Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Groningen's online course, Improving Your Study Techniques. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds Many students start their studies session by simply opening their book and just starting to read. Or when working on a paper by just opening a document on their computer and then hoping for inspiration. Now is the time to stop doing this. To be able to study effectively you need to start on the right foot. Organised and focused, instead of chaotic and at random. These steps can help you get off to a good start. 1. Make sure you’re sitting comfortably, all materials at hand, all distractions away. 2. Decide how long you want to study. 3. Decide what you want to work on. Let’s look at step 1. Ready to get started? Slouching, a room that’s too warm, too dark.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds These are all factors that produce sleep hormones. But it’s much too early to be saying goodnight. It’s time to get started. [1. Organise your study environment]

Skip to 1 minute and 11 seconds [Good light] [Good temperature] [Good chair]

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds [Relevant materials] What should you do with your phone? Sending a message or checking your phone, it only takes a few seconds. Is that bad for studying? After all, you are used to it. It’s modern times. You are a homo zapiens. Unfortunately, you are losing way more time than you think. You do not only lose the time of the destruction itself but also the time it takes to switch your attention back to your studies. A study done in the United States showed how big this effect is. The study compared students who had just read a text to students who read a text while being interrupted by few text messages.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds The group of students who got text messages while reading took 22% to 59% longer to read their texts after subtracting the time they spent on checking and answering the messages. Translating this into a real life prediction, 2 and a half hours of focused studying might be as productive as 3 to 4 hours of studying while getting distracted. Distraction time itself not included. So it’s much better to avoid distractions as much as possible and turn of your model phone when you’re studying. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, perhaps you can put it out of arm’s reach or put it on silent.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 seconds There are also a number of apps that can help you avoid looking at your phone, or at least to check it less often. Make sure you are in control of your phone and not the other way around.

Skip to 3 minutes and 2 seconds Study in time blocks that suit you. You might be thinking, do I have to decide on a block before I get started? Yes, the less you ask yourself while studying how long you’re going to keep working, the more you can focus all your attention on the studying itself. A time block can be of any length, depending on your personal preferences. If you’re wondering what works for you, you can try out one of these two options. The 60 minute block or the 30 minute block. The smaller block is especially suited for the more intensive study tasks. Or if you have difficulties with getting started or with concentration. Whatever you do make sure you stop before you’re completely exhausted.

Skip to 3 minutes and 49 seconds There are two reasons for this. 1. If you go on too long you become more and more inefficient. You don’t take in much of what you read anymore. You can’t think of any new ideas for your writing. And your problem solving skills go down. And that’s a waste of your time. And reason 2, if you stop while you still have some energy you will make it easier for yourself to get started again after your break. And just a few words about that. The break, great. But what should you do during breaks? First set a timer when you want to start studying again. Then do something that doesn’t require you to think very much.

Skip to 4 minutes and 32 seconds So don’t use your break for difficult matters such as difficult phone calls or emails. Physical activity is a good option because it helps relax your mind. And obviously if you have a 15 minute break, it’s not a good moment to start your favourite new series.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds For example, which exercise do you want to do? What paragraph do you want to write on? Or what chapter do you want to read? No idea how much you can get done in one study block? Use this table with averages or just experiment to see what you can do. This gives you the peace of mind to focus on one particular activity And not worry about everything else there is to do. Now you know how to prepare for a study session. Get your studying environment sorted and remove all distractions. Study in time slots, and decide what you’re going to do before you start.

How to prepare for a study session

This video explains how you can best prepare yourself for a study session.

In essence there are three steps for optimal preparation:

  1. Organise your study environment.

  2. Decide how long you want to study.

  3. Decide what you want to work on.

See “DOWNLOADS” at the bottom of this text for a summary and productivity apps.

What information in the video was most interesting or useful for you? Any tips you want to share? Please share your tips with other learners in the discussion section.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Improving Your Study Techniques

University of Groningen

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: