Need help getting back into the studious mindset? Julia Dellitt, author of SELF-CARE FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS, shares some study hacks to bring into the new school year.
#1. Try the 90-Minute Sprint
You might be used to hiding out in your room, trying to memorize vast quantities of information for hours on end. Or maybe you often find yourself staring at a blinking cursor at 10 p.m., unsure of where to begin an essay that you’ve technically been trying to write all day. Though it may seem like working more equals getting more done, prolonged work sessions don’t actually lead to more productivity—just work overload. Your brain can only focus for 90–120 minutes at a time, which is why shorter work sprints of that length can do wonders for your attention span and output. Break your work into blocks of time (if 90 minutes seems too long, 30–60 minute stretches will also work), and then focus on doing one thing during each block. Read the next two chapters of your book, make twenty-five flash cards, write two pages of your research paper, etc. Set a timer for each block as well, and turn off all distractions: close your email, put your phone on airplane mode, quit playing a TV show in the background. Work until the 90 (or 30–60) minutes are up, take a break, and come back for the next “sprint” feeling refreshed.
#2. Slow Your Scroll
Here’s the thing about social media (and the Internet in general): it’s designed to keep you scrolling so your attention is engaged for as long as possible. Content seems endless because it is, and every time you open up a tab to BuzzFeed, College Humor, or theSkimm before class starts (or during class—let’s be honest) or check Snapchat and WhatsApp during a study break, more content will appear to keep you coming back for more. Addictive, right? That’s why so many people get stuck in the habit of browsing and scrolling any time they have a free moment or receive a push notification (or just want to avoid falling asleep during a boring lecture). Even just a couple hours away from social media and the web can improve your mental health. It elevates your mood, improves sleep, and helps you be more present in the moment—it’s even linked to better school performance! To slow down your scroll, use the desktop versions of social media platforms. Yes, they’re less user-friendly and eye-grabbing than the app versions, but they’ll also help you look at content more purposefully instead of mindlessly tapping and swiping. Also be sure to log out of apps on your phone or computer after using them so you have to manually log in to read or look at something later. This “inconvenience” offers a quick checkpoint to make sure you really want to engage with digital media versus using it as a stopgap or distraction.
#3. Take a Short Study Break
You’re never too busy to take a break. No, this doesn’t give you a permission slip to watch forty YouTube videos in a row instead of studying, but it does mean you need to pay attention to your energy levels and take breaks accordingly. For example, if you have trouble concentrating— are fidgety and restless, or annoyed by everyone around you—that’s not a green light to push through and down another espresso. It’s actually a red flag that your mind needs a time-out. Your mental capacity is renewable, but you have to give yourself plenty of time to rest in order for your brain to hit that refresh button. Build breaks into your study time. Keep the length of each break relatively short—from a minute or two, up to 10–20 minutes—and do something restorative during that break: walk around your dorm room, listen to an upbeat song, eat a nourishing snack, drink a cold glass of water, do some jumping jacks, or take a catnap. Think of study breaks as the links between long periods of productivity; you need them to perform your best.
Find out more self-care techniques in SELF-CARE FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS!
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Excerpted from Self-Care for College Students by Julia Dellitt. Copyright © 2019 by author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.