While your time at university can often be filled with social events and extracurricular activities, it’s important to remember why you’re really there — to get the best education possible. Sometimes, the distractions of everyday life at school can make it difficult to study effectively.
If you find yourself stressed about your classes, your workload, or even the pressure of studying, there are several techniques you can try to make it easier on yourself.
The school year may just be starting, but these are techniques you can use all year long and throughout your collegiate career to maximize your studying efficiency and potential without feeling so much pressure.
1. Understand Your Learning Preferences
For many students, their first impulse may be to look up their learning style. Even though learning styles are still a long-held belief among educators and students alike, more evidence points out that it may be better to have a more flexible perspective towards learning styles and other learning preferences.
However, some research suggests that simply considering how you learn can benefit your retention of information. One 2013 study unveiled that teachers found success by helping students self-reflect and think critically about their successes and failures when it came to studying. So, when self-reflecting it’s best to ask yourself a variety of questions and learn through a process of trial and error.
For example, you may find that flashcards may be helpful for multiple-choice tests, but not so much on timed essays that require more critical thought. You may try using clumping techniques and pneumonic devices for quick memorization or come up with potential quiz questions and answers. Or you can look up videos online to help you find more perspectives on your topic. Either way, you should keep an open mind on what might work best for you based on the topic.
This self-reflection allows you to work smarter, not harder, and you’ll be more likely to retain information with less stress.
2. Master Time Management
It’s easy to lose track of time in school. Chances are, classes aren’t the only part of your day. Perhaps you have a part-time job, or you want to spend time with friends. Maybe you’re involved with sports or other on-campus clubs.
Whatever the case, feeling like you don’t have enough time to study can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure, and you’re less likely to stay focused while you’re studying because you’ll think about everything else you need to do.
One of the best ways to prioritize study time is to set specific boundaries and parameters. Set a specific amount of time for each study session, prioritize deadlines that need to be met first, and take breaks during each session. You’ll quickly see how much time you can actually devote to your studies without feeling overwhelmed.
3. Explore Different Study Techniques
Not every study technique works the same way for everyone. Your friend might be able to memorize quickly with notecards, while your roommate uses scheduling and goal-setting apps to stay on a specific study routine.
It’s essential to try different techniques to determine what works for you. If you can find ways to make studying more enjoyable (or even fun!), you’re more likely to do it more often and for longer periods of time. Some of the most effective study techniques include:
Find a strategy or two that you can stick with consistently and studying will quickly go from stressful to enjoyable.
4. Practice Self-care
University student stereotypes aren’t always known for fantastic self-care habits. Thankfully, you don’t need to fall into those stereotypes. Taking care of your physical and mental health can actually improve your study skills and reduce stress all at once.
When you make self-care a priority, you’ll be more focused, have more energy, and improve your mood and productivity. Self-care doesn’t have to be anything huge. By creating small, everyday healthy habits, you’ll reap the physical and emotional rewards. Try things like:
Self-care requires a bit more time management, but it’s something that should absolutely be scheduled into each day for the sake of your well-being.
5. Don’t Force It
One reason so many people struggle with stress due to studying is that they feel pressured into it. University can be demanding. You might feel intimidated by your classes or pressured to receive high marks.
Unfortunately, that can lead to some unhealthy coping mechanisms for managing stress, including being drawn to alcohol. While a drink here and there might help you to relax, if you’re using it to cope with stress or forget about your responsibilities, you might be in the early stages of “problem drinking” — which leads to alcohol negatively impacting your health.
If you’re not in the right mindset to study, don’t.
That doesn’t mean you can use that as an excuse all the time, but forcing yourself to study when you’re already stressed, exhausted, or distracted, will make it nearly impossible to stay on task. That will increase your stress levels, make it harder to pay attention, and put even more pressure on you. Try again after a good night’s sleep or a chat with a friend.
It’s never too late to improve your study habits or to drop the stress and pressure that often comes with studying too much. Keep these techniques in mind to get rid of those negative feelings. You might find that you actually enjoy your quiet study time when you’re not bogged down with stress.
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer living in the pacific northwest who has a variety of interests including sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more.
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