Studying can be a drain, especially when you’re under a lot of pressure. 3 essays that are all due the same day, 2 research papers that require full annotated bibliographies, a group project that only you seem to care about… Ahhhh, STRESS!
So… what do we do?
For one, we can temporarily relieve the stress by doing anything and everything BUT studying (a.k.a. procrastinating). But we all know that this will come back to bite us later (or soon, like that approaching deadline). Another option is to convince ourselves that we won’t have to relive this stressful, tension-filled moment ever again, because we will obviously be so on top of things… But really, who are we fooling? We all know too well that the struggle is real and repeatable.
So… what’s the magic sauce to getting work done peacefully?
A healthy balance between discipline and grace.
What do I mean by this?
Well, we all know that knowing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll do those things… This proves that discipline is necessary, but not sufficient. And this is where grace comes in. Having grace on yourself is basically accepting this truth (that our actions, choices and decisions aren’t always a good reflection of our intellect), and still choosing to have hope. In other words, grace is the ability–yes, the ability— to not be so hard on yourself (which can be very hard for some)! Grace is what will rekindle our desire to pursue the right thing (that is, studying in this case).
When overwhelmed with the workload or simply lost in the world of procrastination, try the following tips. They are a good mixture of discipline and grace.
Study better, not more!
1. Study for 30 minutes at a time.
Apparently, our brain only effectively absorbs information from the first and last 15 minutes of “studying.” This means that everything in between will likely be forgotten (because they don’t quite make it into our long-term memory). So why spend hours and hours studying if only a fraction of it will actually be retained?
Solution: Study for 30 minutes at a time to minimize your studying time and maximize the effectiveness.
2. Break. It. Up!
The whole is equal to the sum of its parts, yes, but tackling the individual parts is much easier than tackling the whole.
In other words, breaking down a big assignment into small assignments will make the task a whole lot easier, doable and manageable!
For example, instead of writing in your planner “work on research paper” on a specific day, break it up into specific (and realistic) steps/stages:
- Monday – get sources and gather data
- Tuesday – pick out quotes to use
- Wednesday – summarize articles
- Thursday – draft an outline
- Friday – write introduction
- Saturday – write (3) body paragraphs
- Sunday – write conclusion
3. Set a Timer (for 30 minutes) and solely focus on a (single) task.
You know that thing (assignment) that you can’t get yourself to start? Well there’s only one solution to that: stop procrastinating and just get to it! We all know that procrastination leads to more procrastination and it comes back to bite us. So just get started! Set a timer for 30 minutes and JUST DO IT. So what if you’re only able to write one sentence? That’s still better than having nothing.
4. Take. A. Break
Having an incentive is always a good idea (& a good incentive in and of itself). After 30 minutes of studying, treat yourself to some chocolate chip cookies or icecream. Do some yoga poses. Watch an episode of your favorite show. Take a quick, 10-minute power nap. Do whatever you have to “refuel.” However, when you’re in that 30-minute zone (see #3), DON’T do any of these things. These are meant to be rewards, not distractions.
5. Sit at a desk.
Sitting at a desk when studying is very important for two reasons.
1- Physically – sitting at a desk will ensure correct (or better) posture.
2- Psychologically – your posture will signal to your brain that you’re supposed to be studying vs. if you’re on your bed, your brain might think that it’s time for sleep, and your body usually follows directions from your brain.
6. Study with books.
Avoid the computer/laptop/tablet if possible. There are just too many distractions, even if you use site-blocking and/or productivity apps to limit your distractions. And while it’s true that nowadays you can highlight, underscore, and mark passages on e-books, there’s still something (magical) about studying with physical books that studying online just doesn’t cut. It’s kind of like that logic that looking up a word on a physical dictionary will help you remember the word better than if you were to look it up on an online dictionary. Studying with physical books adds one more level of sensation to your learning.
- You’re 50% more likely to remember something if you speak it out loud instead of simply reading it over and over.
- Writing something out is the memory equivalent of reading it seven times.
- Retention rate is 60% higher when you study your notes within one day of taking them.