By Rebekah Froggatt
Without a doubt studying can be a very tiresome and monotonous activity. For some students who are revising for exams or writing long essays, the added stress doesn’t help motivate their minds at all. With apps such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, it’s hard to focus if procrastination is your best friend. If you are currently in this predicament, then this article might just be the one for you; here are 10 tips on How To Study Productively (and actually enjoy it!).
- A Clean and Tidy Desk Space
It’s true what they say, a clean home is a reflection of a clean mind and soul, and this follows to your desk space as well. If you find your desk is: cluttered with random objects; littered with food crumbs; books and pens are everywhere, then there’s no wonder why you can’t concentrate. I advise cleaning your desk space, literally, so that it’s set up and ready for you to use. Having only the essential items such as your laptop, computer or notebook on your desk is a good start. Perhaps look into some stationery organisers, and maybe something to decorate your desk with. For example, I have a small green ceramic pumpkin on my desk; it doesn’t take up loads of room and isn’t distracting, but does create an aesthetic atmosphere. The aim of a tidy desk space is to make sure you don’t feel cluttered and messy, the less on your desk means there is less to distract you.
- A Comfy Seat
This might sound like an obvious one, but I spent the first two years of university studying in an uncomfortable chair that did my posture no good, and I didn’t even know it. It’s important to adjust yourself for success and creating the perfect seat can do that. Now, I know many people that find super comfy seats to be a distraction within themselves, and I am in no way suggesting you go out and buy a bean bag (because that really wouldn’t help unless you wanted a nap) but invest in a comfy cushion or a posture support to put on the back of your chair, I promise you will thank me later.
- Candles or Aromatic Oils
Do not underestimate the power of aromatherapy. During my first year of university, my procrastination was extremely high and I had to fight to get anything done. I then invested in some candles and essential oils that targeted de-stressing, focusing and clearing the mind, and this made a world of difference. Essential oils contain certain fragrances that stimulate your senses and lift your mood instantly. I personally like to shop ethically, and I came across this brand called Witchy that not only suited my personal shopping desires but also helped me tackle my stress levels. Witchy creates candles made from soy wax (vegan friendly!) and are filled with essential oils that aim to aid you; ‘The Moon Tarot Candle’ burns away stress and anxiety; ‘The Sun Tarot Candle’ brings you happiness and positivity; and ‘The Tower Tarot Candle’ gives you balance and clarity. There are more on the website but these are just a few that I constantly go back to. However, if you find yourself not being able to use candles, you can buy essential oils in other ways – diffusers or roller balls. I have found some good deals on Amazon in the past that my bank account could afford, and brands like Holland and Barrett are also a reliable place to shop.
- An Undisturbed Environment
I know it would feel really aesthetic if you head down to your local coffee shop, sit down with your flat white and books, surrounded by the ambience of coffee drinkers and small talk while you’re studying away and not paying attention to the world around you… but it’s not. It’s actually very distracting and probably not the best place to go if you’re a beginner in productive studying. By all means, set this as a goal for the future but let’s start with the basics first: a quiet and calm environment, which would most likely be your room, the library or a dedicated quiet study area is the best place to start. You’ll probably find that you will end up being influenced by the productive atmosphere and this will help you focus more. So always aim for an undisturbed study environment.
Music is the one thing that I cannot study without, and I highly suggest you try and find your type of study music because it is, in my opinion, the most important tip on this list. The type of music I listen to when studying is very specific, and one of them is lo-fi beats.
Over the past few years, lo-fi beats have become increasingly popular, with platforms such as Spotify and YouTube having hundreds of playlists of all sorts (even christmas lo-fi!), this can truly help you transport into a productive and calming airspace. For anyone wondering, lo-fi music, also known as low-fidelity, is a collection of calm and chill beats from all sorts of genres such as; jazz, hip-hop and dream pop. I highly suggest the playlist ‘Study Beats 2023’ on spotify, it has a great mixture of genres and is a great playlist to get you started if you’re new to the world of lo-fi.
Another type of music I enjoy listening to is ambience, specifically ambience from video games I enjoy playing. Hear me out, it makes sense I promise. In 2018, the game company Rockstar released Red Dead Redemption 2, an open world western game that is set in 1899 America. The game is filled with a collection of ambient music that contains a mixture of melodies, weather sounds and nature soundscapes. It is truly relaxing, and transports me into a different world every time. I also enjoy Animal Crossing, which has a huge music range that I also highly suggest, and you can find both on YouTube.
Whatever music helps you concentrate, definitely stick with it, but also don’t be afraid to explore other options. Perhaps venture into some video games that you like or movie soundtracks (Harry Potter ambience is great!), I think you will find yourself pleasantly surprised with what you find.
The body requires 6-8 cups of water everyday, and that doesn’t just mean if you’ve been to the gym, working at your desk also means you need water. Your brain will be working hard to focus and get work done, treat it with some hydration. Tea, coffee or hot chocolate in the cold months is also great and sometimes gives you that little nudge of motivation, but it’s often easy to forget to drink water.
The taste of tap water, I argue, is disgusting and therefore I don’t always jump at the opportunity to fill up my bottle with it. However, I came across Waterdrop in my first year and my fear of tap water vanished within a flash. Waterdrop is a company that makes flavoured tablets made out of plant and fruit extracts that enhances your water with not only a delightful flavour, but also vitamins and minerals to keep you going throughout the day. It’s a tasty and healthy way to keep your hydration up. However, if this doesn’t float your boat, I’ve always found Ribena does the trick.
You can’t study on an empty stomach! Snacks are a great way to keep your motivation levels up, stress levels down and to keep the feeling of hunger at bay. But what is the best study snack? Well, that’s up to you. Everyone is different, and only your body will know what it needs to keep going, but I personally love: bananas, they are a good source of quick energy; dried fruit or nuts, these are good at keeping you full for longer; chocolate, not the healthiest but it keeps me happy, and hummus and carrots, as they are not only tasty, but also healthy. Experiment and see what your body loves to snack on while you study, just be careful not to have full meals at your desk. You can’t work and eat a roast dinner at the same time, this is why small snacks are better in this scenario.
- Productive Phone Apps
A phone app that helps you be productive? Yeah you heard me right, they exist. Sometimes turning off the Wi-Fi is hard, and sometimes stepping away from the phone is equally as hard. It’s okay I don’t judge, but there are ways that you can be productive without stepping away from your phone.
Let me introduce you to the amazing app Forest, which you can find on the Apple or Android store. Forest is an app that helps you manage your phone time and be productive in a pleasant and fun way. Within the app you have a forest, wherein you can plant trees as many times as you like. You get to choose what trees you plant in your forest, which could be a maple tree; cherry blossom or a birch tree, there are so many choices. In order for you to successfully plant a tree, you must set a timer and not exit the app while the timer is counting down. If you don’t leave the app, you gain coins to which you can use to buy more trees, and as a plus, your tree is added to your forest. However, if you do leave the app, your tree will die, your productivity hours won’t add up and you won’t get that tree in your forest. You also can add your friends on this app and plant trees together, which is a great way to start group study sessions. This app is truly a great way to start productively studying. It does cost £3.99, but it is rated one of the best productivity apps out there, and the money you spend is used to plant a real tree through the apps nonprofit partner ‘Trees for the Future’, an organisation that aims to end hunger, poverty and help families that are in need in Africa. So go ahead and download this app, you’ll be addicted to it before you even know it!
- To-Do Lists
I find this part very fun, but I understand writing a list of everything you need to get done can be daunting and stress inducing, so let’s go through it together. Start with your smallest task first, something that doesn’t take very long to do, a maximum time of 15 minutes. Naturally, us humans are more likely to procrastinate a task that takes longer and requires more effort to do then compared to one that doesn’t take that much effort or time. I also know from experience that once all of those smaller tasks are out of the way, you feel more relaxed about tackling the big ones. The aim of a to-do list is not to make you feel overwhelmed or stressed, it’s to help you get all your thoughts out on paper and organise your workload. Try it with other things not related to studying, for example house chores. This will help you get into the habit of making a list and then taking action to tick off each item. Once you get the hang of it, there’s no going back.
- Schedule your breaks
I can’t be the only one that thinks about having a break as soon as they start studying, especially if it’s work I’m not motivated to do. This is why scheduling your breaks is a helpful tool. Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? Well, let me tell you.
It’s where you choose a task to accomplish, set a timer for 25 minutes (Use the Forest app!) and when the timer goes off, you take a 5-minute break. You then repeat this three times, and then after that you take a 30-minute break. Seems pretty simple right? This is beneficial because it breaks up your study time within reasonable sections of time, but also gives you a decent amount of break time. Overall, you would have had 15 minutes break time within the first 3 sections, and will be rewarded with a longer break, lovely! It’s a great technique, and really helps you get ready for longer study sessions. I started using this method in my first year, and now I can study for a whole hour productively without a break, but I do always take one as they are very important.
When it comes to scheduling your breaks, you might want to create a timetable on Excel, or just hand write one. You can choose a time of day that you are most productive during, for me it’s the mornings, and create a study rota that incorporates breaks. I would recommend that you time your breaks at first, as it’s very easy to run over your time limit and then choose to not study because of this. Only when you feel confident that you can get back into working regardless of the time limit, should you not time your breaks. Try it out and see what works for you.
Studying really can be fun and creative, and I hope that my top 10 tips help you achieve that. It doesn’t have to be about sitting down and making your brain explode with stress, try and enjoy studying.
It’s important to remember that despite how much or how little you get done, you are always learning, and therefore you are always gaining from it. Happy productive studying!