Students grapple with many issues in their lives, and because of all of the competing things for your attention, it’s hard to concentrate on studying. And yet if you’re in school, you have to do at least a little studying in order to progress from year to year. The key to effective studying isn’t cramming or studying longer, but studying smarter. You can begin studying smarter with these ten proven and effective study habits.
1. How you approach studying matters
Too many people look at studying as a necessary task, not an enjoyment or opportunity to learn. That’s fine, but researchers have found that how you approach something matters almost as much as what you do. Being in the right mindset is important in order to study smarter.
Sometimes you can’t “force” yourself to be in the right mindset, and it is during such times you should simply avoid studying. If you’re distracted by a relationship issue, an upcoming game, or finishing an important project, then studying is just going to be an exercise in frustration. Come back to it when you’re not focused (or obsessed!) by something else going on in your life.
Way to help improve your study mindset:
- Aim to think positively when you study, and remind yourself of your skills and abilities.
- Avoid catastrophic thinking. Instead of thinking, “I’m a mess, I’ll never have enough time to study for this exam,” look at it like, “I may be a little late to study as much as I’d like, but since I’m doing it now, I’ll get most of it done.”
- Avoid absolute thinking. Instead of thinking “I always mess things up,” the more objective view is, “I didn’t do so well that time, what can I do to improve?”
- Avoid comparing yourself with others, because you usually just end up feeling bad about yourself.
2. Where you study is important
A lot of people make the mistake of studying in a place that really isn’t conducive to concentrating. A place with a lot of distractions makes for a poor study area. If you try and study in your dorm room, for instance, you may find the computer, TV, or a roommate more interesting than the reading material you’re trying to digest.
The library, a nook in a student lounge or study hall, or a quiet coffee house are good places to check out. Make sure to choose the quiet areas in these places, not the loud, central gathering areas. Investigate multiple places on-campus and off-campus, don’t just pick the first one your find as “good enough” for your needs and habits. Finding an ideal study place is important, because it’s one you can reliably count on for the next few years.
3. Bring everything you need, nothing you don’t
Unfortunately, when you find an ideal place to study, sometimes people bring things they don’t need. For instance, while it may seem ideal to type notes into a computer to refer back to later, computers are a powerful distraction for many people because they can do so many different things. Playing games, going online, IM’ing, surfing the Web, and answering emails are all wonderful distractions that have nothing to do with studying. So ask yourself whether you really need a computer to take notes, or whether you can make do with the old-fashioned paper and pen or pencil.
Don’t forget the things you need to study for the class, exam or paper you’re focusing on for the study session. Nothing is more time-consuming and wasteful than having to run back and forth regularly because you forget an important book, paper, or some other resource you need to be successful. If you study best with your favorite music playing, make sure your iPod is with you.
Grohol, J. (2006). 10 Highly Effective Study Habits. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/top-10-most-effective-study-habits/000599
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.