It can be argued that there is little point in studying if you are going to forget the contents of your course soon after your study session. And yet it is just possible to plough on, aiming for a certificate and thinking about the rewards ahead of improved job opportunities and promotion. Would it not be better to know and enjoy your subject, be passionate about keeping your knowledge updated, and loving what you study? And best of all – retaining your expertise for a long time to come?
There are some ways in which you can turn your studying habits from certificate-collecting and adding to your curriculum vitae into greater knowledge and wisdom. You can amass knowledge and experience that can serve you well throughout your life. Not just at work, but in lots of different contexts.
If studying is reduced to a necessary but dull chore, you will soon find an excuse not to study at all. So re-invigorate your love of studying and the pursuit of expertise. Here’s how:
Love what you do
You probably remember a school subject (or two) that you didn’t much like, and yet tried to study. The chances are that you didn’t do too well when it came to exams. This is because we remember and engage more with the subjects we love. A fascination with your subject can make your studying more worthwhile. A passion for knowledge can help you to remember what you are learning, and can create a great curiosity in the subject that raises your enjoyment of studying. Your subject can mean a lot more to you if you can connect it to your own lifestyle and needs. For example, studying project management – in which you are working on an abstract project – can be dull. But applying this area of study to a project in which you have a personal interest and aspirations can make this a fascinating course of study.
Teach your subject
To crystallise the facts, you are reading into your mind, try teaching them to someone else as an exercise. Perhaps you have a supportive friend or family member. If there is no one to hand at the time, try teaching yourself, looking in the bathroom mirror. Or lecture your pet! You will find that by putting your knowledge into words, this will help to make sense of what you have learned, and also ensure that you are not just parroting your course material but re-phrasing important principles of what you have learned. Teaching will involve summarising facts, making conclusions and explaining. This promotes a greater understanding of your subject.
Many people find that studying can go hand in hand with unhealthy habits, such as snacking on junk food, over-indulging in coffee or alcoholic drinks. Also, cramming – studying overnight prior to an exam can be tempting – with possibly disastrous results. Studies have found that our brains absorb information best either just before sleep or just after exercise. Therefore, having a good amount of physical activity, as your abilities allow, and good sleeping habits can help you to remember what you are learning. A healthy diet promotes good health all round, as we know. Quick caffeine fixes result in initial spikes of perceived energy, followed by large slumps of concentration. So keep your mind sharp and alert by eating and drinking a well-balanced diet. No excuses.
Time your study
Plan 30-minute chunks of intense study and then take a break rest for five minutes after. This has been found to minimise distractions and boost productivity. During your breaks, you could make yourself a drink, have a healthy snack or chat with a friend. Exercise has have been found to stimulate the production of a protein called (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which prepares the brain for optimum learning and creative thinking. After a short session of exercise, you are more likely to form useful connections between ideas, and in doing so, retain them better. You will return to your studies ready to go, refreshed and alert.
Treat yourself well
Have you tried studying, slumped on a sofa, feeling uncomfortable and grouchy? The chances are that we have all done this at some time – and it is likely that these study sessions have not been too productive. Instead, before you study, carry out a quick check of how you are going to work. Sitting upright in a comfortable chair may sound severe, but over a few minutes, you will still be comfortable. If you are sitting in front of a laptop or desktop computer, may sure that you are considering the angle of the screen, its brightness and proximity and height to where you are sitting Comfort is key! If you wear glasses, ensure that you are going regularly for check-ups, so that your prescription is correct for your needs. Keep a glass of water (yes, water) next to you. Turn off your mobile phone and promise yourself a catch-up after a couple of breaks if you need to. Organise a treat for the end of the session – whether it is a nice meal, seeing friends or watching a favourite TV programme.
Making your study sessions a time of satisfaction and enjoyment can add to the joy of learning – and also get you better exam results. Happy studying!
If you’d like to get better at learning then have a look at all of our study tips articles here.
If you’ve got any study tips that we’ve missed out, comment down below!