One of the most dreaded words in any learner’s life is ‘studying’.
The dictionary defines studying as ‘the act of making an effort and time to learn by reading, practising, or memorising’. Children probably define it as ‘the terror and torture of boring oneself to death over a slow period of time’.
I, personally, have a problem with both definitions.
The only concept that is actually important in both definitions is that of time. Once a child has learned the art of successfully incorporating time management skills into study methods, the torture will subside.
Well, at least it will last for shorter periods of time…
Knowing how to study and what study methods to use is different for everyone. We have other blog posts that deal specifically with these strategies. However, this article is going to focus on using certain time management skills to make any studying strategy and method more effective.
I do believe in working hard, but I do also believe in finding the most efficient way to work smart. Coupled with the fact that I consider myself a procrastinator who manages my time efficiently, I am at liberty to say that the tips below will make even the most professional time-waster become a study machine in no time (pun intended).
Schedules are important
Not everyone likes planning, but it is a skill you will need if you are trying to use your study time in a way that maximises efficacy. At the start of every month, plot out all your tests, tasks, assignments and homework quizzes in a calendar. The easiest way to avoid being overwhelmed is to see how everything is spread out and where your time will need to be spread. See it as a pizza – if all the slices are scattered throughout your house, you have to spend so much time finding them before you can eat. If your pizza is delivered as a whole, you simply pick a slice and start eating immediately. See? Planning makes everything pizza perfect!
Now that you have a monthly schedule (and probably a pizza craving), make sure that you start every week with a plan of what needs priority. If a project is due on Thursday, but your quiz is due Tuesday, you obviously know where to start. But, you may need to prioritise the project if the workload is more. Either way, if you don’t have a clear idea where your focus needs to be first, your brain will go into meltdown mode and accomplishing anything will become a problem.
Dedicated study space
You need to have a space that is dedicated to studying. Keep it free of clutter and make sure that only your study materials are in this space. If you do not have this set area, you will waste time looking for an area to study and then you will convince yourself that you first need to clean that area and organise the space (procrastination at its finest). Making your study space comfortable and homely will also make the activity of studying immediately seem more attractive.
Okay, so now we hit the nitty gritty level. Looking ahead at your week’s schedule and your order of priorities, now you need to section off work blocks. Estimate how much time you need to dedicate to a certain task and then plan it into your day. If you know you need to study for a Maths test, but also complete a History quiz, block out the specific time in your diary. The quiz might be your priority from 4 – 4.30pm, and then you may study from 4.45 – 6pm. These blocks make you see how much time you actually have. It is no use stating an overall subject as a priority – this will make the starting process confusing and you may actually waste more time getting going.
Use your phone… alarm
You need to keep track of time while trying to manage time. However, keeping your phone close is not a good idea. You will check the time and then quickly check Instagram and then Whatsapp a friend and before you know it, you’ve entered the black hole of time travel and three wasted hours have passed. Set your alarm so that it goes off at the end of your ‘work block’. Place it out of reach and work until that buzzer alerts you.
After a certain number of work blocks, make sure to reward yourself. Maybe this means making a cup of coffee, eating a snack, spending 15 minutes watching Instagram reels or chatting to a friend. Having these mini-reward sessions will make the time spent seem more productive and enjoyable because you know that you are working towards something you consider fun. Just be sure to allocate time frames for treat time too – again, that black hole of procrastination will find you.
If you are tired, you are sluggish, and everything occurs at a much slower pace. This will make you feel as though your time productivity is wasted and your motivation will decrease. Worse yet, you’ll need to nap more frequently, ignoring your work blocks altogether. Naps are not a problem now and again, but make sure that you are getting 8 hours of sleep a night. That means, again, putting your phone away so that you don’t waste time scrolling instead of sleeping.
Join a study group
A great way to make study time fun and interactive is to join a study group. Or better yet, start one.
Have you ever realised that when you are having fun, time flies? This will beat the tedious and monotonous structure that could creep in if you study in the same way all the time. It also allows you to work quicker, as many minds interacting at once aid the cognitive process.
Working together, students in study groups can generally learn faster than students working alone. For instance, some part of the textbook that seems completely confusing to you could be quite clear to another student. Instead of spending wasted time agonising over the problem or doing extra unnecessary research, someone can quickly explain it to you. In turn, the best way to remember a concept is for you to explain it to someone else.
By incorporating these time management skills into your study and school work processes, you will be able to learn more, feel less stressed, achieve results and develop skills that you will need in life. The worst thing to do is to leave everything to the last minute and then spend an anxious night burning the midnight oil as you try to cram it all into an unrealistic time frame.
As the saying goes, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. The only difference between those who are successful and those who are not is the concept of how time is managed when working. Use your study hours to be successful.
And remember, if at first you don’t succeed, order pizza and plan again.