Okay, I know what you are all thinking – yes, I’m only in year one and yes, it’s only the fourth week. Yet this can be the point where most fresher’s start to feel the toll and their high on student life takes a big dive to become a serious low. You realise that you worked so hard to get into university to do…well, more studying (or partying and some hard-core procrastination heavily assisted by Netflix).
Jokes aside, I have managed to come up with ways to help me study productively. I’ve not become the most conscientious student but I’ve definitely come up with some improvements to help me in the last few weeks. Here are five ways to help you study more productively at uni:
1. Break it down
It sounds easy to break your work up into chunks, but it’s definitely easier said than done. Most of us decide to settle for the ‘I’ll do it later’ or ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ excuses, but in most cases even doing an hour’s work can really help. As an English Literature student I have a lot of reading and rather than trying to read everything at once, I try to break it down into sections by looking for various themes or concepts. Of course, this is not applicable to everyone but in general doing a bit of work every day or every couple of days can really lighten the load. Of course, not everyone studies like this and some people just prefer just to do it all in one go – if I have a lot of time I sometimes do this too. It’s important to figure out what is best for you, whether it’s an hour’s work or a good few hours to knuckle down.
2. Have food on standby
This probably calls for another article altogether (cooking and cooking at university are two entirely different experiences) yet this has definitely helped me study more. If possible, on the days you plan to study more, try to cook less – or not at all. Batch cooking is a great way to get around this; meals such as chilli con carne or chicken curry that can last for a couple of days are great and fill you up well so you’re not constantly snacking (as a proud snacker of biscuits, this doesn’t always work for me – I snack well whether I am studying or not). If you can cook some long-lasting meals on days you have a lot of free time, you can save a lot of time for studying on other days.
3. Work with people who work as hard or harder than you
Study groups can be amazing if you’re all actually studying. Unfortunately, many of us do fall into the trap of five minutes of reading and then a good gossip about the night before. Personally, I prefer to study alone but this is definitely an exception. You can learn a lot from peers doing the same course as you and if you can find people who have the same level of work ethic or have an even higher one, it may just motivate you to do more work. If you’re finding it hard to look for people to study with on your course, even just going with a friend to the library who you know you can work with side by side (silently) can help you study better. If all the people around you are working hard, something might just click in you to do the same.
4. Do the bits you hate first and the stuff you enjoy later
Like most students, I have bits of my course that I love and bits that I definitely don’t love. However, when it comes to revising, I always do the bits I struggle with or simply dislike first. This helps in two ways: one, instead of wasting energy by dreading the boring work I’ll have to do afterwards, I’m focussing the energy on actually getting the work done; two, I actually have something to look forward to afterwards so I feel more motivated to complete the work. I understand this won’t work for everyone – alternatively, some people like to start with something they enjoy to help them get into the mood and then tackle the more difficult stuff later. Again, it’s whatever works for you.
5. Finally…if you’re not going to do it, you’re just not going to do it
While it does sound a bit discouraging, I believe this is more realistic than anything. One difficult lesson I learnt that there are some days you will just not be in the mood to study – and that’s ok. Rather than wasting your energy and staying at home telling yourself that you’re going to study when you’re not, sometimes it’s better just to accept you won’t work that day. Once you do, you’ll immediately feel better and you can actually enjoy your day instead of constantly feeling guilty for not doing work. You can either use it to recharge your batteries or get some errands done (like the batch cooking I mentioned earlier). Procrastination may feel familiar and comfortable, but it can also seriously drain your energy levels which could be used more productively doing other things.
It’s important to remember that you’re not going to suddenly perform all these five ways to perfection and it will take time to improve your study routine. These ways are also subjective and will not work for everyone, so the bottom line is to try to find really works for you. I still find myself low on food on days I don’t need it, putting off work and trying to read all at once; yet improvements have been made and any improvement is something to be proud of. However, don’t let that make you get languid – if you think you’re capable of more, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t push yourself to the limit.