How to Study Well (Regardless of What it is You're Studying!)

Getting work done is vital to your academic career, whether it be revising for exams, doing homework or writing projects. While your mental approach to these activities should be very different, they all suffer from the same looming bugbears: tiredness, lack of concentration and the urge to procrastinate. To combat these demons, here's a list of things you can do to improve your studying, regardless of your preferred study techniques.

Work in a different environment

This is an important one. Mixing leisure environments (living room, bedroom etc) with working invariably leads to distractions and low productivity. Having a 'work' area, whether it be a library, cafe, classroom or even a different home seating arrangement will help you get in the 'zone' to work.

Keep hydrated

Sounds silly, but this is actually one of the most important points on the list. The brain is a surprisingly fragile organ, and requires decent hydration to remain fully functional. Have a glass/bottle of water on hand at all times, and remember to take regular sips. Better to be over-hydrated (see next point) than to start zoning out from thirst.

Breaks every 20 minutes

20 minutes is the average duration of constant concentration a mind can keep up before it starts flagging. Standing up and having a small potter around is all you need do: the movement will aid blood flow and will refresh your ability to concentrate. If revising, it will also give your mind time to absorb the information you've just been looking at before moving on to something else.

Change content around

This is related to the last point. Sometimes it's helpful to change the actual content you're studying, for a change of scene, pace and thought process. For example, if you're studying a language: instead of doing a five-hour burn on vocab memorisation, mix it up with grammar, reading and listening. You'll be using different parts of your brain (giving the previously-used parts a breather) and won't become bored.

Coffee, if necessary

This is a controversial one, laden with cultural attitudes and perceptions. Scientific studies on the positive or negative effects of coffee are mixed and inconclusive. One thing is certain, however: the caffeine the drink contains is a sure-fire way to revitalise concentration and energy, improves reaction time and short-term memory recall. If you're studying to a deadline it will help you no end.