by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
Time is precious when you’re juggling multiple responsibilities. Make the most of what you’ve got by using your time effectively, developing your concentration skills and dealing with distractions.
1. Use your time effectively: When are you at your most awake? Are you a morning person or a night-owl? Are you sleepy and distracted after lunch? Try to schedule study time during your peaks. Don’t waste time when you’re less mentally alert. Use it to accomplish simple, routine tasks like housework or grocery shopping.
2. Develop your concentration: How long is your concentration span? Find out by recording your start time when you read from a textbook or other course readings. As soon as your mind begins to drift, record the time again. Try this several times until you can gauge your average concentration span. Most people take a “refresher” breaks every few minutes. This may involve simply looking out a window or glancing at a picture on the wall. Breaks of about a minute happen every 20 minutes or so. By the 45 minute mark, most people need to stand up and walk around for a few minutes in order to stay alert.
3. Improve your concentration: Do this by reading actively. Try using a highlighter, making notes of significant points in a notebook, recording questions about items you don’t understand, trying to predict what will be on the next page and connecting what you’re reading with other things you’ve read. Another way to increase your concentration span is to deal with distractions.
4. Deal with distractions: Sometimes it seems that distractions are coming at you from all sides and they probably are. Distractions may be internal. The wanderings of your own mind, or external/environmental. Learning to manage both types is essential. When random thoughts intrude (“It’s Tonio’s birthday next week,” “We need bread,” etc.), don’t try to suppress them. Instead, quickly jot them down to consider at another time. Sometimes a memory or a thought that appeared to be unrelated to your reading yields interesting insights into the subject for later reflection.
5.Be aware of your optimal study conditions: Use this awareness to reduce distractions in the environment. Are you more relaxed with absolute silence, or with classical music in the background? Do you have enough light to read without straining? How is the temperature? Do you need a fan or a blanket to feel comfortable? Is your chair comfortable enough to sit upright, but not so comfortable that it lulls you to sleep? Are there other people around? Have you established time and space boundaries with them that they respect? Making the most of your study time means having more time for your many other activities.
6. Set goals and priorities : Make short term and long term goals. For example – “I will read one chapter tonight” (short term). “I will finish my term paper at least one week before it is due” (long term). Set your priorities. Do what is the most important, time sensitive projects, first.
7. Make lists : Lists are a great way to organize and prioritize everything that needs to be accomplished. Do a list for class, for the day or for the week. Sketch an outline for your semester. Lists keep you on track and help you to remember all the little things. If your list gets too big, break it down according to subject, class, day or week.
8. Avoid procrastination: It can be so easy to get distracted. Keep focused on the task at hand. Whether it is cooking dinner, studying for your exam or cleaning your room…motivate yourself.
9. Music is a motivator: And a great one at that. If it is classical for studying, rock for cleaning or dance to get you moving, use it. Plug in, turn it up and allow music to make any task seem less of a challange.
10. Recap : Whether it is the last chapter you just read, your study notes or class lecture, recap the information in your head. Write down the highlights. What do you remember most about the information you just reviewed? Synthesis the information so that it is clear before you give it a rest!