Studying is like laundry, best done in small loads.
Overload the machine and your clothes don’t get properly cleaned then you have to rewash some of them. Studying is the same. Overload your brain in one session and you’re sure to miss an important lesson that’s on the exam. While we all have our different studying methods, one thing we should have in common is our study plan. Great study plans have four things: goals, uninterrupted dedicated time, breaks and review periods. On your next study session, try this:
- Set Your Goal. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or two and doesn’t have to be anything grand. A goal might look like “I want to review the key takeaways of Chapter 7.” Set a new goal for each study session and make sure you’re prepared. You should have all of the notes, books, chapter summaries, objectives and any resources you need before you start your study session.
- Study Uninterrupted. Put your phone on silent, set a timer for 30 to 45 minutes and put it away. Use this time to focus only on what you’re studying. Don’t answer messages and don’t browse anything that’s not related to the topic you’re reviewing. Work on reviewing your notes and organizing concepts. Summarize sections in your own words. Re-read or review anything you don’t understand and write down questions for your professor. Everyone’s schedule is different but setting dedicated time to focus on class will help you manage a healthy school-life balance.
- Take a Break. When your timer goes off, set another one for 5 minutes and give yourself permission to step away. Walk around the room, go outside, check your messages or do some laundry. Reward yourself in some small way. Return to studying when the timer goes off again and start the cycle over.
- Review. At each session don’t forget to look back at what you studied. Spend the first 5 minutes reviewing what you studied the day before and the last 5 minutes of your session reviewing what you just studied. Ask yourself these questions: “Can I explain the material in my words without my notes? Do I understand it enough to teach it to others and answer their questions?”
Don’t feel terrible if you don’t master a stellar study plan right away. If you notice you keep getting distracted, acknowledge that you’re off topic, push the distraction away, and refocus. After all, any studying is better than no studying.