It happens to everyone from time to time. You’re sitting at your desk, trying to focus on the task in front of you…but something else is constantly pulling your attention away.
For some of us, though, getting distracted is a more broad-reaching problem. Many students have difficulty with the basic idea of sitting down and focusing on studying or doing homework in the first place. This can become a serious problem; just like any skill, your study skills are something you build up over time through practice. If you don’t build that skill, it gets harder over time to try and make up for it.
Today, let’s take a look at some of the most common study challenges, and what you can do to overcome them.
#1. Missing the Motivation
It can be hard to find the motivation to study sometimes. After a full day of school, most students want to use their time at home to relax…not do more schoolwork. This is especially true at the present moment, when many students are taking classes remotely. The line between school and home is already blurred.
One thing you can do is create a reward system for yourself. For instance, if gaming is your preferred leisure activity, try rewarding yourself with a predetermined amount of play time for every hour you spend studying. The same works with activities you enjoy like shopping; if you study XX number of hours each week, you’ll reward yourself with a trip to the mall.
Another option is to find a study buddy. Studying with one or more people means that you’re keeping one another engaged and accountable for getting your work done.
#2. You’ve got too Much on Your Plate
In addition to a full course load, you might be engaged in sports, clubs, other extracurricular, a part-time job…or some combination of all of the above. Many students feel the pressure to participate in a lot of different activities, which can lead them to feel that they’re being pulled in too many different directions at once. This can easily cause burnout and disinterest in studying.
There are a few things you can do to address this situation. First, you can try study sprints; set aside a specific window of time every day—it can be as little as 30 minutes—that are reserved for studying. Then, set a timer and let everything else on your mind that’s not study-related slip away. You can also try recording yourself reading off important notes, which you can then listen to while doing other activities.
Ultimately, if you still feel like you’re under too much pressure, it might be necessary to let something go. No extracurricular or afterschool activity is more important than your academic success. Think carefully about your priorities and rank what’s most important to you. If you need to drop something to ensure success in other areas of your life, that’s what needs to be done.
#3. The Material is Overwhelming
This goes hand-in-hand with that last point. Sometimes, the coursework on its own can feel daunting. Dedicating enough study time to each subject can be hard, especially if you’re struggling in one (or more) classes.
The best approach here is to identify strengths. Go through each subject and break down the material into different sections. Then, identify the parts with which you feel comfortable and confident, which parts need a little more attention, and which parts you don’t understand at all. You should then prioritize those things that are most confusing for you and give them extra study time.
Another option would be to create a rotating study schedule. You can break material down in a way that makes sense to you—class, subject, sections of a book—then rotate which part of the material you want to focus on each week. For example, you can dedicate one week primarily to math, with just a quick review of other subjects. Then, for the next week, switch to another subject that you want to focus on.
#4. You Have a Procrastination Habit
Sometimes, the problem is more about our habits than about the material itself. Procrastination—putting things off until the last minute—tends to result in a lot of added stress. Plus, we tend not to do the best job when we’re racing against a deadline.
The best assets you have to tackle procrastination are self-discipline and a calendar. If you know that there’s a test or a project due in a few weeks, it would be a good idea to sit down with a calendar or planner and block aside a few minutes each day to work on the project. It will be a lot easier if you spend 15 minutes a day working on a project or studying for a test, as compared to cramming everything in a day or two. You have to keep to the schedule, though, which will require discipline and dedication.