The little things in life end up counting the most. This is especially true regarding when you study, where you study, and how long you study. Having a great strategy for these three ‘little’ things will boost productivity and allow you to squeeze in more work in less time. We’ll pose this as Q&A and unpack the answers so you’ll understand the reasons behind study-time logistics.
Question: When is the best time to study?
The most productive hours of the day are between the time you wake and the time you eat dinner – your brain is the most vibrant and alert and can retain more information. Your body is naturally programmed to wind down after dinner, so consider the law of diminishing returns when you try to study in the wee hours. The best time to study is early in the morning or in between classes. Utilize the 30 – 45 minute free blocks during the day to study, rather than catch up on the latest social gossip.
Question: Where should you study?
Answer: In isolation.
Identify numerous, isolated spots around campus where you cannot be found. Having a multiple, remote locations serve a few different purposes. Firstly, if no one can find you, they can’t distract you. Secondly, you may be running from one place to the next, so knowing different places you can duck in to will save time running back to one primary location. Thirdly, changing up the scenery periodically will reinvigorate your mind and prevent the monotony of hanging out in one place too long.
Question: How long should you study?
Answer: No more than an hour at a time without a break.
Cognitive science has not produced any conclusive results as to why we shouldn’t study more than an hour without a break, but current findings suggest that 50 minutes to an hour provide the most bang for the buck. Even if you’re in the zone, taking regular breaks (no more than 15 minutes) every hour will yield greater results than working straight through. A novel, newspaper article, or even a short meditation could be the just the break your mind needs.
For case studies and deep-dive details, pick up a copy of How to become a straight-A student: The unconventional strategies real college students use to score high while studying less by Cal Newport.
Newport, C. (2007). How to become a straight-A student: The unconventional strategies real college students use to score high while studying less. New York: Broadway Books.