Location, Location, Location
So far in this series, we have talked about why you need to review and how to fit that review into your schedule. This post talks about the setting for your study time. We all know that certain settings encourage certain behaviors. When you walk into an auditorium during a performance, you try to enter quietly and not interrupt the event. When you walk into a party, you greet the others there and join in the fun. You don’t play baseball at the dinner table. Okay, that last one was a little extreme, but I had three boys and yes, it can happen. The point is make an intentional decision about where you study.
When you have a specific place that you use each time you study, your brain knows when you go there that you are ready to work. If you study sitting on your bed, your brain is confused. Are we getting ready to sleep or is this Shakespeare that I am reading important? There is a lot of material that you learn in school that requires specific attention and is not super engaging. Don’t send mixed messages to your brain.
Don’t multitask. Students today have so many distractions that are part of their everyday lives. Not only do they have to deal with the interruptions inherent in their environment, messages and notifications constantly pop up on their cell phones and computer screens. Finding a quiet place to focus can be quite a challenge but in order to get the most impact for time spent, a quiet place is exactly what is needed. When students are working on a lesson on their computer, it is important to turn off notifications from other applications. Each time a little box with a text pops up, a student’s attention is diverted and has to be re-established. I recommend setting a timer. Start with 15 minutes. Gather the material you need for a lesson and then turn off all other sources of input. When the timer goes off, check your texts or whatever else you need to do then get back to work. Gradually increase the time between interruptions. It is important to take a break every once in a while. Your brain is like a muscle. It needs rest too.
Setting and Supplies
We have talked about not sending mixed messages and blocking out interruptions. The last condition for a good study space is to make sure your space is comfortable and has all the materials you need at hand. If you are constantly getting up to get a pencil, calculator, ruler or whatever else you may need, you are wasting time and prolonging your studies. Make a list of what supplies you will need. Have them at arm’s reach. Check your supplies at the beginning of each week and restock as necessary. Now when you sit down, you will be able to complete your studies without interruption. Your time will be efficient and effective. Make sure your space is comfortable and conducive to study. The kitchen table at dinner time is probably not a good choice. You need adequate desk or table space, a comfortable chair (remember not so comfortable as to encourage a nap), good lighting and quiet. If your space is uncomfortable you won’t be able to focus. If the lighting is poor, you will get sleepy and if there are noise distractions you won’t be able to focus.
So far in this series we have discussed the need for review, how to fit review into your schedule, and the need for a specific location in which to do your review. In my next post I will discuss various methods for studying and why variety is important.