How to: Study Productively

Tips to success and avoiding procrastination this Fall

| October 3, 2017

The Fall semester has begun and with it come papers, projects, homework and exams. It’s very easy to get overly confident about when we need to start studying; many students get the idea studying shouldn’t begin until much later. Many of us are guilty of thinking about a task we need to do and repeating to ourselves it will “eventually” get done. What usually happens is that the task gets forgotten or we begin doing it when we have a short amount of time left. Is this avoidable? Yes. Why do we do it? Most of us can’t give an exact answer as to why, even though we know procrastination is avoidable. Below are some tips that can help you study productively and avoid procrastination.

The Phone. Put it away.

Yes, this gets repeated so much by this point, it’s gotten old, but it’s worth repeating again. We all know studying while we have our phone near us is just a distraction waiting to happen. A text from someone or a notification from an app can delay your studying and focus your attention on less productive things. It’s difficult to not use your phone sometimes, but silencing it or turning it off will give you an interruption-free study session. Look at it this way, you can use your phone at almost any time you want as you go through your day; is one or two hours without it going to affect you?

While you may find it challenging, if you try to make a habit out of putting your phone away, it will get easier with time. Also, if you don’t need your laptop to study, put it away. If this isn’t the case and you’ll have to use it, try Blocksite. You can download it to your computer and it will help keep distractions minimal. You just give it the websites you normally visit and it will block you from accessing them. When you’re done, you can remove the websites from the list, so you can access them again.


Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Organize your Study Space

Find a space where you can study if you don’t already have one. The most common space is usually a desk, although some people do prefer their bed. Keep this space organized at all times! Our eyes are usually drawn to messes and chaos and this can be a big distraction. It’s satisfying to sit at a desk where everything you need is easily reached and where everything is clean and organized. When you study, the last thing you want to focus on is a pile of laundry on the floor or random garbage scattered around your room. It’s always satisfying to know that you’ve got everything organized and your study space is always ready for you to begin studying.

Make Sure You Have Food

A common distraction when studying is hunger. It’s easy to interrupt a chapter review or notes we’re taking when you start to feel hungry. Once you get up and go in search of food, you’ve broken any concentration you had and will likely get distracted with something else along the way. It’s useful to have snacks prepared and waiting at your desk when you feel any cravings. Anything from cereal bars, gummy bears or your favorite drink is a useful way to take a mini break when you’re studying. Keep some snacks handy so you can always have something to eat, without disrupting your studying too much.


Music is more of a preference when it comes to studying. It may help you concentrate or maybe it does the opposite for you, but if you haven’t given it a chance it is still worth a try. When I talk about music, I mean the type with no lyrics, since we can drift off listening to lyrics. If you enjoy music with lyrics, another option is to look for the instrumental version of the songs you like. Maybe you would feel more focused with Mozart in the background, so classic would be the way to go! Spotify is very useful for finding music to study with. If you open Spotify’s desktop version, go to “browse,” select “genres and moods” and select “focus,” there is a button that is labeled “study vibes.” It’s full of songs that were selected for people who are studying. Having some background music could be more effective than you think.

Pomodoro Technique

Sometimes people might do all the right things. They put their phones away, set aside time to study and sit down at their study space ready to study… but still no productivity. Managing time that we set aside to study can become a challenge. The Pomodoro Technique is a method that can help you manage your time more effectively. It was invented by Francesco Cirillo, and the name “Pomodoro” is due to the kitchen timers that look like tomatoes (pomodoro means tomato in Italian). You work based on blocks of time; for 25 minutes, you focus on a task completely and after the 25 minutes are up you take a five-minute break. This technique can be helpful to those who find it hard to concentrate on tasks for very long periods and the five-minute break is a great motivator to keep working, because you know that the Pomodoro Technique allows you to take regular breaks. Give it a try next time you’re studying.

These techniques are general and meant to help you develop healthier study habits if you haven’t already, but everyone is different. If you don’t feel comfortable while studying for any reason, remember you can always try new techniques or search for more information, until you find something that’s suited for you. Studying can be a chore, but it’s a chore that you can make much easier to complete when you have the right tools. And most importantly, don’t give up!

Tags:, , , ,


Comments are closed.