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9 Studying Tips that Will Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder

it’s finals season…

So I figured now would be the perfect time to share some of my favorite studying tips that have helped me over the past few years!


9 Studying Tips that Will Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder

schedule your studying

There’s a reason this one is first – and it’s because it might just be the most important!!  No one wants to spend the night before a test cramming as much information as they can into their brain.  This is NOT the most productive way to study!

Instead, make a note of when your finals are so that you can schedule a few study sessions in between then and now.  You don’t have to go crazy with hour-long study sessions every day before the test (unless that’s what you need), but just try to spread your studying out over a few days rather than one night.

motivate yourself

If you have a hard time getting yourself to start something that might be boring – like studying – or are struggling to get focused, find a way to motivate yourself!  

Bribe yourself with a treat, a fun night out, a movie night in, something special that will get you excited to work!  

Once you finish studying for that test – or when you’re done taking the test – reward yourself with whatever you promised yourself.  You could go out for a date night, go get your nails done, buy some yummy treats, go see a new movie… whatever you want!  You earned it. (:

create a productive working environment

Don’t expect yourself to get much done if your environment is not made for working.

What you define as a productive working environment depends entirely on YOU.  What makes YOU productive?  

Is it a comfortable chair or a study table?  Is it a quiet room or a coffee shop with some background noise?  Is it somewhere with bright lighting or somewhere dimly light?  

It’s entirely up to YOU!

This step may take some trial and error, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your perfect working environment right away.  The most important thing is to make sure that you are doing as much as you can to help yourself be productive in whatever environment you’re in.

work in time blocks

This is a tip that’s really helped me be able to work more productively recently… especially on those days where my attention span feels like it’s nearly nonexistent.

Instead of trying to study for hours upon hours with no end in sight, try to work in time blocks.  The amount of time you spend working is up to you; it may take some trial and error to see what length of time works best, as it’s different for everyone.  

I like to work in time blocks is by working for 30-45 minutes straight and then taking a 10-15 minute break.  Sometimes I get so into what I’m doing that I don’t want to take a break, but it’s super important to still walk away from the work!!  

If you have lots of ideas or are super interested in what you’re doing, you’ll be more excited to get back to work after the break than you would be if you were fresh out of inspiration.

do something refreshing during breaks

Just like taking breaks is important, what you do during those breaks can be a game-changer.  These breaks are supposed to refresh and re-fill your mind, don’t let it do the opposite!

As with most of these study tips, the things that will help one person might not work for everyone else.  Some break activities that I enjoy are things like going for a walk, doing a short strength workout, talking with a friend or family member, listening to music and dancing around, listening to a podcast, and just laying down and taking some deep breaths to relax.  

Some break activities that are not as helpful are things like checking social media, refreshing your email, and worrying about all the other things you have to get done.  

don’t pull all-nighters

Pulling an all-nighter to study will not necessarily make you do any better on that test!!  I REPEAT: pulling an all-night to study will not necessarily make you do any better on that test.

Instead, study until it’s time to go to bed and get a good night’s sleep.  Sleeping actually helps you learn and retain information better, and it also gives your brain time to rest up for that exam.

So even though you might think that the only way you’re going to pass that test is if you stay up and study all night long, think about what you just read and go to sleep instead.

only study what you don’t know

This might seem obvious, but I think it’s still worth mentioning.  I feel like so many people spend time studying things that they already know and are completely confident in.  

Of course, you want to refresh your memory if it’s something you’re confident in but you haven’t practiced in a while, but chances are, you’re not going to need to study that topic repeatedly.  Just go over it a couple times, and you’ll probably be good to go.

You should spend the majority of your time studying things that you aren’t as confident in so that, 1) you can feel more confident, and 2) you’re using your time efficiently.  

How do you know what you’re confident in?

Take a look at your study guides, notes, class PowerPoints, and any other class material.  If there’s something you don’t know, write it down, highlight it… do whatever you need to do to make it stand out and remind yourself that you need to study that topic more!

study in ways that work for you

Another obvious one, but some of us seem to forget about it.  Just like many – if not all – of the tips I’ve mentioned above, they are not all going to work for everyone in the same way.  Same goes with this one.

Not everyone learns and processes information in the same way, so not everyone can effectively study in the same way.  

Think about what works and what doesn’t work for you.  Has the way you’ve been studying so far resulted in good grades?  

If so, keep doing what you’re doing. (:

If not, find a new way to study!  

Here are some great ways to study: use a study guide, find (or make) a Quizlet, teach someone about the topic you are trying to learn, test yourself, or ask someone else to test you.

limit distractions

Let’s be real… distractions can basically make or break a study session. 

If you’re “studying” with your friends, but instead you’re just treating it as a “hang out” in the library, you’re probably not going to get much done.

Same goes if you’re checking your phone or getting out of your seat to grab a snack every 5 minutes.  

So before you even start studying, work on recognizing what your distractions are and avoid those going into your work time.  

If you don’t get much done when you’re studying around friends, study on your own – or with a classmate.  

If you find yourself checking social media every few minutes, put your phone somewhere you can’t easily reach it – and maybe even turn the internet off on your computer (if possible).  

Whatever your distractions are, avoid them while studying so that you can work more efficiently!  Because the sooner your work gets done, the sooner you can get back on your phone and hang out with your friends!

Finals week – and the weeks leading up to it – can be a bit overwhelming, so I hope you enjoyed these 9 studying tips that will help you work smarter, not harder.  

Some things to remember during the last few weeks of the semester: if you need a break, take one.  If you need a nap, go sleep.  If you aren’t feeling like yourself, take time to re-center.  Whatever you need, make sure you’re giving it to yourself.

Good luck with the last few weeks of the semester, and have a wonderful holiday break! (:

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One Comment

  1. These are some awesome tips! Something that helps me a lot, is to listen to music and usually just the same album so that I’m not too focused on the music.

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