If you’re like me, the long open days of the weekend, summer vacation, or Covid-19-induced lockdown can seem to stretch forever. These days or long afternoons are great opportunities to nail down some studying. Yet, all too often I catch myself having wasted hours of my study time reading the New York Times, falling down a YouTube hole, or sending unimportant emails.
Here are four tips on how to manage your time and use those long study periods efficiently.
1. Set Up a Study Area
My first tip is so important: build a place for studying and try to only use that space for studying. I know this isn’t possible for everyone’s living situation (and with Covid-19 lockdown), but if a certain chair at the dinner table, a desk, or a countertop can be just for studying, this will train your brain to focus in that spot. This is why I love libraries! I do all my work in a library because home is too associated with fun (and distractions) in my mind.
2. Break Your Studying Into Manageable (Tomato Sized) Chunks
There are many tactics to break up a long set of time into manageable chunks. My favorite is the Pomodoro Technique: focus through any study session by breaking your work into repeating intervals of 25 minutes “on” followed by a five-minute break. The technique was invented by the Italian, Francesco Cirillo, in the 1980’s while he was in business school. He named the technique after the kitchen timer he used to regulate his time, which happened to be shaped like a tomato (pomodoro means tomato in Italian). With the Pomodoro Technique, one can commit to productive focus for a reasonable amount of time, and then relax for a moment before getting back into studying. After every 4 “pomodoros” it’s advised that you take a 15-30-minute break from working to avoid burnout. Believe me, this works: writing right now, I have 14-minutes left on my Pomodoro.
3. Take Smart Breaks
Breaks are essential to making it through long study sessions, but not all breaks are equal. A break should let your mind rest and recharge before getting into studying again. I often find myself in study breaks wanting to reach for my phone and scroll through social media, or read emails, but really this only continues to drain my brain’s energy stores. Instead, I recommend going on a short walk to clear your mind. Fill up your water bottle, get some fresh air outside, or even do a few jumping jacks. This will get your mind processing in a totally different way than when you were studying, thus resetting it for your next round of studying. One other strategy I use when walking around isn’t viable is to draw in an adult coloring book!
4. Keep Distractions Away
This one may seem obvious, but limiting distractions is one of the easiest ways to improve your studying efficiency. I recommend physically moving your phone out of arm’s reach and out of sight, and keep it on Do Not Disturb! Turn off any and all notifications on your computer (this means texts, emails, social media notifications). And consider downloading “SelfControl” [selfcontrolapp.com]. It’s an application that locks you out of certain websites on your computer for up to 24 hours. It’s a powerful tool that requires you to sign into your computer each time you activate it just so you’re sure of your decision. Of course, you should know there are no work arounds for the app. While it may seem intimidating to lock yourself out of your email for hours on end, I often use it for only 30 minutes. If I can get through that length of time without giving into the temptation of distractions, I can stay focused for the rest of the day.
Hopefully, these tips have been helpful! I know long study sessions can be hard to manage, but with these techniques, I’ve found myself staying focused and studying efficiently for hours on end.
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Want to read up on some other helpful studying tips and tricks? See below!