Sometimes it’s hard to focus on study. Your productivity and ability to concentrate will be improved if you get into good study habits.
We often procrastinate because a task feels too overwhelming, boring or difficult.
The best way to stop procrastinating is to break down a big task into manageable chunks. Focus on one small task and take action.
For example, an essay requires you to do a series of steps:
If any of these steps feel too big, break them down further. For example, step 3 above involves these mini-steps:
Even if you naturally do these steps, it can help to write them down.
Also set yourself a time limit. Small mini-steps set to short timeframes work best. What can you achieve in the next 30 minutes? With practice, you’ll be good at setting realistic timeframes.
Be gentle on yourself and remember that doing something is better than nothing. Start with just one small step.
Choose an environment that suits you. Most people prefer quiet study environments, either at home or in a library. Some people need background music. Other people need background noise and work best at a café or in the busier areas of the library.
Make sure your chair is comfortable.
Start work with a clear desk. If needed, set a timer for five minutes and do a speed clean before you study.
Your study area should be well lit to avoid straining your eyes.
Check the temperature in your study environment – if it’s too warm, you may get sleepy. Fresh air will keep you alert.
There are a number of reasons why things take longer than you think they should.
You may be doing too much reading because you don’t want to miss key ideas or you don’t feel ready to start writing.
If you’ve understood the question reasonably well, it’s very unlikely you’ll miss a key idea. Normally two or three relevant readings will be enough to become aware of the main issues.
Make sure you use skim reading and scanning so you’re only reading relevant material.
As you read, develop an outline of your answer to the question and decide how you will balance time researching different points.
There is often a temptation to create the perfect plan before you start writing. While it’s a good idea to know where you’re going before you start, it’s not necessary to include every detail in your plan. Flexibility is part of the writing process.
Excessive redrafting of your work can be unnecessarily time-consuming. It’s usually better to aim for a rough first draft to get the major issues and arguments down on paper, followed by a second draft to fine tune. After that, you should only be doing minor editing and proofreading.
External distractions can slow you down when you’re studying. Multitasking is also unhelpful; aim to do one thing at a time.
Things might be taking too long because you’re studying in an inefficient way. Rather than ‘chaining yourself’ to your desk and working continuously over long periods, break up your study into chunks and have frequent short breaks. Reward yourself when you achieve goals.