Studying: why you’re doing it wrong

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 10 April 2015 | 20.01

Graham Allcott's tips can help you to be more productive in your studies. Source: News Corp Australia

IF you're studying for more than 25 minutes then you're doing it wrong.

Productivity expert Graham Allcott recommends students hit the books for no longer than 25 minutes at a time to dramatically improve information retention and actually boost the amount of effective study time.

Testing yourself after each study session is also a powerful way of remembering what you are being taught, and more effective than using a yellow highlighter, he said.

"When you're reading, have a 25-minute period of time to do the work and then, after your 25 minutes, you take a five-minute procrastination break,'' Mr Allcott said.

"It manages your retention. You are breaking while you are in full flow, before your brain gets tired, so what that does is you can do hours and hours more revision.''

Allcott, author of How to be a Knowledge Ninja, says mobile phones, emails and social media are compounding procrastination among students.

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Lazy is OK ... give yourself a five minute procrastination break every 25 minutes and your studying will be much more effective. Source: Getty Images

But there are ways to improve study efficiency — and reduce panic at exam time — that can be as simple as testing yourself after each study session to reinforce what was just learned.

"Self-testing is more effective than writing out notes … using highlighter pens … or all of those other (study techniques),'' Mr Allcott said.

"And if you have done self-testing and you have things wrong, the brain processes that while you sleep.

"So the idea is little and often. If you can self-test at the end of every study session — whether it's after an hour, or a couple of hours or a day … it's better, statistically (than re-reading study material or taking notes).'

He said to be most effective, self-testing should become habitual.

Facebook ... limit distractions by closing other applications on your computer. Picture: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma Source: AP

"They say cramming is the lazy person's way of studying but, actually (self-testing) little and often is a much better efficiency approach,'' he says.

"The brain processes stuff while you sleep, so if you cram, you generally don't have a good quality sleep.

"Little and often is actually the lazy person's way of studying.''

Other key tips from Allcott include avoiding procrastination by breaking large assessments into smaller parts so they appear more achievable and closing all unnecessary — and distracting — windows on your computer.

During lectures, he suggests students try to get up and change seating every 45 minutes to aid concentration.

If moving is not possible, he recommends students turn their notebooks upside down to achieve a different perspective.

"It's a little bit hippy and it sounds quite strange but (moving yourself or your study materials around) is almost like rebooting your attention,'' he said.

Ella Chorazy ... the QUT student is taking a social media break during her studies. Picture: Mark Cranitch Source: News Corp Australia

Queensland University of Technology PhD student Ella Chorazy, 28, is part way through writing a thesis on political communication and knows how easy it is to give into procrastination.

To aid her study, Chorazy is on a self-imposed social media blackout until she submits her thesis later this year.

"(The social media ban) is something I did for the last three months of my Honour's degree and I actually found it quite useful,'' she said.

"When I think about having to write 100,000 words for my PhD, it's sort of paralysing and I think, 'Oh, my God, I can't do that'.

"So I also set microgoals a lot and break things down into smaller manageable chunks, like just writing one paragraph of my thesis at a time.''


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