productive study

Every student is familiar with the word “procrastination”.

Some days, it feels infinitely easier to stay buried in the couch in front of the TV, than face a daunting pile of homework that somehow seems more terrifying every time you look back at it.

A little bit of laziness can be forgiven sometimes. After all, we can’t be expected to keep our noses to the grindstone 24/7.

Burnout is the last thing we need, especially when dealing with a steady flow of homework, assignments, and deadlines

So with all this going on, how do you create an environment for more productive study?

6 Tips for More Productive Study

A few simple changes to your daily routine can make a bigger difference than you could imagine and you can follow these 6 tips for more productive study.

  1. Start Bright and Early

I know this might make many of you groan, and trust me, I have been there too. Waking up early is not my forte either, but I am not at all suggesting that you must be up at the crack of dawn to hit the books.

Set an alarm for 10 a.m., if any time before eight in the morning feels too ungodly an hour, but try not to wake up any later than 10.30 a.m. At this point, it would just be too tempting to stay in bed.

It has been scientifically established that waking up earlier lets us make the most of our day. Our bodies are geared to be active during the daytime, and idle at night.

This is why blue and white lights, which we get plenty of in the morning and early noon hours, make us feel more alert and active.

This is also why staring into our phone or iPad screens late into the night makes falling asleep harder. The blue light tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime, and that it needs to stay awake and alert.

On the other hand, warmer, orange colors emulate sunset and are more likely to help you relax.

By starting your day early, you’re able to make use of the time and energy that your body is engineered to make use of at the most optimal time, and you’ll have enough time not only to get things done, but also enjoy other activities in between.

  1. Write To-Do Lists

This might appear to be obvious advice, but to-do lists are a brilliant way of making sure you approach your workload in an organized and systematic manner. By jotting down what you need to do, in order of priority, you ensure that you don’t end up forgetting something crucial.

Another trick that I find works wonders for me is to make sure my to-do lists aren’t too demanding. Start off with two major items on your list, and one minor one. Be as specific as you can. Rather than saying “Finish class reading”, say “Finish reading pages _ to _”.

What this does is it helps make sure the item on your list isn’t so broad that you have to pressure yourself to complete it and end up neglecting other things. By having specific and manageable items on your lists, you can tick off more things in a day.

Once you’re done with those first two to three items, and find you have the time, energy, and motivation, you can add other items to your list.

Checking off things one by one on your list helps you feel more productive, and more motivated about work. If your list is overly long, or has a huge task on it, like “Study for biology exam”, that you’re less likely to be able to complete, you may end up demotivating yourself instead.

  1. Create Order From the Chaos

Spending a few extra moments to be organized can make your life so much easier further down the line.

If you use your laptop or computer to study a lot, fall into the practice of making separate folders for each of your subjects at the beginning of the semester. Save your study materials in their designated folders, and if necessary, make subfolders if you need to sort by topic, or the nature of the material.

This makes finding what you’re looking for incredibly easy, and saves you time and a lot of frustration when you feel like you have the mojo to study, but lose some of it because you have no idea where you saved what you need.

If you’re more into studying with books and notes, use page dividers to separate notes for different subjects or topics. Use a different colored ink to highlight important terms and keywords, or a highlighter pen to make them stand out. Keep separate notebooks and folders for separate things.

A little effort into organizing not only makes it that much easier to find what you’re looking for when you need it, but also improves your attention span. When you are actively sorting and cataloging the information when studying, you’re that much more likely to remember what you’re going over.

Keeping your study materials organized also helps you approach your studies in a calm and systematic manner, since you know exactly what and how much you have to study. Often, the fear of all the work we have to do contributes to students’ tendencies to procrastinate. 

  1. Schedule Breaks

Say you’ve checked off one item on your to-do list. It took about an hour. Now give yourself a reward. Go do something creative, or something you would have given anything to be doing instead of studying, before you started. Listen to some music, or watch an episode of that Netflix series you are hooked to.

The important thing is to know when to stop and get back to work. 

To make your self-control stronger, decide what your reward is going to be before you start your study day, and make sure it’s reasonable. Don’t study for an hour and then spend three hours gaming – that would be counter-intuitive.

By deciding on your rewards earlier, you can stick to the plan, and not waste precious minutes later figuring out what it is you wanted to do.

If you’re studying multiple subjects in a day, spend around 45 minutes on each subject, and then take a short break. This is important because our attention spans aren’t infinite – after a while, the brain will be exhausted processing the same old thing for an extended period of time.

Make the most of the time when you’re at your most receptive for information, then take a break and move on to a different subject and start fresh.

  1. Figure Out How You Learn Best

Some people study best while listening to music. Others can only concentrate in perfect silence. Some need to pace up and down in order to retain information better.

Everyone has different learning styles, and if you find that sitting at a desk with a book is not what is working for you, it’s worth taking some time out to figure out what kind of learner you are. 

Does it help when you watch video tutorials more than reading written instructions? Do you like listening to instrumentals or music with lyrics and voices when you’re studying? Are you able to concentrate when you’re working in front of the TV, or does it distract you?

Figuring out the kind of conditions in which you study best helps you make the most of your time, rather than getting distracted because your environment is interfering with your concentration.

Also, when you know your preferred learning style, you can tailor your work to match that style and it makes learning easier.

  1. Get Enough Rest

More often than not, after a long day of studying, many of us end up hankering for our free time and doing things we enjoy. This often ends up with us staying up late, glued to our devices or chatting with friends.

However, by spacing out our breaks and rewards in between our studies, we’ll be working and playing at the same time. This way we won’t have to feel deprived of fun at the end of the day, and, hopefully, will be tired enough to go straight to bed.

Tempting though it may be to take your phones along to bed, it’s highly, highly recommended not to. As we discussed previously, the blue light confuses the brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake and stay working.

If you’re already tired and stay up even longer because you’re mindlessly wandering around online, you’ll only be more exhausted the following day and deter your own productivity,

Most smartphones and laptops can actually be set to switch over to a more yellowish brightness that is easier on the eyes in the evening. Set your devices on the automatic timer, so it will activate the yellow light around dusk and switch back to the blue or white light in the morning.

The earlier you get to bed, the easier you’ll find getting up in the morning – taking us back to the first point on how to start a productive day of studying.

Nafisa Shamim is a writer who enjoys asking questions, and enjoys finding their answers even more. She has been a student, even while working full time, so her more productive study tips are a great resource for you.

As she works towards her Ph.D., she hopes to actively contribute to academic literature on communication, especially how individuals use and process new media, and learn while helping others learn.

Related articles on productive study