Your college days are some of the most important years in your life. You have heard all you can about study habits, but there are so many different opinions on the topic that it is difficult to know what to believe. Some say studying in smaller chunks spread out over time is better than cramming for hours before an exam, while others insist their way is best, and so on. So how do you take the information available and get started? Here are three good techniques to consider when starting out.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique may be one of the easiest ways to learn how to study efficiently. Just like a tomato (what pomodoro means), this method works through consistency and steady effort. This technique involves setting a timer for short intervals, usually 25 minutes long, then taking a 5-minute break. After several Pomodoros (or more depending on the purpose of your activity), you will take a longer break.
The effectiveness of this method is that it forces you to work hard in small increments of time. Many people find they are more productive when they don’t have to worry about how much time they have left or what else needs to be done after their current task. Because you are working for only 25 minutes at a time, it is easy to get motivated and push yourself without distractions from other obligations pulling your attention away from your studies.
The idea with the Pomodoro Technique is that if you can get through a set of Pomodoros, then you deserve a break. During the 5-minute break try to focus on something else that is productive or relaxing. It’s important not to let yourself get distracted by checking your phone, etc., during this time because it will make it more difficult for you to get focused again later.
If you find yourself struggling with motivation during a Pomodoro session, try thinking about how you will feel when taking a longer break at the end of your study session. Many people tend to think of bigger breaks as time they can goof off and relax, but if you use those bigger breaks as part of your reward system for completing Pomodoros successfully, then working hard throughout your 25-minute session will feel like part of your plan.
The Ivy Lee Method
Another method to help you learn how to study efficiently is what has come to be known as the Ivy Lee Method. This technique involves focusing on one task for no more than six minutes at a time. The idea behind this approach is that after spending six minutes working intensely on something, it’s best to take a short break before jumping back in again. For instance, if you are studying several different topics within one unit that require multiple readings and plenty of note-taking, then spend no more than 6 minutes total on each topic before taking a small break, even if the breaks come mid-sentence! After 30 minutes of work, take an extended break of 10 to 15 minutes.
By working intensely on each topic for no more than 6 minutes, then taking a short break before tackling your next task, you can get things done while still giving your brain time to recover from all that focus. This will make it easier for you to get back into studying when you return after your break rather than having to remember everything you were thinking about when trying to work again on something new.
When choosing what tasks you will focus on during any one study session using the Ivy Lee method, try separating them into piles labeled “wait”, “work”, and “study”. The “wait” pile is for tasks that can be put off until after your study session. These may include things like paying bills or making phone calls to people you’ve been meaning to talk to. Once all the high priority items are taken care of, then it’s time to get down and dirty with those textbooks!
The “work” pile includes anything that requires immediate attention such as studying an upcoming exam or finishing a read-through on your notes before class tomorrow morning. This is where you will use the Ivy Lee method and work on each topic for no more than six minutes at a time before taking a short break and moving onto the next thing on your list.
The last pile is labeled “study”. If you are able to get through all the tasks in the “work” pile, then you can use your free time on things like studying flashcards or watching a lecture. Once everything is finished for the night, you can reward yourself by engaging in something relaxing before bed or even catching up on some sleep!
The 20-minute rule
The third technique is known as the 20-minute rule. According to this system, you can work on any task for up to 20 minutes before taking a break, but only if it has something to do with learning or studying. Once those 20 minutes are up, however, it is time to switch your attention away from your work and dedicate at least 10 of the following minutes to doing something completely different.
The idea behind this approach is that by forcing yourself not to focus on school-related tasks for more than 20 minutes at one time without stepping away completely, you give yourself enough time and space between study sessions that will allow your brain some rest before diving back into all that hard work once again.
One way that many people try to use this method is by alternating between studying and checking their email or phone messages every 20 minutes. This way they are giving themselves a bit of time to relax, but also getting work done at the same time. The idea is that if you allow yourself 10 minutes for each break, then you don’t have to worry about feeling like either one of them will take up too much of your valuable study time and leave you with nothing left over!
In conclusion, by using any one of these three-time chunking techniques, you can make sure that your study sessions are as effective as possible and improve your chances of acing those exams!
Work smart, not hard!