What’s the best way to study? In this episode, I reveal my secrets to cut studying time while getting better results by studying smart, not just hard. Whether you’re a student in school or just of life, learn how to study with ease, enjoyment, and effectiveness.
People say that you should study smart, not hard. But how do you learn to do that? After all, school teaches you what to study – not how to study.
These are my favorite studying tips based in neuroscience.
I teach more study tips in my bestselling Kwik Student program, a 16-hour bootcamp used by students in 150+ countries to crack the code to higher test scores and maximum return on studying time.
4 Things to Stop Immediately for Effective Studying
1. Stop multitasking.
Multitasking is a myth. Task-switching is more accurate: you might believe you’re doing 2 to 3 things at once, but you’re actually switching between tasks.
Task-switching takes more time, is less productive, and causes more errors. Every time you switch tasks, you need to regain focus and flow – which takes from 5 to 20 minutes.
The University of London found that multitasking can lower your IQ up to 15 points – the same as if you’d stayed up all night.
2. Eliminate distractions.
Focus by turning your phone off, on Airplane Mode, or moving it into another room.
For more tips on avoiding distractions, reference Kwik Brain 018: Fast Focus & Productivity with Julia Roy.
3. Stop cramming.
Many people don’t study for days or weeks before pulling an all-nighter or studying for 6 – 7 hours.
Sleep is essential because that’s where you consolidate short- to long-term memory.
It’s crucial to take breaks when you study.
Your attention and retention diminish after 25 – 30 minutes.
The Pomodoro Technique asks you to work for 25 – 30 minutes, then take a 2 – 5 minute break to stretch, breathe, and hydrate.
As your body moves, your brain groves.
Taking breaks takes advantage of 2 important memory principles: primacy and recency.
Primacy says you tend to remember things in the beginning.
Recency says you tend to remember things near the end or those that are recent.
The more breaks you take, the more beginnings and ends you have.
3. Stop akrasia.
Akrasia is the state of acting against your own better judgment.
Follow Pareto’s Principle: focus on the 20% that gives you 80% of the rewards.
Do the things you need to do that are holding you back.
For more tips on stopping akrasia, listen to Kwik Brain 010: How to Stop Procrastinating.
4 Things to Start Immediately for Effective Studying
1. Practice Active Recall.
When you re-read textbook chapters, you confuse yourself into thinking you can recall the information – when really you only recognize it.
Recognition requires a trigger which you won’t have on a test. Recollection is possible without a trigger.
For active recall, close the book, quiz yourself, and recall/recite all you can remember.
2. Do Spaced Repetition.
Spacing out your studying into intervals helps you take the information from short- to long-term memory.
Start by reviewing it an hour later, then a day later, a week later, and a few weeks later.
You can digitize this process with a software program called Anki.
Spaced repetition makes the process of learning anything – from a language to geography – very simple and straightforward
3. Use Your Sense of Smell.
Your environment gets anchored to the information you’re learning.
It’s better to study where you’ll take the exam, but that’s not always possible – so take the environment with you.
Your sense of smell is connected to memory in a very powerful way.
Use an unfamiliar scent while studying, and use it again when you need to take an exam.
Try using essential oils, chewing gum, perfume, cologne, or lip balm.
Rosemary and peppermint are especially good for your memory and focus.
4. Listen to Music.
The Stanford School of Medicine found that playing classical music helps you make predictions and pay better attention.
Listen to Baroque music, which is at 60 BPM and harmonizes with your resting heart rate.
Baroque music puts your brainwaves into an alpha state so you are relaxed and aware.
Music also improves your mood and outlook.
BONUS: 5. Sharpen Your Saw.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the final habit is to sharpen the saw.
Metaphorically, if you need to chop wood, you want to start by sharpening a dull blade.
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