our expert homework tutors and academic coaches in NYC, Boston, and online can work with students from elementary and middle school all the way through postgraduate work. Let us help you today! 

For more relevant reading, check out these other blog posts, written by our study help tutorsMiddle School Time Management Tips, Getting the Most from Academic Tutoring, and The Power of Mnemonics Devices.

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