Imagine if you could sit down at your desk to study and smash out two hours of productive swatting without getting distracted or bored.
Imagine if you could stay on track during exam study without losing motivation every damn half hour.
Imagine if you could finish a day of studying and think, “yeah, I really nailed it today!”
Well at the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker — you can! Seriously.
Just like any part of studying, maintaining your productivity is a skill that can be learnt, practised, and mastered.
Unless you’re a cyborg, of course there will still be days when you are not as productive as you can be, but we’re not aiming for perfection — we’re aiming for improvement.
If you’re really struggling to maintain focus and productivity while studying (or if your teen is), here are our 5 top tips for maximizing your productivity during a study session:
1. Focus on something small and not scary.
Small tasks are of course easier to tackle than big scary ones.
Studying for five different subjects that all have exams within a few days of each other that you must pass lest your life be over = scary. Very scary. But reading over your school notes on photosynthesis and making your own flow chart of the process = not scary and very doable.
Nothing sucks productivity out of you quicker than feeling overwhelmed. Don’t worry about everything else you need to study for. Doing so will only overwhelm. Focus on the study task right in front of you and soldier on with it. By ticking off lots of little tasks that individually aren’t scary, you will quickly start to see massive progress of the scary task that is preparing for exams.
(By the way, having a timetable to stick to will make this even easier, because it means all of your time is planned out already so you don’t need to worry about deciding what to do next. Big thumbs up for that.)
No doubt you’ve heard this one before (we’ve discussed it already here), but there’s a reason why you have. How can you expect yourself to knuckle down and focus if in the back of your mind you’re constantly feeling that itch to check your phone…
If you’re like most people and tempted a lot of the time to check your phone, social media, email or whatever else, put your phone away in a drawer or another room, or at the very least put it on silent and out of view.
If your attachment to your phone has reached unhealthy levels (you know who you are), or if you’re a chronic procrastinator or easily distracted, you may have to resort to more major solutions like disconnecting your internet (when you don’t need the net to study) and telling your mates you’re studying for a few hours and will be offline for a while.
The most important thing is that you’re honest with yourself. Are you a serial phone checker and is it impacting your ability to study effectively? If so, you know what you need to do. Be strong and you’ll feel SO much better after smashing out a productive study session without getting distracted.
3. Take breaks when you need to
There are lots of study commentators who talk about the optimum length of time to study for. Our take on this is that we’re all different and we’re all productive for different amounts of time.
And on top of that — we’re not robots, and so sometimes we might get in the zone and be productive for three hours before feeling zonked, and other times we might only last 30 minutes before we’re desperate to run out of the room and make a cup of coffee.
When you’ve been reading the same sentence for five minutes, or when you’ve found yourself wondering over to YouTube for the last 15 minutes, just embrace the fact that you need a break. Go make that cup of coffee, watch that YouTube video without feeling guilty, and then go back to your desk and commit to going over that next topic.
4. Get the topics you’re dreading out the way first
If you’re sitting down at your desk knowing that you have to revise a topic you don’t like, your motivation is going to suffer, and therefore, so is your productivity.
Maybe it’s a topic you find really hard, maybe it’s a subject where you don’t like your teacher that much. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is you do need to study this topic, so rip off the band-aid and just get it done as soon as you can.
Once you’ve done what you need to for that topic, you’ll feel relieved and right chuffed with yourself, which will fill you with motivation and inspiration to move on to the subjects that you don’t mind studying as much.
5. Try for at least 15 minutes before giving up
We know that we’ve just said take breaks when you need to, but if you only sat down at your desk five minutes ago, well, that might be taking the mickey a bit too much.
Studying is like exercise — you have to give yourself a chance to warm up before you get into it. AND — we know that we certainly found STARTING to be the hardest part of studying (and sitting exams), so it’s no good giving up in the first 15 minutes. It might take you this long before you get into ‘the zone’.
You’re trying to find that sweet spot where you’re so into what you’re studying that you’re not checking the clock every 5 minutes, and before you know it two hours have whizzed by. Don’t expect to get into your study session in the first 15 minutes. Accept that it might take you a little while to find your focus.
Productivity thrives on productivity
The more you work on your productivity by implementing the techniques we’ve described above (as well as your own!), the easier you’ll find it to maintain productivity. It’s like developing a good habit. Starting can be really hard, but once you get into the groove, it becomes way easier. So try implementing these tips above and you should soon start to feel like you’re kicking your study goals.
Photo credit: Designed by Jannoon028