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Monday, 22 May 2017

How to Maximise Productivity When Studying

How to Maximise Productivity When Studying

It's exam season. *Shudder*. And many of us a busy studying for exams that we're told will 'define our lives'. A large proportion of us are probably reeeaally stressed and actually, despite all that stress, may be feeling we're not at our most productive, contributing further to that all-encompassing stress. Or at least a few of my friends and I are. And since you don't allow yourself to have anything (at all) better to do than work and revise during the months of May and June, maybe more, you end up searching frantically for ways to boost your productivity and motivation and just to get off twitter and do some work already!! Yeah, I've been there. I am there! Hence this blog post... So, without further ado, here are the techniques I've used over this last month or so that have actually been helpful to me in improving my productivity:

Don't just make a plan, make a log as well.
I've never really been one to use a revision timetable - I take forever to make them and almost never stick to them and they end up just stressing me out even more. But a few days ago, I added a new sheet to my fancy excel spreadsheet planner thing* (more on that in another post?) and named the sheet 'Timetable'. I split my whole day into 15 minute chunks and blocked out certain periods of time for 'study' - nothing specific. I also added in time for meals and a bit of time to do whatever, making sure to allow sliiightly more time than I thought I needed (45 minutes for breakfast, for example). Then I made another column called log and as the day went along, I filled in what I did for each 15 minute chunk ensuring that, even if I didn't stick to my plan, I was still being productive. It enabled me to allow for some spontaneity but also to keep some structure to my day. I found having that balance worked really well for me.

Experiment with different wake up times.
Yeah, we've all heard the phrase 'early bird catches the worm' and whatnot but some of us just aren't wired like that, myself included! Try setting your alarm for different times, and even try not setting one at all. Yes, in theory it seems like it would be better to wake up earlier so you have more time to study but there's simply no point having the extra time if it makes you less productive overall. I've found that waking up at half eight works best for me.

Record everything.
I'm a bit of a data nerd, I like graphs and averages and trends. I just like numbers. So I've been recording how long I study for a few years now and it's always worked really well for me. Up until recently I used the app 'Forest' (great app, would 100% recommend) both to help me focus and to record how long I focus for. Now I record it all in my afore mentioned spreadsheet as I found forest a little too restrictive and I thought it was time for a change. I also record my revision progress and past paper results. I spend a large proportion of my procrastination time fiddling around with graphs and stuff which actually does motivate me to work more - it's nice to see the progress you're making graphically.

Switch up your location.
Don't always study in the same place, especially when you find your productivity starts to plateau. Switch it up - try the local library, a coffee shop or your school/college if its open. Try different places in your house if you can, maybe even try working outside. Once you find the places you work best in, alternate between them, or just stick to your favourite. Just don't be afraid to try something new.

As frequently as you can, sit down and just try to do something.
5 minutes is better than none at all, right? And more often than not, that little something turns into a surprisingly productive spontaneous study session, and you may even end up achieving more in that time than you do in your 'planned' sessions. And even if you don't, every little bit helps push you towards your end goal. Embrace the spontaneity!

Don't get obsessed by matching others.
A little bit of comparison to friends and classmates or whatever can be helpful in motivating you and helping you feel like you're less alone in your 'study struggles', but it can also do more harm than good. Just because somebody claims to be studying 10 hours a day, doesn't mean you need to be. All work is relative and you may be a person who achieves the same amount in 3 hours as another achieves in 6. Maybe you're somebody who burns out easily and is best sticking to short 30 minute bursts and genuinely benefits from longer breaks every once in a while. So long as you feel you're being productive, it doesn't really matter how long you're working for. If 2 hours is progress for you, congratulate yourself. You can always build yourself up to more over time.

Have a cut off time.
Find out when your brain switches off (for me, it's around 8pm) and from that point onwards, don't even bother trying to work, unless you feel eminently compelled to. I've been doing this for aaages now and I really find it helps me maintain my productivity into the next day and thus, into the next few months. Yes, I do often find myself breaking this rule as particular exams get closer and closer but, that being said, it is a good one to implement, especially if you feel yourself burning out.

I hope this post has been vaguely useful to you. If you're reading this as a source of procrastination then get off your ass right now and do some work!! Your exams are not just coming, they're literally here! DO SOME WORK!!!

(* if you're not a spreadsheet person you can always do this in a simple table in a word document, it would work just as well)