Studying itself isn't easy, especially while students have other interests and hobbies aside from school. Let's face it, school was not the most entertaining thing in the world, at least when I attended. Unless something dramatically changed, I would assume today is not very different. I want to show you how to increase productivity while studying for an upcoming test or exam to make this process more productive and enjoyable.

Establish Goals

Before starting any studying at all, I found it extremely effective to write down what you want to achieve. This can be high level, like saying, "I will ace this exam," but you should drill down into more detail so you can see the road your travelling on. If not, such a high-level statement would be like driving in the rain with no windshield wipers. Sure, you may reach your destination, but you probably would have hit various things along the way. It will be beneficial to study with attainable goals in mind. For example, I will ace this test by studying chapters 1 & 2 today, followed by chapters 2 & 3 tomorrow. Once the studying of these chapters is complete, I will ask my roommate to test me on the material. So can you see how jotting down specific achievable goals is more effective than a broad, high-level statement? Try to be specific and really give it some thought. If time permits, let your goal marinate for a day or two and see if it still makes sense once you take another look.

Productivity tip #1, think about how you will establish attainable goals and jot them down.

Firm Schedule and Discipline

Once goals have been identified and established, it's time to think about allocation. The point here is to allocate enough time for each goal or task not to cram things at the last minute. I was surely guilty of that myself, but that's not how our minds work best. Instead, try blocking off time in our calendar physically or using our mobile devices and supporting applications. There are supplement techniques or applications that can assist with blocking your time. One such technique is called the Pomodoro Timer. In a nutshell, how the Pomodoro Timer works is that you can choose blocks of time to study followed by breaks. For example, you can study for 25 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break. Why is this important? For one, it keeps you on schedule, and because of its short intervals of study time, it keeps your mind fresh, which ultimately helps keep you disciplined. The breaks are a reset, and a burst time away helps to keep our minds fresh. There are, of course, many versions of the Pomodoro Timer, but sticking to a regular Chrome extension your using or an application if on mobile will do the trick. No need to get fancy at this stage. We want something easy to understand and can be implemented quickly.

Productivity tip #2, allocate your time appropriately, with the help of the Pomodoro Technique, to keep you on track and productive.

Student studying sitting at desk looking at computer monitor

Take Breaks Often

At this point in the process, your goals should be established, and you should have incorporated a realistic time-frame study structure. Okay, but now what? Do you study using the Pomodoro technique for hours on end? Even with the built-in study breaks, this is often not enough, in my opinion. If you begin early enough, you would not have to cram in hours on hours at the last minute. Instead, starting early gives you the advantage of breaks, but not the 5-minute type. I strongly believe in taking a day off or weekend off to recharge our minds. Cramming in all the material will not, I repeat, will not stick in our memory. Our brains are not built to retain that kind of information. Instead, studying slowly, with a decent amount of time off, can drastically result in more information being retained. A day off means not looking at the material at all. It means doing something else you enjoy, video games, hanging out with friends, socializing, drawing... The list goes on.

Productivity tip #3, take time off from studying. I mean, don't even look at the material.

ocean front - peaceful view


In summary, studying can become overwhelming quickly. To combat that list minute time crunch or last-minute studying, using techniques described in this article can at the very least set you up for success. The techniques are establishing realistic goals, abiding by a firm schedule, applying discipline, and taking breaks more often than not. By no means is this an exhaustive list of techniques, but focuses on these few is a good start. After trying the various techniques, feel free to adapt, revise or even remove/swap out strategies with others if you feel they would benefit you more. Remember, planning will help set you up for success. You got this!