It does not matter if it has been five minutes of 50 years since you last studied, with a few simple strategies you can set yourself up for study success!
Below you will find a simple and effective plan that you can use to fit study around your life, and to ensure that you get the most out of the time that you dedicate to your learning.
Set up a schedule that works for you
Most people cringe at the idea of a schedule, but rather than being super restrictive, when used correctly, schedules can be incredibly freeing. They allow you to reclaim your time instead of being dragged around by circumstance. Schedules free up your time so that you have more time to do the things that you enjoy.
Starting your schedule
Not everyone can dedicate eight hours a day to study and to try to do so would be unrealistic. So the first thing you need to do is take a good look at how much time you can afford to set aside to study per week.
Ask yourself (and answer honestly): How do I spend my time each day? Write down a rough sketch of your daily routine and pay attention to how much time each task takes.
The next step is to find a downloadable schedule from the internet and print it out.
Building your schedule
Now, from your list of daily activities, think about what tasks you actually need to get done. Block out time in your schedule for these tasks. Add in any other activities that you can think of that need to be done as well.
When blocking out time, remember, you need to be realistic. It will almost always take you longer than you think to complete a task, so ensure you leave a 10-15 minute time buffer after each task and before starting a new task, so that you have room for unexpected events.
Adding study to your schedule
Have a look at your schedule. Where can you spare half an hour or an hour for study? First thing in the morning? During your train ride to work? In your lunch hour? Or perhaps after the kids have gone to bed?
Sparing at least half an hour a day for study makes sure that you progress through your course and meet your goal of finishing. A daily study habit also ensures you have enough time to absorb what you are learning.
Make fun a daily habit
Lastly, make sure you schedule in rest periods and time for fun. If you only schedule in work, study and must-do tasks, either you will stop using your schedule altogether, or you will burn out.
The purpose of a schedule is to make sure you get things done and to free up time so you can enjoy your life!
At the end of your day, spend 10 minutes printing out a new schedule and filling it in so it is ready for the next day.
Because we all have different lives and demands on our time, everyone’s schedule will look different, so make sure your schedule works for you.
If you are wary of schedules, commit to trying it for a month, you will be amazed at what a positive difference it can make to your life.
What to do when you study
So, you have blocked out your time, you’re ready with your computer and OpenSpace, now what?
The following study tips are designed to help you get the most out of your course.
Discover your learning style
People learn in lots of different ways; some learn by listening, some learn visually and others learn by doing.
If you learn by listening, try reading your notes out loud. Discuss the things that you are learning with friends and family. You could also record yourself reading your notes and listen back to them when driving, commuting, or when doing tasks like cooking and cleaning. This will help to cement the ideas in your mind. You could also work your problems out loud and talk yourself through your assignments and readings.
If you learn visually, try using different coloured pens to make notes, draw pictures to illustrate key points, and highlight key learnings in different coloured pens to help you remember information.
You could also create a concept map by putting the main idea in the centre of the page, then drawing branches out from this to secondary ideas.
If you learn by doing, try taking notes while you read your lessons and watch your webinars. Write down key words, draw pictures or make charts as this will help you to remember the information. You could also speak your notes into a recorder then go for a walk and listen to them. Another idea is to walk back and forth with your laptop, iPad or phone open to your study material and read the information on the screen out loud, or to make a diagram or model which illustrates the key learnings from that study period. ‘Doing’ learners may also find it useful to copy key points onto a chalkboard, easel board, or other large writing surface.
Another idea for ‘doing’ learners is to make flashcards which each feature a word, symbol or picture which represents a key learning. After the cards have been created, stick them up on your wall and as you look at them in turn, speak out loud what the symbol represents.
Have a few study tricks up your sleeve
No matter how you learn, having a few different approaches to your study will help you to cement your learning in your mind. Try going over the same material in a few different ways. This will use several different parts of your brain for the same material, building your memory and helping you to retain the information.
Different approaches you can take to study the same lesson:
- Read your lesson out loud, make notes, then review your notes on the key learning concept.
- Write a one sentence summary of your lesson.
- Write a set of five questions to test your knowledge of the lesson.
Break down study into small chunks: When you have an assignment or test, break down the work into smaller more manageable chunks. Don’t try to do it all at once, do a little bit each day.
Move every hour: If you have scheduled your daily study session to run for more than one hour, get up every 50 minutes, stretch your legs and have a ten minute break to refresh and recharge.
Time your study session: At the beginning of your session, set an alarm to ring when you want to finish. Timing your study will remind you that there is a time limit, and you will find that you knuckle down to work quicker and with more determination.
When you make study milestones and meet your learning goals, reward yourself. Buy yourself something you’ve been eyeing off, take yourself to the movies or have a tasty meal. When you reward yourself for your hard work, you not only re-motivate yourself, but you train yourself to learn that work has rewards, making study a good thing, rather than a task that must be endured.
Whether your course marks the first time that you have studied in a decade, the start of a new career, a return to the workplace after a long break, or you are just studying a subject that you are passionate about, setting yourself up with a schedule, using study tips and rewarding yourself for reaching milestones, will ensure that you get the very most out of your learning journey.
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