Long study sessions are hardly my favourite thing. They start well, but after a while my attention drifts and I end up granting myself a ‘short break’ on the Internet. You too?
Studies have found that the longest most adults can concentrate on a task is 20 minutes. After that, our attention tends to drift and we need to re-focus on the task, or else take a break. If you’ve found it hard to stay focused and productive, here’s an alternative approach to time management that has worked wonders for me.
Start by writing a list of everything you hope to achieve during the day, and then work out how many hours you are going to study. Divide your study time into 15 minute increments and work out how many 15 minute units it will take to complete each task (be realistic).
When you sit down to study, make sure you have a watch or clock nearby. Every quarter hour you change study tasks, which will allow you to stay interested and achieve things on your to-do list. If you give each task your full attention for 15 minutes at a time, you’re likely to be far more productive than in a distracted 30 minutes. Every 30 minutes to an hour, have a five-minute break.
This approach is also good for last-minute assignment crams. The key here is to not treat the assessment as one task, but divide it up into different, smaller items. So for the first 15 minutes you might check the subject outline for guidance and write an essay structure. The next 15 minutes may be spent writing an introduction. The 15 minutes after that may be spent checking sources for quotes and footnoting them.
I love this time management strategy is because it accepts that your brain is going to get bored and lets you change it up.
Some people like to use this strategy to manage their entire day (although obviously 15 minute increments aren’t applied to activities like sleep and eating). If you normally don’t plan your every waking moment, avoid feeling over-scheduled by starting with a timetable for just your daily study and working up from there.
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