1. If you use Chrome, Install this app.
StayFocused will keep you from checking your Facebook notifications every 94 seconds, stalking the cute friend of a friend you just met, spamming your Twitter followers, or mindlessly Pinning DIY projects you know you’ll never actually do.
2. Take a Break.
Studies have shown that, while there is not necessarily one perfect length for a study session, the best way to optimize your study time is to study in chunks and review often. Try blocking out an hour at a time, studying for 45 minutes, and then spending the rest of the hour stretching, eating, walking, or whipping out a Sudoku puzzle.
3. Feed Your Brain.
It’s the mental Olympics and you, my friend, are going to train like an athlete. Get on a meal plan. Foods that are high in protein and micronutrients (nuts, meats, granola) feed your brain and help it perform better. Your brain is a muscle and it needs protein to function. Foods that are heavy on carbs—breads, French fries, and even good ol’ Idaho spuds—can make your brain sluggish. And the Twinkie you found on the floor? Throw it away.
4. Schedule yourself.
When I was in school, I was also working, volunteering, and trying to maintain a social life. I took a serious look at my calendar and scheduled my day out by the hour. It can be incredibly hard to stick with a schedule, but with some discipline, you’ll have time to study, work, and play.
5. Get Physical.
Even though I was testing out of my college classes, I signed up for a PE class at the local community college. It was cheaper than a gym membership and having a coach helped keep me on track. The discipline of working out helped me with the discipline of studying. There’s some great stuff that happens in your brain that primes it for studying, too.
6. Go Big or Go Home.
What is your goal? Write it down. Challenge yourself to do something hard. So you want to take a CLEP test in three weeks? Why not two? I find it’s helpful to work backwards: take a hard look at what it would take to accomplish your big dream. Name the goal and then the processes you need to accomplish to own it.
7. Reward yourself.
You can reward yourself at the end of every milestone, or you can really reward yourself when you are done with your degree. I did both. After I passed a test, I would treat myself to coffee. Okay… I worked in a coffee shop at the time, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. But at the end of my college career, I hopped on a plane to the UK instead of walking with my classmates at commencement. But that’s another blog post.
8. Make it Social.
There are times when you can crowdsource your homework. It’s the smart thing to do. Having problems with a math problem? Get help. Get a tutor or visit the Khan Academy. Want an expert opinion? Connect with that expert on Twitter. Just make sure to manage your time.
9. Set the Mood.
There are songs that I just couldn’t listen to when I was studying. You can’t belt out “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” with Aretha and memorize financial equations at the same time. At least, I couldn’t. I found (through trial and error) that I could crank out papers with ease when I was listening to certain soundtracks. Find the vibe that gets you in the mode to study.
10. Dress the Part.
Okay, it was fun writing papers on my bed. But honestly? None of my best work was done in my pajamas. Get up, get dressed, and get out of the house. Leave the sweats at home. Dress like the young professional you are and get your act to a library or coffee shop.
Liked this post? You might also enjoy 10 Pieces of Advice You Ignored that Will Actually Make You More Productive.
Caitlin Anderson believes in finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. A former Unbound employee, she now works as Lois Lane for a major tech company. She lives in Portland with her husband and their puppy.Read more by Caitlin