Space, reinfore, and moods
Find, or create, the best place for studying, and then it says to use it regularly
Find and create studying
Impact, attention, temptations, Music
Realize how you approach
Everyone has to develop effective strategies
Now that you’ve worked up an attitude for success and are feeling motivated, it’s time to get organized. You need to organize both your space and your time.Space is important for many reasons-some obvious, some less so. People’s moods, attitudes, and levels of work productivity change in different spaces.
Learning to use space to your own advantage helps get you off to a good start in your studies. Here are a few of the ways space matters:
This may seem simple, but everyone needs some physical area, regardless of size, that is really his or her own—even if it’s only a small part of a shared space.
Within your own space, you generally feel more secure and in control.
For example, using your bed primarily for sleeping makes it easier to fall asleep there than elsewhere, however this also makes it not a good place to try to stay awake and alert while you are studying.
While this may seem obvious, students don’t always use places to their best advantage. One place may be bright and full of energy, a place that puts you in a good mood. But that may actually make it more difficult to concentrate on your studying. Yet the opposite, a totally quiet, austere place devoid of color and sound can be just as unproductive if it makes you associate studying with something unpleasant.
Discover what space works best for you and let that space reinforce good study habits.
Begin organizing your space by analyzing your needs, preferences, and past problems with places for studying. Where do you usually study?
What are the best things about that place for studying?
What distractions are most likely to occur there?
Find, or create, the best place for studying, and then to use it regularly so that studying there becomes a good habit.
If you want to use your home, apartment, or dorm room but you never know if another person may be there and possibly distract you, then it’s probably better to look for another place, such as a study lounge or an area in the library.
Look for locations open at the hours when you may be studying. You may also need two study spaces—one in or near where you live, another on campus.
Some students may need total silence with absolutely no visual distractions. Other students may be unable to concentrate for long without looking up from reading and momentarily letting their eyes move over a pleasant scene.
Experiment to find the setting that works best for you-and remember that the more often you use the same space, the more effective your studying will become.
You want to prevent sudden impulses to neaten up the area (when you should be studying), do laundry, wash dishes, and so on.
Unplug a nearby telephone, turn off your cell phone, and use your computer only as needed for studying.
If your e-mail or message program pops up a notice every time an e-mail or message arrives, turn off your Wi-Fi or detach the network cable to prevent those intrusions.
Plan for Breaks
Everyone needs to take a break occasionally when studying. Think about the space you’re in and how to use it when you need a break.
If in your home, stop and do a few exercises to get your blood flowing. If in the library, take a walk up a couple flights of stairs and around the stacks before returning to your study area.
Prepare for human interruptions
Even if you hide in the library to study, there’s a chance a friend may happen by. At home with family members or in a dorm room or common space, the odds increase greatly.
Have a plan ready in case someone pops in and asks you to join them in some fun activity.
Know when you plan to finish your studying so that you can make a plan for later—or for tomorrow at a set time.
Multitasking is the term commonly used for being engaged in two or more different activities at the same time, usually referring to activities using devices such as smartphones and computers.
Many people claim to be able to do as many as four or five things simultaneously, such as writing an e-mail while responding to an instant message (IM) and reading a tweet, all while watching a video on their computer monitor or talking on the phone.
Many people who have grown up with computers consider this kind of multitasking a normal way to get things done.
Even things that don’t require much thinking are severely impacted by multitasking.
You might be thinking, “why should it matter if I write my paper first and then answer e-mails or do them at the same time?” It actually takes you longer to do two or more things at the same time than if you do them separately—at least with anything that you actually have to focus on, such as studying.
Every time your attention shifts, add up some more downtime.
The other problem with multitasking is the effect it can have on the attention span—and even on how the brain works.
Scientists have shown that in people who constantly shift their attention from one thing to another in short bursts, the brain forms patterns that make it more difficult to keep sustained attention on any one thing.
It’s as if your mind makes a habit of wandering from one thing to another and then can’t stop.
Stay away from multitasking whenever you have something important to do. If it’s already a habit for you, don’t let it become worse.
Turn your computer off—or shut down e-mail and messaging programs if you need the computer for studying and turn your cell phone off.
For those who are really addicted to technology, go to the library and don’t take your laptop or cell phone.
Listening to music while studying
Many students say they can listen to music without it affecting their studying. Studies are inconclusive about the positive or negative effects of music on people’s ability to concentrate, probably because so many different factors are involved.
Some people can study better with low-volume instrumental music that relaxes them and does not intrude on their thinking.
The key thing is to be honest with yourself: are you studying as well as you could be.
People’s attitudes toward time vary widely. One person seems to be always rushing around but actually gets less done than another person who seems unconcerned about time and calmly goes about the day.
Since there are so many different time personalities, it’s important to realize how you approach time.People who estimate too high often feel they don’t have enough time. They may have time anxiety and often feel frustrated.
People at the other extreme, who often can’t account for how they use all their time, may have a more relaxed attitude.
Changes to Schedules
People also differ in how they respond to schedule changes. Some go with the flow and accept changes easily, while others function well only when following a planned schedule and may become upset if that schedule changes.
If you do not react well to an unexpected disruption in your schedule, plan extra time for catching up if something throws you off.
This is all part of your time personality.
Time of Day
Another aspect of your time personality involves time of day. If you need to concentrate, such as when writing a class paper, are you more alert and focused in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
Do you concentrate best when you look forward to a relaxing activity later on, or do you study better when you’ve finished all other activities? Do you function well if you get up early—or stay up late—to accomplish a task? How does that affect the rest of your day or the next day?
Record a Time log
While you may not be able to change your “time personality,” you can learn to manage your time more successfully. The key is to be realistic.
The best way to know how you spend your time is to record what you do all day in a daily time log, every day for a week, and then add it up.
If you have work and family responsibilities, you may already know where many of your hours go. Although we all wish we had “more time,” the important thing is what we do with the time we have.
Time management strategies can help us better use the time we do have by creating a schedule that works for our own time personality.
For every hour in the classroom, students should spend, on average, about two hours reading, studying, writing papers and so on. If you work part time, time management skills are even more essential. These skills are still more important for part-time students who work full time and commute or have a family.
To succeed, virtually everyone has to develop effective strategies for managing, prioritizing and dealing with time.
Determine how much time you need
Know how much time you actually have
Be aware of when you are at your best
Use effective study strategies
Schedule study activities in realistic segments
Use a system to plan ahead and set priorities
Stay motivated to follow your plan
Special note for students who work. You may have almost no discretionary time left after all your working activities.
If so, you may have overextended yourself-a situation that inevitably will lead to problems.
If you cannot cut the number of hours for work, see your academic advisor. It is better to take fewer classes and succeed than to take more classes and risk failure.
Just Say No
Always tell others nearby when you’re studying, to reduce the chances of being interrupted.
Still, interruptions happen, and if you are in a situation where you are frequently interrupted by a family member, spouse, roommate, or friend, it helps to have your “no” prepared in advance:
You shouldn’t feel bad about saying no-especially if you told that person in advance that you needed to study.
Use unscheduled downtime to work ahead. You’ve scheduled that hundred pages of reading for later today, but you have the textbook with you as you’re waiting for the bus. Start reading now, or flip through the chapter to get a sense of what you’ll be reading.
Either way, you’ll save time later.
You may be amazed how much studying you can get done during downtimes throughout the day.
When planning ahead for studying, think yourself into the right mood. Focus on the positive.
Visualize yourself studying well! Also, different tasks require different mental skills. Some kinds of studying you may be able to start first thing in the morning as you wake, while others need your most alert moments at another time.
Use following to make the most of your time: Break up tasks, Do easy tasks first, Use a time planner, Reward yourself.
Break up Large Projects
Whether it’s writing a paper for class, studying for a final exam, or reading a long assignment or full book, students often feel daunted at the beginning of a large project.
It’s easier to get going if you break it up into stages that you schedule at separate times-and then begin with the first section that requires only an hour or two.
Perform Easier Tasks First
Like large tasks, complex or difficult ones can be daunting. If you can’t get going, switch to an easier task you can accomplish quickly.
That will give you momentum, and often you feel more confident tackling the difficult task after being successful in the first one.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed because you have too much to do, revisit your time planner.
Sometimes it’s hard to get started if you keep thinking about other things you need to get done.
Review your schedule for the next few days and make sure everything important is scheduled, then relax and concentrate on the task at hand.
It’s not easy to sit still for hours of studying. When you successfully complete the task, you should feel good and deserve a small reward.
A healthy snack, a quick video game session, or social activity can help you feel even better about your successful use of time and help you concentrate without becoming fatigued and burned out.
Calendar planners and to-do lists are effective ways to organize your time. Many types of planners are commercially available, or you can make your own.Some people like a page for each day, and some like a week at a time. Some use computer calendars and planners. Almost any system will work well if you use it consistently.
Calendars and planners help you look ahead and write in important dates and deadlines so you don’t forget. But you can use the planner to schedule your own time, not just deadlines.
You don’t need to fill every time slot, or to schedule every single thing that you do.
A planner cannot contain every single thing that may occur in a day. We’d go crazy if we tried to schedule every telephone call, every e-mail, every bill to pay, every trip to the grocery store.
For these items, use a to-do list, which may be kept on a separate page in the planner.
The following is an example of a weekly planner. You can copy this page and use it to begin your schedule planning.
First write in all your class meeting times; your work schedule; family activities, and any other activities at fixed times.
Remember that for every hour spent in class, plan an average of two hours studying outside of class. These are the time periods you now want to schedule in your planner.
These times change from week to week, with one course requiring more time in one week and a different course requiring more the next week.
As you choose your study times, consider what times of day you are at your best.
Tips for Successful Schedule Planning:
Be realistic when you make your schedule.
Schedule social events that occur at set times.
Try to schedule some time for exercise.
Adjust your weekly planner as you require.
Use a colored highlighter to mark important things.
Pay attention to starting and stopping times.
People use to-do lists in different ways, and you should find what works best for you.
As with your planner, consistent use of your to-do list will make it an effective habit. Some people prefer not to carry their planner everywhere but instead copy the key information for the day onto a to-do list.
Some also use their to-do list for things not on their planner, such as short errands, phone calls or e-mail. This still includes important things-but they’re not scheduled for specific times.
Although we call it a daily list, the to-do list can also include things you may not get to today but don’t want to forget about.
Keeping these things on the list, even if they’re a low priority, helps ensure that eventually you’ll get to it.
Start every day with a fresh to-do list written in a small notebook or a clean page in your planner.
Check your planner for key activities for the day.
Put important things high on your list.
Make your list at the same time every day.
Don’t make your list overwhelming.
Use your list. Check it regularly.
Check off things after you’ve done them.
Don’t use your to-do list to procrastinate.
If you’re both working and taking classes, you seldom have large blocks of free time.
Avoid temptations to stay up very late studying, for losing sleep can lead to a downward spiral in performance at both work and school.
If you have a family as well as a job, your time is even more limited. In addition to the previous tips, try some of the strategies that follow.
Try to arrange your class and work schedules to minimize lost time.
If you are a part-time student taking two classes, taking classes back-to-back two or three days a week uses less time than spreading them out over four or five days.
Working four ten-hour days rather than five eight-hour days reduces time lost to travel, getting ready for work, and so on.
Remember your long-term goals. You need to work, but you also want to finish your program.
If you have the opportunity to volunteer for some overtime, consider whether it’s really worth it. Sure, the extra money would help, but could the extra time put you at risk for not doing well in your course?
Be as organized on the job as you are academically. Use your planner and to-do list for work matters, too.
The better organized you are at work, the less stress you’ll feel-and the more successful you’ll be as a student also.
Consider online courses that allow you to do most of the work on your own time.
If possible, also, adjust your work or sleep hours so that you don’t spend your most productive times at work.
If your job offers flex time, arrange your schedule to be free to study at times when you perform best.
Use your planner conscientiously.
How you control your study space can help you prevent distractions, especially those caused by other people or your personal technology.
Attempting to multitask while studying diminishes the quality of your study time and results in a loss of time.
Control your study space to prevent or manage potential interruptions from family members or roommates.
People “use” time very differently. To develop strategies for managing your time, discover your time personality and observe how much time you spend in different activities in the course of a week.
Plan your schedule with two hours of study time for each hour in class. Use your most alert times of day, break up large tasks into smaller pieces and stages, take breaks to help you stay focused, avoid distractions, and reward yourself for successful accomplishments.
Procrastination has many different causes for different people but is a problem for most students. Different techniques can help you battle procrastination so you can get the job done.
Use a weekly calendar planner to block out study times and plan well ahead for examinations and key assignments to achieve success in school. Use a daily to-do list along with your weekly planner to avoid overlooking even smaller tasks and to make the most of your time throughout the day.
Students who work often face significant time pressures and must make a special effort to stay organized and plan ahead for efficient studying.
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