How to make Studying Easier.

I know it’s been a while, but there is a reason for that – studying.

In the world of academia, mid-November marks the end of the first marking period. Teachers are assigning heavily weighed summative exams, projects deadlines are hovering, and students are under more pressure than ever to try and maintain/improve their grades.

For many, having all of this work (and pressure) looming is overwhelming. They may not know where to start, which is the most crucial part to success whilst studying.

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The secret to getting ahead is getting started.
— Mark Twain

The Premise

Humans are naturally lazy (to an extent). If they do not want to do something, they will either put it off until later (procrastination), or they discard it entirely. Interestingly enough, we can use this trait to our advantage.

If we make something easier to begin, we are more likely to start.

Likewise, if we make something harder to do, we are more likely to disregard it.

That is why making studying easy is paramount to success. If in order to start studying, you need to find your textbook, find a writing utensil, and do a myriad of other things, you are significantly less likely to begin studying in the first place.

However, if all of your necessities are easy to access, you are much more likely to begin studying and make progress.

Just to clarify, this idea isn’t exclusively for studying, you can use this in many other parts of your life.

The Converse

As such, the converse of this idea can be used to eliminate parts of your life that are detrimental to your studying. This could be social media, games, notifications, or other distractions in your life.

If you make these harder to access, you are less likely to be distracted by those things in the first place.

Cool, right?

If you move your phone into another room while you study, and put it on Do Not Disturb, that is already a significant improvement to your previous setup. In order to get distracted by your phone, you have to get up, move to the other room, bring it back, and then proceed to open Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, etc.

Our inherent laziness is used to our advantage because we can make unwanted things in our life harder to access, and therefore less likely to affect us.

Here’s the Plan

Firstly, identify what you want to accomplish. Is this studying? Finishing a project? Meditating? Going on a run?

If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, it is impossible to figure out what you want to make accessible (or non-accessible).

Once you have identified your goal, now you should distinguish what you need to complete your goal. Textbooks? Pencils/Pens? Paper? A laptop?

Make these items as easy to access as possible. Ideally, you would make a separate area for that task (a section of your room just for studying, an office for work, an area for meditation, etc.) If that isn’t possible, don’t fret. You can still try your best to make your necessary materials easy to access.

Finally, we apply the converse to this idea. Recognize what inhibits you from this goal/task. This is usually in the form of a distraction, like social media or phone calls.

You don’t necessarily have to eliminate these things from your life entirely, only for the select amount of time that you are accomplishing your goal.

Many think that you should get rid of social media entirely, but I believe there is a way to have the benefits of social media & communication, whilst still maintaining your focus.

Putting your phone on Do Not Disturb is already a big step in the right direction, but how do we make apps like Instagram or Facebook harder to access?

I personally use a Samsung phone, and it has a handy feature called ‘focus mode‘. It essentially blocks me from opening select apps until I turn it off. I could use a timer (“Focus for 1 hour”), or I can have it on indefinitely. In practice, it works similarly to a website blocker.

Each day, read over the notes you (hopefully) took in class, and read the lecture slides provided by the teacher if applicable. This is passive learning (usually frowned upon), but it still succeeds in moving the concepts into your long-term memory. Of course, this should be paired with an active form of studying, like teaching it to someone else or building a mind-map.

If you apply these methods, you should see a significant improvement in your studies. Not just in how much you memorize, but especially in how much uninterrupted time you have for effective studying.

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