Study Less, Study Smart

Considering the fact that we live under strange circumstances, and that our motivation might be low, this article might be exactly what you need to get back in your game.

Spring semester has just begun with thrilling speed, and students are stressed as never before with piles of books stretching out our backpacks to the maximum. We all dream that those books read themselves – but unfortunately that’s not the case. However, there might be a few easy tricks that would give the average student more time to do things other than study, perhaps play a friendly match of tennis at Gerdahallen, go out for a beer at the local pub or enjoy yourself an hour more by the television before bedtime. Whatever it is that gets you going, research shows that the average student might actually have more time doing what they love than they thought was possible. Research has shown that students don’t study nearly as much as they think they are. When someone thinks they study for six hours, the truth is that this number is closer to half. Marty Lobdell, a famous Psychologist from the United States, has written a book to help people become more effective when studying. During the following few minutes of reading, I will try to highlight the most important factors from what there is to learn from Mr. Lobdell’s book “Study Less, Study Smart”, and how your problem might shift from now knowing how to get your schoolwork done, to wondering what you should do with all the new spare time that lies upon you – if that now is considered a problem 😉.

1. Take Breaks

On average, people can focus for about 25-30 minutes effectively. What happens when you study for longer periods of time is that the amount of focus that actually is dedicated towards learning new things become close to none. To prevent the decline of focus, there is the idea of a study-break. Study-breaks don’t have to be longer than five minutes, and it will help your brain reload to be able to focus better during the following session. The difference that 5-minute breaks every 30 minutes makes are vast and makes the ineffective study session more effective. When taking your five-minute break, you have perfect time to go grab a coffee, maybe you walk out the front door to grab a fresh inhale of air… or you just scroll through your phone. However, it is important to address the fact that you should do something that you enjoy – just to take your mind off the work in front of you for a minute.  

2. Go Somewhere to Study (Get Yourself A Dedicated Study Area)

How many of you have ever tried to read literature in bed, or watching a Zoom lecture in bed, and not learning a single thing, maybe even falling asleep? The fact that it is almost impossible to learn something in bed is because our brains are controlled by environmental cues. That is, when you lie in your bed – you want to sleep. This also applies to studying, and the best thing you can do is to get yourself a place to study every day. Maybe you want to go to EC, IDEON, the library – whatever place you choose will be better than trying to learn something in bed! In the long run, just like sleeping in bed, the brain knows that it is study time at EC and will therefore be able to focus better there. Also, research shows that people can feel anxiety and stress when staying home for too long – perhaps that’s why a lot of people feel bad during these times…

3. If You Can’t Explain It, You Don’t Know It

How many of you have ever tried to explain something to a friend, and when that friend asked, “why is it like that”, and you can’t quite answer that question? Trying to explain something to somebody else quickly gives you an indication of what you need to study more on and whenever you teach someone else than yourself, you fully need to understand the concept of something. If you only know the fact, and not the concept, then how are you supposed to answer questions your friend just had?

Why it is like this, and why it is not like this, are good questions to try and answer.  It is one thing to know as a fact that a demand curve has a negative inclination, it is another thing to understand as a concept why a demand curve has a negative inclination. Learn the concept, not only the fact.

4. Reward Yourself When the Study Session is Over

Dr. Lobdell over and over again emphasises that it is important to reward yourself when you are done studying. Planning a special treat after long hours of reading will not only give you something to fun to do – it will actually make the study session better!

Just like the concept of environmental cues, our brain gets used to the fact that “whenever I do my homework, I get a reward”. By letting this become a routine, study sessions become more effective since the brain no longer things about “what is, and what is not, happening tonight – this is something we think about later.

In one of Dr. Lobdell’s lectures, he shared one of his own treats that was commonly used when he studied to become a psychologist – go out for a beer and watch football. Even though Dr. Lobdell was a straight-A student, he would have time for a beer after he’d done his work. Of course, you don’t have to drink beer every time you are done studying, that would probably just give you a bad liver and a hard time to study the following day. Instead, perhaps you plan a special dinner, watch your favourite tv-series or just do something special with a couple of friends – whatever you do, make it fun!

Studying is something we all have to do – there is just no way around it. However, with the right tools and mindset, studying does not have to be all boring and hard – quite frankly the opposite. Hopefully at least some of the tips above can be useful to interpret within your study technique, so you can have more time to do the things you want!

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