You can try one or all of these 9 study hacks to help you work smarter towards your exams:
ONE. Create a morning habit to give your energy for the day ahead.
You can be on top of your game by following a morning routine so that you accomplish more early, which in turn can motivate you to be even more productive throughout the rest of the day. A routine gives you structure and breaks down your morning hours into smaller chunks of work that are easier to do. I recommend listening to a podcast called Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod, the author of a book called The Miracle Morning. If you’d like some more tips on creating a morning routine, read more about it here.
TWO. Feed your brain right.
- Start your day with a balanced breakfast, for example with a combination of protein, fruits, and healthy fats (such as nuts): it can be oatmeal or yogurt with granola, fresh fruit, walnuts and almonds.
- Have an egg! Eggs are a powerful mix of B vitamins (they help nerve cells to burn glucose), antioxidants (they protect neurons against damage), and omega-3 fatty acids (they keep nerve cells functioning at optimal speed).
- Did you know that some excellent brain food includes sardines, beets, spinach, and lentils? Try to incorporate these and other foods into your daily meals to boost your brain power.
Did you know that some excellent brain food includes sardines, beets, spinach, and lentils? Try to incorporate these and other foods into your daily meals to boost your brain power.
THREE. Do your deep work early.
Deep work is what your analytical brain does that requires a lot of concentration to perform the most complex tasks (in the case of studying, these can be reading, comprehension, application, repetition). Some scientists call this time of day the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s roughly 2-4 hours after we wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 6, your peak times are between 8 and 10 a.m. Be sure to block this time off to cover your most important work, and leave other activities such as checking your Facebook and Instagram updates, your emails, and the news for later in the day.
FOUR. Become a time management pro.
When you’re ready to start studying, use a timer to divide up your day into manageable increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. You can set the timer to 30 or 60 minute blocks, for example. You can also try the Pomodoro technique which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks. When you’re done with one segment, step away from your desk, and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest: take a 5 minute walk, stretch your body, grab a cup of coffee or tea.
FIVE. Take a power nap.
To boost your concentration and cognitive abilities, take a nap for about 30 minutes in the afternoon; find a comfortable space (a couch, an armchair, your bed). Block away environmental noise with noise-cancelling headphones. If you prefer, you can listen to music that can help you relax (anything that is instrumental; it can be classical music, chillout, sounds of nature).
SIX. Take a walk.
Performing some form of physical exercise, even if it is targeted and short, improves your brain’s cognitive performance, problem solving ability, and even boosts long-term memory. Aim for 30-45 minutes. If your neighborhood or college campus is noisy, take your headphones with you and listen to some relaxing instrumental music.
SEVEN. Use your evening for strategic thinking.
This is typically the time of day when the brain slows down, doesn’t go at top speed to adhere to deadlines, so it has space for more creative thinking. Use this time for activities such as:
- Setting study goals for the week
- Strategizing how to optimize your learning (find new learning tools or apps)
- Reviewing your schedule for the next day
- Contemplating the big picture with these questions:
- Where you would like to be once you’ve completed your exams?
- What are your long term goals?
- What is the career you want for yourself?
- What are the steps you’ll need to take to get started on the next phase of your professional development?
EIGHT. Train your brain to be calmer.
So much information to absorb, so many details to remember, and all those tough deadlines to adhere to. Studying is hard! You can help your brain by training it with meditation. This practice can help you deal better with the input of information that could lead to feelings of chaos, overwhelm, and stress.Start with just 10 minutes. Download the Headspace app; it makes meditation easy, fun, and great for beginners.
NINE. Use a nighttime routine to unwind faster and get ready to sleep.
This habit will help you ease away from your studies and signal to your body that it’s time to slow down and prepare for rest. You can (a) set a bedtime alarm to go off 30 minutes before going to sleep, (b) stay away from electronics (mainly your computer), (c) stretch your legs with a short walk after dinner for about 20-30 minutes to boost digestion and give your brain some extra oxygen, and (d) do something relaxing before bedtime: read a book, listen to music, or just close your eyes and breathe deeply for 10 counts before you brush your teeth and get ready for bed.