Study Less, Study Smart – Tip 1: Chunk your Study Time

On Youtube, you can find a lot of advice about how to study better. In a lecture I found called “Study Less, Study Smart,” psychology Professor Dr. Marty Lobdell gave some great advice about how to be an effective student. That video is one hour long, however, and is aimed at native English speakers, so I thought I would summarize his key points for you.

Dr. Lobdell’s first tip is to break your study time into chunked sessions. A “chunk” means a small part of something bigger. Most learners can only concentrate (or focus) on something for about 25 to 30 minutes. It doesn’t matter if you are reading a book, listening to a lecture, or writing an essay – your efficiency, which is your ability to study deeply and quickly, starts to really go down (after 20~30 minutes).

If you continue to study AFTER 25 to 30 minutes, and you’re not used to studying hard, you might be wasting your time! What should you do? Well, instead, according to Dr. Lobdell, you should cut your study time into chunks (or pieces) of about 20 to 30 minutes.

After 20 or 30 minutes, you should take a 5-minute break. During the break, you should do something fun, or do something completely different. For example, you can watch Youtube videos for 5 minutes – 5 minutes only! – you could play a video game, you can walk around, eat a snack away from your work, call a friend to chat, clean up your kitchen, or meditate! The important thing to remember is to break for 5 minutes, and to do something that is NOT studying for those 5 minutes.

Also, after you have finished your chunked study sessions (I don’t know – maybe you have 4 to 6 sessions?) you should give yourself a real reward for doing it. This could be, for example, a chocolate treat, a movie, a drink with a friend, or a nice bath with music. Like Dr. Lobdell says, if you positively reinforce good behaviour, you will build (or create) good study habits. Also, you will be training yourself to study. As you keep doing this, you’re going to able to study longer and longer each session. And this means you’re going to be able to do more in less time.

Next in the series: Creating a dedicated study area

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