I’m sure I don’t need to lecture you on the value of not cramming, right? You probably study long hours anyway.
I know you get it already. You shouldn’t study for long hours the night before the test. You’ve heard it a million times. I’m going to assume you already know it’s not efficient. The 100,000’s of students visiting this blog have read those lessons plenty of times.
We all know it happens.
Life gets in the way. You get distracted. Important things come up. Eventually, it’s too late for you to study in any other way. (Aaron suggests you still don’t ever cram because it just encourages bad habits. I happen to disagree.)
You need to get ready for a nice long study session.
What’s your first step?
1. Don’t Give Up Sleep
Seriously! Sleep is the last thing you should give up.
Studying is important but sleep is absolutely essential!
You may learn a few new things. You may also fail to remember them because you lost sleep. Sometimes it will work out. I’ve pulled all nighters and ended up with great grades but… sometimes it won’t work out.
The big problem with skipping sleep is this…
It’s unpredictable. You can’t plan for the exam because tomorrow you could be completely exhausted. Your memory could be gone from the second the exam starts.
Always maintain your usual sleep schedule (if you have one.) Always get your usual amount of sleep.
2. Take Big Breaks
I don’t believe in the usual 5 minute breaks students recommend.
Have you ever taken a 5 minute break from studying and felt better?
It just doesn’t work.
A zen guru would struggle to get fully relaxed in 5 minutes. Do you really feel relaxed with only a 5 minute study break?
Distracting yourself for 5 minutes won’t work either. You’ll struggle to stop thinking about studying. Then you when you finally start distracting yourself… KAPOW!!!! Back to studying. I hope that was fun…
Give yourself a serious break.
15 minutes is my minimum. If I’m going to be studying for 5-10 hours then I always take breaks at least as long as my study session. (This rarely happens anymore. I now try to focus on the 15MSS.)
3. Caffeinate Carefully
Don’t just drink coffee or energy drinks while studying.
You can drink caffeine but remember this…
When you study using caffeine, take the test using caffeine. Experiments have shown that stimuli like caffeine can become associated with the material you’re learning. You’ll remember stuff better if you take advantage of this.
Of course, caffeine can help but don’t let it ruin your sleep.
Sleep is essential. Caffeine is only helpful.
4. Plan A Day Off
This is my secret for getting my butt back in gear when studying gets tough.
It’s perfect to do this during your study breaks.
Plan a day off in the future. Pick a day that you’ll make up for all this extra hard work. Let yourself plan to do something without feeling guilty about it. Your guilty pleasures can be a reward for dealing with these tough study sessions.
Every time you find yourself getting distracted, remind yourself that you’ll have plenty of time for distractions on your day off!
5. Get Some Help
Studying with someone else can be a huge boost for some people. If it helps then get someone else involved.
Take caution: Make sure they’re as motivated to study as you are. If they aren’t then you’re setting yourself up for trouble. A study day can quickly turn into a day long gossip session. Ooops!
If you don’t have someone to study with then ask a friend to message you during your study breaks. Have them text you to make sure you’re still keeping up with your plan. This extra accountability can give you just the motivation you need to keep working while giving you a little entertainment during your breaks.
6. Skip Stuff
Studying long hours isn’t an ideal strategy. It’s usually a desperate one.
Don’t act like you need to learn everything.
Learn only the absolutely essential stuff. Do only the important work.
You have limits. A long study session will remind you of those limits.
When you skip information, you’re increasing the chances you’ll remember the rest of the stuff you want to learn. Cool, right? I think so!
Also, don’t let non-essential assignments from other classes keep you from studying. Skipping assignments with a tiny effect on your grade lets you focus on the stuff that makes a major impact.
7. Do The Important Stuff First
When you’ve decided what you’re going to skip, go through the stuff that you’re trying to learn and prioritize it.
What’s the most important thing to learn? You know, the stuff that’s definitely going to be on the test. It’s also the stuff that’s sure to be a big portion of your grade.
That’s the first stuff you should learn.
What’s the next most important stuff?
That’s the next stuff you should learn.
This is super important because it lets you score high, even when you don’t learn everything that you think you should learn.
8. Set Yourself Up To Succeed
Robot-you might be able to study for 12 hours straight. It can memorize hundreds of flashcards a day without dreading the process. It will never get distracted. Robot-you isn’t going to be at your study session. It’s going to be you.
You are human.
I like that about you!
You have emotions. You can’t work like a machine. You’d be pretty boring if you did. That’s cool. Work with human nature.
How can you make following through easy?
Set your routine up so it’s easy to complete it.
- Make your study sessions short
- Set reasonable grade expectations
- Have a little fun
- Give yourself rewards
- Smile once in a while!
Make it as easy as possible.
I know you’re disciplined enough to do something a little tougher but easy is good because you’re absolutely sure you can complete it.
After you live up to your expectations, you have plenty of room to massively exceed them. You end your study session feeling good.
Feeling good is a huge factor. Make your long study sessions as painless as possible and they’ll work well. The more you dread the process, the less you’ll learn.
And… maybe next time you should study more in shorter sessions. Don’t study long hours when you have the choice not to.
Let me tell you (an inappropriate) true story…
It was high school Spanish class…
I was a Senior in a class of Sophomores. There was one other Senior in the class. Best of all –
She was smokin’ (as the old folk say.) She was gorgeous. 10 out of 10. Tight jeans. And she always sat right in front of me in class (gulp.)
We were the only Seniors in the class. By default… that made me the coolest guy there… And trust me… I’m never the coolest guy there.
But we’d talk. Sometimes in class she’d lean over. I’d continue to pretend me importa la espanol stuff pero… Seriousamente… 😛
Sure… I’d show up to class. But my brain rarely stuck around for the lecture. And that’s why you might not be surprised I was getting a C- in class.
It’s funny how that stuff that distracted me in highschool wasn’t so problematic in college where I took a double course load and still scored near the top of my class…
You don’t need to be perfect to score near perfect.
You just need to know how…