With the holiday season ending in most parts of the world, classes are starting up again. Whether you’re starting a new school year or continuing one, studying for an upcoming exam, or for pleasure, we all want to be able to study more effectively. Here are some tips to help you study smarter, not just harder:
Set Tangible, Realistic Goals
Understand what you want to learn more about. Setting both short- and long-term study goals can be incredibly helpful for this. If you are learning independently, then creating a structure with specific goals and realistic metrics can help make studying a lot less daunting. Even if you’re in a structured program, setting goals based on your class’s syllabus can help you better visualize what needs to get done. Then, you can take the exact actions needed to accomplish these goals. To write down your tangible short- and long-term goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- What skills or concepts do I want to master?
- How much time do I have to learn this material? How much time do I want to dedicate each week to learn this?
- What do I have to do (eg. read books, solve problems, attend lectures) to learn this material?
- What roadblocks do I anticipate while learning this material?
Goal-setting can be quite useful in helping you understand where you are in the learning process, and what steps you need to take to get to where you want to be at the end of the month, quarter, or semester. It also sharpens your focus on what you need to be doing instead of wasting your time on activities that don't progress you towards achieving these goals.
It can be tempting to get started studying right away, putting things like the organization on the back burner. Setting up an organizational system, however, can make a world of a difference when you’re looking for that specific document a few months down the line, for example. Staying organized isn’t simply a matter of storing all of your materials in some color-coded system (though that may help some)—it’s the act of setting up a clear system of when and how you’re going to study.
Here at Opal, we love using tools like Notion and Google Calendar to time-block (for more on time-blocking, read our blog post on Personal Time-ance) and set up an easy-to-use multimedia space for all our tasks. To-do lists have also been particularly useful; we recommend writing down tomorrow's to-dos at the end of every day.
Various studies have shown the benefits of active learning—but we may unconsciously slip back into passive learning from time to time. Some active learning tools we recommend are Quizlet and Kahoot. If you prefer auditory media, Speechify's text-to-speech can help you better absorb material.
With most learning now done online, where distractions are abundant, it's important to maintain our focus while learning. Goal setting and organization can only do so much if we remain distracted. It's important to be more mindful of how you use distracting apps while studying—we recommend turning Opal on during study sessions to stay on task. For deep work sessions for cramming before a big deadline, we recommend starting an instant session, with the protection set to Deep Focus, so you won't get distracted. For regular studying, we recommend setting up a recurring schedule on Opal, as well as the Opal Chrome extension.