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Academic Success and Career Center Cultivating Successful Scholars and Professionals

Learning Resources: Success Tips

7 Critical Tips for Successful Studying

Tip 1: Know your “Why”

Everything we do daily is prompted with a purpose. We study to master the knowledge, to achieve good grades, and to earn a good degree. We meet friends to build meaningful connections and relationships.  But yet, we don’t always remind ourselves of the ultimate purposes. When we lack purposes, we become more open to distractions, our productivity deteriorated, and the quality of our work declines. This is why it’s important to know the reason for doing something. Ask yourself the “why”. If you know your “whys”, you will be able to focus on doing meaningful things to yourself and avoid distraction that would lower your productivity.

Tip 2: Set Goals

When you don’t set goals, there seems to be no place to go and you don’t know what to accomplish. You may end up multitasking many things at once to get them done but find that the quality of your work doesn’t meet your expectations. This might make you feel unproductive and lose site your purpose of doing these things in the first place.

To help you keep sight of the bigger picture and stay on track, it is best to break your goals down over increasing time periods. Set goals:

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • Yearly

Make goal setting a habit. Put your goals on the wall somewhere prominent so you can see them all the time, and they will remind you of what you want to accomplish.

Tip 3: Prioritize your to-do list

The purpose of using a to-do list is to plan every task, project, or item that needs to be done at some point. Once it is all laid out, a to-do list reminds us of all the things we need to do during a given day or for a particular project. But sometimes, our to-do list can seem overwhelming. Therefore we need to prioritize which tasks are the most important to do first in the day before doing the non-important tasks. In fact, if we prioritize, we always have much less than we thought we should do per day. So on your to-do list, you should ask yourself what are the tasks that you must do, should do, plan to do for later, or that you think are not important.

Tip 4: Find your ideal environment

The environment that you usually study plays a major role in the outcome of your productivity. Is the lighting good enough to keep you awake? Is the background noise quiet enough? Is the place comfortable? What’s the temperature (too hot, too cold, or just right)? How is the air quality? How are the scents? What about the presence of other people? And so on. An ideal environment can help you focus on your work and enter your most productive state. A wrong environment is distracting and can make it impossible to manage your attention for even a minute.

Tip 5: Take breaks

Taking regular and frequent breaks is important. They help us recover our energy and regain our ability to focus on our goals.  When we take frequent breaks, our brains can reprocess information and make new connections. We would then return to our work feeling refreshed, which makes it easier to manage our attention again. Here are some few ideas that you can do for your frequent break:

  • Work in time chunk: Work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break. Or you might prefer the 30 minutes with 10 minutes break. It depends on how you find the work/break interval that complements your workflow. During those short breaks, you can drink a glass of water for rehydration, or eat a small snack to re-energize your body.
  • Take a walk: Taking a walk can help refresh your brain and body. We always feel good after taking a walk in nature and getting fresh air. Call a friend or family member and take a walk with them so you can socialize your short break at the same time.
  • Stretch: You can reduce the body’s stiffness from sitting for a long time by stretching. Stretching can improve our blood flow and body posture. You will feel more energetic and can gain back productivity. 

Tip 6: Manage your energy level

Our energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. We’re more focused and productive during the period of high energy. We’re less focused and becoming more distracted during the period of low energy. We must identify these periods and organize our workflow to make the best use of them. Some people are identified as a morning person, some accomplish more in the evening. Once identified, we must adjust our workflow and attention to complement our productivity.

Also, look for catalysts that leverage your high energy periods. Is water, fruit, and healthy snacks, etc. supporting your energy level? Be mindful that junk food can reduce your energy level. It’s very important to refuel your body with nutrients that will increase your body’s energy level and adjust to the workflow accordingly.

Tip 7: Practice self-care

After work, we want to spend at least some small-time reclaiming time for ourselves. Do you have hobbies that bring you inner joy and happiness? Do you have favourite activities to reclaims a sense of inner calmness? These things could be cooking, baking, playing sports, playing musical instruments, taking a walk with your pets, hanging out with friends or your loved ones, listening to music, etc. It is very important for you to disconnect from work at the end of the day and spend at least some time taking care of yourself. You will be able to refresh your mind and body, reclaim your purposes, and continue to find the meaning in the work again. You will want to be mindful of how much time you are dedicating to self-care, map out about a half an hour to an hour in the evening prior to jumping into homework!

adapted from the book Fast Focus by Damon Zahariades.