“Study 25 to 35 hours a week.” Yellow signs brandishing this slogan around campus encourage dedicating two hours per unit each week to hitting the books. It can be tough dedicating five, six, seven hours, five or six days a week, to doing homework, reading or studying — let alone doing schoolwork surrounded by so many distractions. College football, Xbox/PlayStation 3, YouTube, friends, working out, drinking away your sorrows. All of this becomes even more attractive as you try to focus on your schoolwork.
If avoiding temptation — or partaking in moderation — were easy, then a lot more people would have a college degree or two. Part of graduating from college is learning to have the self-regulation and will power to set aside wants, and complete necessities.
A study released this month in the Journal of Advanced Academics looked at homework as a tool for developing self-regulation. The report found a positive relationship between homework activities and self-efficacy, self-reflection, responsibility for learning, maintaining focus, managing the environment, inhibiting distractions, delaying gratification and managing time. Most importantly, the report found that students can be trained to develop their self-regulation skills, and homework facilitates the development of self-regulation and enhances learning. So, yay for homework!
These types of skills can carry over into your professional life, home life, family life and every other type of non-school related life you might have. The following are a few enduring tips and tricks students have successfully used to enhance studies and develop self-regulation skills.
Manage your environment
Come prepared: Some people need Goldfish crackers to help them study. Others, with more refined tastes, require beef jerky, honey roasted peanuts and Mountain Dew. Having these things on hand, before you start studying, prevents you from taking a distended study break and losing focus. If you know you need a highlighter and Wite-Out for a project, and you don’t already own these two items, run by Rite Aid before you start the project.
Control the volume: Mozart makes you smarter, or so they say. Some people even say that music, without lyrics, at 60 beats per minute (BPM) balances the left and right hemispheres of your brain.
Music can drown out background noise and create more consistency within your study environment. Regardless of the BPM, music at a comfortable volume is a must-have for many people during their study sessions. Mozart isn’t your only option when it comes to lyric-less music though; there are a plethora of online music stations, such as somafm, that feature ambient and other electronic forms of music.
Hit the library: For those of you who have a tough time abstaining from temptation, taking your schoolwork to the library is always an option. The sterile, quiet environment of the library can suck the life out of you, along with your ability to do anything but study … and maybe update your Facebook on one of the library computers. It also has the third and fourth floor bathrooms, which are two of the best bathrooms to use on campus due to their low foot-traffic.
Manage your time
Set study blocks: Set a study “goal;” know how much you need to study beforehand and set out to study that much, and do not break that time up too much. For example, if you know you have six hours of studying to do, try to study for six hours with two or three 15-minute study breaks, as opposed to three two-hour study sessions broken up throughout the day.
Reward yourself: Delay your gratification, and reward yourself once your schoolwork is done. For instance, if you have six hours of studying to do, put off playing Xbox until after you’re done studying. The video games will act as your reward for putting in six hard hours, and putting the gaming off until after you’re done with your studying only motivates you to get your work done. You could do the same thing with dinner, or dinner and dessert if you work extra hard.
Just get started: For those who are inclined to procrastinate, sometimes finishing schoolwork can be like going for an early morning run. You just have to get started and get around the block, taking yourself to a place where you feel like there’s no turning back. Forget coming prepared, forget choosing the perfect music and forget setting study blocks; just get right to business and worry about the rest during one of your study breaks.
Manage your focus
Productivity periods: Figure out when you are most productive and plan your homework for that time. For some people, this is in the morning, after a couple cups of coffee, when the burdens of life have yet to stack up. For others, this is in the afternoon, after their hangover has faded a little. Regardless of when your productivity period is, be sure to set your study block at that time.
Prioritize: One of the many advantages of keeping a planner of some sort is that they help you prioritize. By knowing what you have to get done that day, week or month, you are able to plan other, less important activities for after schoolwork, and the more important activities before.
Thought pad: This can be a voice recorder or a pad of paper and pencil. When you feel like you need to do something other than schoolwork during your study block, record or write it down. When a brilliant idea crosses your mind during your study block, record or write it down. By recording or writing these things down, you take them off your mind. This helps you focus on the task at hand, and allows you to address the things you recorded or wrote down after you’re done with your schoolwork or during a study break.
Don’t be afraid to utilize one or all of these tips for the looming Winter Quarter 2012.