People say that you should study smart, not hard. But how do you learn to do that? After all, school teaches you what to study - not how to study.These are my favorite studying tips based in neuroscience.I teach more study tips in my bestselling Kwik Student program, a 16-hour bootcamp used by students in 150+ countries to crack the code to higher test scores and maximum return on studying time.
4 Things to Stop Immediately for Effective Studying
- Multitasking is a myth. Task-switching is more accurate: you might believe you’re doing 2 to 3 things at once, but you’re actually switching between tasks.
- Task-switching takes more time, is less productive, and causes more errors. Every time you switch tasks, you need to regain focus and flow – which takes from 5 to 20 minutes.
- The University of London found that multitasking can lower your IQ up to 15 points – the same as if you’d stayed up all night.
- Many people don’t study for days or weeks before pulling an all-nighter or studying for 6 – 7 hours.
- Sleep is essential because that’s where you consolidate short- to long-term memory.
- It’s crucial to take breaks when you study.
- Your attention and retention diminish after 25 – 30 minutes.
- The Pomodoro Technique asks you to work for 25 – 30 minutes, then take a 2 – 5 minute break to stretch, breathe, and hydrate.
- As your body moves, your brain groves.
- Taking breaks takes advantage of 2 important memory principles: primacy and recency.
- Primacy says you tend to remember things in the beginning.
- Recency says you tend to remember things near the end or those that are recent.
The more breaks you take, the more beginnings and ends you have.
- Akrasia is the state of acting against your own better judgment.
- Follow Pareto’s Principle: focus on the 20% that gives you 80% of the rewards.
- Apps like StickK or Beeminder will help you keep to your commitments.
- Do the things you need to do that are holding you back
- For more tips on stopping akrasia, listen to Kwik Brain 010: How to Stop Procrastinating.
4 Things to Start Immediately for Effective Studying
Practice Active Recall.
- When you re-read textbook chapters, you confuse yourself into thinking you can recall the information – when really you only recognize it.
- Recognition requires a trigger which you won’t have on a test. Recollection is possible without a trigger.
- For active recall, close the book, quiz yourself, and recall/recite all you can remember.
Do Spaced Repetition.
- Spacing out your studying into intervals helps you take the information from short- to long-term memory.
- Start by reviewing it an hour later, then a day later, a week later, and a few weeks later.
- You can digitize this process with a software program called Anki.
- Spaced repetition makes the process of learning anything – from a language to geography – very simple and straightforward
Use Your Sense of Smell.
- Your environment gets anchored to the information you’re learning.
- It’s better to study where you’ll take the exam, but that’s not always possible – so take the environment with you.
- Your sense of smell is connected to memory in a very powerful way.
- Use an unfamiliar scent while studying, and use it again when you need to take an exam. Try using essential oils, chewing gum, perfume, cologne, or lip balm.
- Rosemary and peppermint are especially good for your memory and focus.
Listen to Music.
- The Stanford School of Medicine found that playing classical music helps you make predictions and pay better attention.
- Listen to Baroque music, which is at 60 BPM and harmonizes with your resting heart rate.
- Baroque music puts your brainwaves into an alpha state so you are relaxed and aware.
- Music also improves your mood and outlook.
BONUS: 5. Sharpen Your Saw.