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Balancing school with a full, or even part-time job schedule is difficult. Many non-traditional students also have partners or families. This added level of responsibility weighs heavily, and claims many hours that would otherwise be used to complete their homework.
Given the overwhelming demands that are placed on today’s student, good study habits and time management are imperative. Here are five ways to make the most out of study time:
1. Create an Ideal Study Space
Every person has their own unique needs when it comes to the ideal place for schoolwork. The key is to discover yours. Nonetheless, a great study area for any student typically has good lighting with plenty of space (on a laptop tray, table, or desk) for books, a computer, writing utensils, and comfortable seating.
People who are easily distracted require a quieter environment. A bedroom, a library, or a private office can provide a space free of interruptions, yet some find that the anonymity of a crowded coffee house, combined with a great pair of ear buds or earplugs, works wonders.
Some folks do best with ambient sound. Favorite tunes, television voices in the background, or white noise from a fan or sound machine can make a huge difference when trying to block out audible distractions.
2. Use an Individualized Study Method
Knowing what study method works best can help any student’s study time become more effective. There are a number of studies, questionnaires, and tests that can help a student determine whether they learn best by reading, taking notes, watching videos, or listening to a professor speaking. These are called “learning styles,” and the three principle styles are kinesthetic, visual, and auditory.
3. Don’t Skim-Read – Read for Understanding
Some students tend to think that reading the textbook is just a formality. In some classes, this may be the case. The professor will generally advise students if that is the case. Some professors, on the other hand, make it known from the first day of the semester that “required reading” is actually required. Reading for understanding means taking the time to concentrate and absorb the material. Don’t scan the work; skim reading may have worked in high school, but in higher education, it just won’t do the job.
If attention disorder is an issue for you, try ingesting the material in small bites by reading in a 20 or a 30-minute interval, while taking 5-minute breaks in between. Some students also find that using a blue sheet of paper to underscore the lines of text helps to keep focus in place.
Finally, be sure to feed your brain by getting plenty of probiotics and protein in your diet. Drink lots of water, and stay away from empty carbs, sugar and caffeine, which will only serve to increase your distraction and fatigue.
4. Organization is Key
Organization and time management skills are absolutely essential for students in higher education. A great way to stay organized is to separate notes for each class. This may be in separate notebooks or just separate sections of a large binder.
Writing clearly and legibly while taking notes is also important. Make writing in a clear and organized way a higher priority than writing notes quickly.
Prioritizing tasks and staying focused on the work at hand is a great organizational tool. Keeping a visible timeline of assignments is also a good time management strategy.
Finally, remember this: if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t real. Use a calendar (any calendar will do, whether digital or the good, old-fashioned paper kind) to schedule your study time and your assignment deadlines.
5. Recruit Help in Times of Need
There will be moments when life derails you, thus limiting your time for studying. When deadlines are looming and life is in the way, it can feel incredibly overwhelming. A great tutor or homework assistant can be a huge benefit when these situations arise.
The smart student knows when to reach out for help; research assistance, for example, can take many hours and much stress out of the equation, thus freeing you up to get the meat of the material so that you can learn effectively and get your homework in to make the grade.
Time management and focus, when addressed with pragmatism and determination, goes a very long way toward making the grade. Take the time to determine what works best for you and put some tools, conditions, and practices into place to get the most our of your studies.