When you get up to your ears in term papers, projects and tests, as you juggle your myriad of other daily responsibilties, those long hours of studying and preparing for exams can sometimes lead to burnout and concentration problems. Below are some strategies to help you maintain focus and concentration during these difficult moments of "studier's block".
• Preview the material and find areas where you might have further questions to maintain your interest in what you are studying. Writing some questions down that you can come back and answer once you have completed your reading or review will be especially useful.
• Set daily study goals. For example, rather than set a goal to study a particular subject, put your mind to creating a specific objective such as reading 12 pages of your English text and answering the first three review questions. That way, you will have a clearer picture that you have accomplished something.
• Vary your study activities by alternating between outlining, reciting the concepts, then taking notes. Using multiple ways to reinforce your learning will increase your likelihood of remembering concepts and will go a long way in preventing burnout. This will also address different styles of learning and exercise brain regions that you don’t normally use. For instance, saying concepts into a tape recorder is more likely to stimulate your auditory regions while outlining will keep your visual learning receptors active.
• Interrupt the tendency to daydream. The more aware you are of this tendency, the more likely you are to get past it. At the moment you start to daydream, set your intention to force trivial and irrelevant thoughts from your mind and restore your focus by quickly reviewing what you have read. Another strategy is to get up and walk around; distance yourself from your study materials; by standing up, you can redirect your thinking to the task you are working on. Practicing your control of daydreaming is a good habit to get into as this is one of the strongest barriers to keeping on task.
• Apply your learning. Relating concepts to aspects of your life and/or creating examples that apply to your life or people you interact with ensures that your learning becomes meaningful and real; this will increase your ability to recall the information more effectively.
• Schedule a regular interval of time in which to complete your work. For example, if you give yourself a deadline for which to complete your work within 2 hours, and at the end of that time period, you reward yourself, it will keep you motivated to complete the task in a timely and efficient manner. You could say, if I complete these readings from 6-8, at 8:00, I will meet a friend for tea.
• Pace yourself by chunking the information and taking short breaks in between. When you have a long and intensive paper or project, it is best to spread it out over the course of several days, rather than completing it all in one time segment.
• Organize your work by outlining the order in which you need to create the task and making it a point to preview the material first and create a summary and/or conclusion last. Previewing the material gives your mind the foundation for which to remember the concepts and organize how to break down the information into smaller steps.
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