One of the keys to studying successfully at uni is to work smarter not harder. We’ve complied three evidence-based strategies to power-up your study sessions and enable deeper, more efficient learning.
1. Maintain focus with ‘timeboxing’
Do you find it difficult to use small amounts of time effectively? Or do you put off starting complex tasks? Try timeboxing!
Timeboxing involves applying pre-determined time limits to small study-related tasks. It increases your productivity by focusing time and energy on achievable goals. Timeboxing requires no special skills or equipment – all you need is the timer on your phone. Start by choosing the ‘size’ of your timebox (we suggest 25 minutes per ‘box’ as recommended in the Pomodoro Technique) and a study goal. Then commit yourself to working on your task – without distractions! –until the timer runs out.
Timeboxing is also an excellent weapon in the battle to slay the procrastination monster! Do you have a tendency to avoid challenging readings, difficult problem sets or complicated assignments? Set a five-minute timebox and work diligently. At the end of five minutes, you’ll have started the task that previously seemed unpleasant or impossible! More importantly, you’re then likely to benefit from the Zeigarnik Effect: the psychological tendency to finish tasks we’ve already started.
Pro tip: Do you need to turn off your phone so you’re not distracted while studying? You can easily find a timer online.
2. Space your study sessions
Imagine you’re preparing for a class test. Is it more effective to study in a single hour-long block the evening before the test, or to schedule three x 20-minute study sessions over the preceding fortnight? If you chose to space your study over 3 x 20-minute sessions, you’ve got science on your side! Research shows that you’re more likely to retain and recall information that you’ve learned during spaced or ‘distributed’ study sessions.
Pro tip: Are you sitting tests or exams this session? Schedule spaced study sessions into your personal timetable.
3. Prioritise sleep
It might seem counterintuitive, but getting adequate sleep is a simple strategy for powering up a study session! Sleep is fundamental to productive study because it allows the brain to consolidate information acquired during the day. If you’re not sleeping enough (or even at all!), the processes by which the brain stabilises newly encoded memory and consolidates them into long-term storage are disrupted. Sleep deprivation not only affects your ability to recall information, it also makes concentration, focus and mood regulation more difficult. To sum up: if sleep isn’t a priority in your schedule, you’re more likely to be cranky, forgetful and less able to learn effectively.