Study at Home, Effectively

Welcome to a new age of school! Many of us are going back to school by staying right at home. I know that for myself, it can be so hard to stay focused and get work done when my bed is calling my name for a nap or my phone reminds me that Netflix just released a new season of my favorite show. I have had to implement new habits into my life to be successful in school, and I want to share those with you.

Pick a spot that isn’t your bed (or the couch)

I know how tempting it is to pick the comfiest spot in your home to get work done. But the bed is for sleeping, and you might be tempted to do so if you pick that spot for studying. The same goes for a couch. It can be far too easy to sink into the couch and get lost in your favorite TV show.

Insted, pick a spot where you have to sit upright, just like you would if you were attending class in person. Perhaps you already have a desk, a vanity, or even a kitchen island. The regular old kitchen table works well too! By sitting in a spot that mimics regular school, your mind will subconsciously prepare itself for learning better than it would in bed.

Make sure the area is decluttered and distractions are minimal

Take just a few minutes to clean up the area you will be working. With a clean space, your mind can be more clear and you have maximum space to work. It won’t be very helpful if you can’t put down your laptop or notebook down flat. By having a clean work space, you can also spread all of your resources out in front of you so it is all easily accessible. It takes up a lot of time to constantly be flipping and shuffling through everything that you need to be learning the material.

Additionally, by removing distractions, you can stay focused for longer. I beg of you, move your Nintendo Switch out of your line of sight, you will be far less tempted to play Animal Crossing that way. This also includes other objects such as fidget toys, footballs, yoyos, and any other random things you may have obtained over the years.

Find a time ratio that works for you

There are a lot of time ratios for studying and taking breaks. If you can work for hours without taking a break, that’s fantastic and we’re all jealous of you. If you are not that person, a very popular time ratio is 25 minutes of work, with a 5 minute break. Maybe you function better on a 50/50 split. Maybe you can work for 45 minutes and only need a 10-15 minute break. Just make sure you hold yourself to the restricted break time. Remember, the sooner you get your work done, the sooner you can truly relax (or take a nap).

Additionally, get competitive with yourself. When you set that timer, challenge yourself to see how much you can get done in the time-frame you’ve chosen. That’s how I clean my room so quickly. It is also how I stay on track and hold myself accountable.

Now that you’re actually ready, set goals for yourself

There are two main ways to set goals: qualitatively and quantitatively. Setting a qualitative goal mean you’re setting goals that have to do with improvement, and quantitative goals are goals that you want to get a certain amount of something done. It is also possible to have a combination of these goals.

Some examples of qualitative goals would be: editing the paper you wrote, reviewing your notes, understanding the learning objectives from the chapter. With goals like these, you aren’t necessarily getting a set amount done, but rather doing a task that improves your recollection of the information or improves the quality of the work you did.

Quantitative goal examples include: doing 1, 2, 3… or even 10 more problems on your homework (or just finishing it). Reading a set amount of a chapter, and completing a certain number of paragraphs for that paper you have been putting off.

Music isn’t the best, but…

If you need music and simply can’t get work done without it, I understand your struggle. However, if I may, I have a few suggestions to improve your work ethic.

Try and pick music without lyrics. Whether you know the words or not, your brain wants to focus on what it’s hearing and it will jumble up the words your reading or writing with what you are listening to. There are plenty of instrumental playlists and channels are various services such as Youtube, Pandora, and of course, Spotify. I sometimes find instrumental music to be far too sleepy. Additionally, if it is the instrumental version of a song I already know, I find myself singing along anyways, so my personal recommendation is the genre lofi. It is free of lyrics, but also upbeat. It helps me tune out the outside world, but doesn’t put me to sleep.

Test yourself, again and again

It has been proven through many studies that testing your knowledge helps you learn and remember the important information better. There’s four easy ways to go about this, among many others. Those four easy ways are learning objectives, end of chapter review questions, example problems, and practice exams. Very often, teachers will provide learning objectives for the course material, or they will be laid out in the beginning of a chapter. Most textbooks have questions at the end, and you can copy problems like math equations with new numbers. Some teachers provide practice exams before the real deal. By the time you get done working on notes and homework, quiz yourself!

If you can effectively explain a concept or define something (bonus if you can do it without referring to your notes), then you likely have a deeper understanding of what the chapter was referring to. Ever hear “teaching something is the best way to learn it” – it’s so true! Practice explaining things to friends or even to an imaginary student. For problems such as math or chemistry, testing your abilities repetitively will help reinforce the steps to solving the problem. Both end of chapter questions and practice exams are direct ways of testing your knowledge of definitive answers. And practice exams are great on their own because they are a direct example of what your teacher’s exams look like.