As with many things in life, the key to effective studying is to work smarter, not harder. By practising these six proven study habits, you can not only increase your productivity, but also make the experience of studying easier and less stressful.

Create Your Space

Designate a space that is specifically for studying, so that when you settle down in that place your brain automatically goes into ‘study-mode’. The space should be comfortable and have facilities that allow you to sit (or stand) with good posture. Make sure you have everything you need but keep your desk tidy, as unnecessary clutter can create stress and make you less productive. Another good idea is to invest in some fun stationery such as colourful pens, notepads, folders, and sticky notes. You’re more likely to want to study if you’re surrounded by materials you like.

Minimise Distractions

Distractions are the number one performance inhibitor, as they pull us out of our concentration and make it harder to be effective. Remove distractions by switching off your phone and email notifications, and never study in front of the TV. If you can’t be trusted not to wander onto Facebook, then install software on your computer and mobile to block your access to social media sites during certain times. If you live with other people it can be difficult to find a quiet spot, so consider the alternative of studying in the university library. Investing in a good pair of headphones can be a lifesaver if you’re studying in communal spaces and need to drown out background noise. Plus, many people find listening to music helps boost their concentration.

Plan Your Study Schedule

One of the most vital aspects of increasing productivity is time management. Create a schedule of specific times throughout the week when you’re going to study, and make sure you stick to it! This way, there will be no need to pull all-nighters or cram sessions, as you can space your work out over shorter periods of time. Remember to create your study schedule around the times of day your brain is at its peak performance. Some people operate best in the early mornings, while others consider themselves night owls. Figure out when works best for you and then study at that same time each day.

Find Techniques That Work

As we all learn in different ways, it’s important to develop the right study strategy with techniques that best suit you. If you’re an auditory learner then listening to lectures may work well. If you’re a visual learner, consider using mind maps or creating your own notes. If you work well under pressure, then perhaps use the Pomodoro technique that encourages you to work more efficiently within an allocated time. Memory games are another great technique that many students find helpful for remembering pieces of information by using a simple association of common words. Whatever it is, make sure you’re using the right techniques to make you the most effective during study time.

Take Regular Breaks

Your brain is like a muscle, which can tire easily if overworked. That’s why, if you need to study for longer periods of time, make sure you take regular breaks (every half an hour or so) where you get up and move. This will not only leave you feeling more energised, but will also keep your mind more focused and astute.

Set Goals

Keeping a focused mind while studying can be a real challenge, but mastering this will undoubtedly save you time and lead to better results. To help keep you focused make sure that each study period is allotted a specific goal, so that you know exactly what you need to accomplish. This way you’re less likely to jump from task to task, wasting valuable time and energy.

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About the Author: Tessa Cunliffe is a South African based digital copywriter and marketer, with a passion for travel and learning. Yoga-inspired and coffee-fuelled. Always planning the next adventure.