Time doesn’t always have value for young adults–summers feel endless, the clock couldn’t tick any slower as you’re waiting to get out of your least favorite class. Time can even be wasted!
But at the end of your high school journey, and when you’re thinking about college plans, it’s important to continue (or start) treating it like a valuable resource–something that can run out. The first thing you can do to initiate this process is to do things efficiently.
In technical terms, efficiency is “the ratio of the useful work performed by a machine to the total energy expended or heat taken in.” A car that is very efficient, for instance, will go a farther distance with less gas in the tank. And although it may sound like a scary concept, the more efficient of a machine you are, the better you’ll feel about your college plans. And, the more work you can get done in a small amount of time, the more time you have to focus on other meaningful activities.
Here are four ways you can maximize your efficiency in your study routine.
1. Observe When and Where You Have the Most Focus
Some students need a certain amount of activity around them to keep their focus–such as light chatter, street noises, low music, etc. Psychological research indicates that listening to music with lyrics and vocals will add an extra stress on the brain–so avoid listening to your favorite songs. Instead, try to get your work done at a coffee shop or in the dining room at your house. You can even try reading outdoors, if this is relaxing.
Other students can’t have any distractions at all. If they hear even a pin drop, they’ll lose it! In these cases, it’s best to stay at home in your room. Even a library may be distracting since it’s open to the public and there will always be some kind of activity.
But more importantly than this, everyone varies in when they have the most focus. Typically, people have the most focus a half an hour to an hour after they eat a meal when their blood sugar is the highest. Others prefer to use a meal as their goal post, working harder and faster while they dream of their lunch. If you are the most alert in the mornings, this will be to your advantage–try to get work done for an hour before you go to school. If you’re a night owl, be careful of not staying up too late–this can back you up the next school day.
2. Do all That You Can in One Sitting
Taking the time to get all of your books out, getting to your study destination, and mentally preparing yourself to work is all a part of your study time. This is why it’s important to take advantage of your momentum–if you’re on a roll, ride it out for as long as you can. This can mean working for three hours straight–and when you’re hanging out with your friends, you’ll thank yourself for it.
3. Take Breaks
Research in study techniques has shown that working in one hour increments with ten minute breaks in between is the most efficient way to get things done. The brain can get overloaded if it’s given too much information–and if you don’t give it a break, you may just forget everything you’ve studied! This is why “cramming” is also a bad idea.
4. Be Realistic About Your Study Goals
It’s very easy to be optimistic about how much you can get done–you can simply say to yourself, “I’ll get all that done. Whoot.” But when creating your schedule, be realistic about what you can get done and when. Time yourself when you study–record how much time it takes to complete a page of writing or a math assignment. Don’t feel pressured to be a total machine–you are human after all–but becoming efficient will take you further down the road for your college plans.