Create a study-friendly environment with these 5 tips. The good news: they’re very small which makes them easy to practice every day.
- train your mind to dive right in
- disable what distracts you
- block away the noise
- don’t waste time on toxic people and social media
- practice being more mindful
Tip #1. Train your mind to dive right in.
What really helps you start your study day the right way is to get your mind on board with what you’re about to do. It helps you stay motivated to do what’s in front of you. For example:
- Instead of approaching what you’re doing as a chore, turn it into a choice. Don’t tell yourself, “Now I have to work so hard but I don’t feel like it!” Instead say, “This is something I really want to learn more about!” The benefits? It gives you a greater sense of control about your studies.
- Remind yourself of the value of your studies with this question: “Why am I doing this?” Make the connection between what’s happening right now and the goals you have set for yourself. It can be to learn a new skill, study for an exam so you can graduate and start your career, solve a particular problem you’re currently dealing with, etc.
- Visualize what you’re about to do. This is a technique called building a mental model; you imagine in detail what you expect to learn. As you imagine the details, be sure to cover all the steps you will be doing. For example, if you are researching something new, visualize covering a certain amount of material (chapters, paragraphs, sections), taking notes on important concepts, writing down questions to follow up on later. The benefit is that when you tell yourself a story, you train your brain to anticipate next steps and map out the entire learning process so it’s easier to understand.
Tip #2. Disable what distracts you.
It’s really hard to focus on what we are currently doing because our attention moves to little things around us. Let’s take multitasking as an example: you’re reading email and constantly checking your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feed. But did you know that multitasking canby 10 points? When you disable your distractions, you have a better chance to actually do what’s important to you. Here’s how:
- Set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus.
- Set expectations with others by letting them know you won’t be available in the next few hours, so they don’t interrupt you with their requests, questions or ideas on doing something else.
- Check your email and social media apps only 2–3 times a day (around midday, later in the afternoon, and evening). Schedule this time in: do it during your lunch break, for example, or when you have a cup of coffee or tea.
- Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news; leave these activities for later after you’ve completed what you need to do. Close all tabs on your computer that may be tempting you to start browsing.
Tip #3. Block away the noise.
If your home or work environment is far from ideal for focusing, you will need to get more creative with overcoming this challenge. Start with these ideas:
- Invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones which can be helpful whether you’re at home, in a busy coffee shop, or at university. You can listen to music that can help you relax and improve your focus (it can be classical music or ).
- Get a pair of soft silicone ear plugs like if you prefer to work in silence; they easily double up as a safe option for taking a quick nap and also if you’re having trouble sleeping throughout the night due to heavy traffic, loud housemates, or ongoing construction in your neighborhood.
Tip #4. Don’t waste time on toxic people and social media.
Both of these factors can significantly impact your focus by taking your attention away from what’s important in your life. Consider this:
- Toxic people may claim they are your friends, but they are not. Why? Because they don’t support you, they don’t listen to you, and chances are they won’t change just because you want them to. Be very selective who you spend your free time with, and next time a toxic person wants to monopolize your time, just say no. Tell them you’re busy. Don’t engage in negative banter. You’re better off spending free time on your own doing something that makes you relaxed and happy.
- It’s easy to get lost in the latest Facebook or Instagram updates. Try to take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt. Chances are that the pictures and updates are not your friends’ reality; it’s the version of their reality they want you to see. Instead, focus on what you have going for you in your life. Practice gratitude for the little things, stay true to your goals, and don’t let others sway you from accomplishing what you have set out to do.
Tip #5. Practice being more mindful.
You don’t need anyone else to tell you that studying is like having a full-time job. You need to work for weeks at a time to prep for exams, the assignments seem endless, and then you often lose focus or get distracted with just about anything: a noisy street outside your window, a friend calling you to join them for dinner and a movie, all those videos you’d rather be watching on YouTube. There’s one way to stay focused and declutter your mind from all the busy thoughts that keep piling up: a simple meditation practice of 10 minutes.
- The benefits: You can feel less overwhelmed and stressed, you stay calm throughout the day, and you may even start concentrating better on your work.
- How to begin: First download the app, which makes meditation easy, fun, and great for beginners. Then, do 10 minutes consistently for 10 days. After that, you can opt to increase the time to 15 and later 20 minutes, or you can keep it to 10 if that works for you.