You’ve brewed your favourite coffee, assembled your study resources, checked your email, rechecked your social media accounts, and the cursor is pulsing on the blank screen of your writing device. You’re ready to do some epic study, right?
Yes and no. You know what works best for you, but there are probably dozens of tips on effective study habits that you’ve never heard of, let alone tried. Here are five ways to help improve your focus and attention to the task while studying.
- Eliminate unnecessary distractions
Find a comfortable and quiet location where you are less likely to be disturbed by other people, outside noise, intrusive music or conversation, and electronic devices and apps. Switch your smartphone to Airplane mode, or try out a distraction-limiting app such as Freedom or SelfControl.
- Plan short breaks
A short study break after, say, 90 minutes of uninterrupted study gives your mind and body an opportunity to relax. Stand up, stretch, step outside, and walk or run for a few minutes. Take a toilet break. Fill your water bottle. You’ll return to the study task feeling refreshed and ready for the next challenge.
- Do some exercise
Exercise loosens tired and cramped muscles, releases endorphins, and increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your bloodstream. Studies (e.g. here) show that exercise several hours after a learning activity improves memory and memory traces. Consider occasionally walking instead of taking public transport or driving. Regular daily and weekly exercise will improve your physical health and emotional mood, and help you to focus more effectively on your study.
- Take a shower
Have you ever noticed that you come up with interesting and new ideas while in the shower? You’re not alone. Taking a shower refreshes your mind as well as your body, and often allows your brain to draw on subconscious thoughts. You’ll return to your study task feeling better, and an elusive but brilliant insight might surface as you start reading and writing. If nothing else, taking a shower offers a good study break.
- Have a nap
Quality sleep is important for proper brain functioning and academic productivity. As you sleep, your brain processes information stored in short-term memory and organises it for long-term access. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, and have the opportunity to take a “power nap,” you should do so. Twenty minutes may be enough, or up to 90 minutes with natural waking rather than in response to an alarm. Try it and see if it works for you.
Rod Benson is a PhD student at the University of Divinity, Melbourne, and Research Support Officer at Moore Theological College, Sydney.
Image source: verywellmind