Harry S. Truman
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
Developing smart study habits or skills?
Whether we are learning at school or on the job, one thing is very clear: we need more than just effective study skills to keep us ahead of the pack and on top of the material we are required to learn. Don’t get me wrong, learning effective study skills is a very important component, however, study skills alone won’t make you a great learner. Your first and primary goal is to develop smart study habits that will naturally promote and enhance your learning experience. This post will discuss these habits in some detail and provide you some relevant suggestions and tips.
First we will take a look at setting up your ideal learning environment. We will identify the important characteristics that you must set into place, and provide you with effective guidelines that will naturally promote a deeper and more profound learning experience.
Secondly, we will explore the concept of well-being and help you to understand how to improve your study regime by incorporating healthy habits that will enhance your thinking and improve your energy levels.
Thirdly, we will break down the process of getting into an ideal learning state that will dramatically accelerate your learning potential. We will specifically take a look at things you must do and areas you should be focusing on prior to beginning your studies.
Finally, we will zoom-in on the benefits and process of taking regular study breaks. By the end of this discussion you should have a thorough and complete understanding of what it takes to create smart study habits that will naturally enhance and accelerate your ability to learn.
This post is for information purposes only. Please seek the guidance of your physician before undertaking any strenuous exercise or nutritional program.
Creating Your Ideal Study Environment
The environment you use for study purposes is as important as the study skills you utilize to help you accelerate your learning potential.
In this section of the mind map we will discuss some of the important characteristics of your study environment that you must attend to in order to create a supportive and healthy environment that will promote more effective learning.
Taking the time to set up your study environment, will assist you immeasurably with developing smart study habits.
Your Environment Must…
Your study environment must promote ease and relaxation, however not so much that it puts you to sleep. 😉
Creating a relaxing environment involves a combination of visual, auditory, gustatory and physical objects that naturally relax and promote a deeper state of learning.
Your environment should also motivate and inspire you to reach new heights and levels of learning excellence. This may involve hanging up inspirational photos or setting up your environment with tools and materials that make you more efficient and effective throughout the learning cycle. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to spice up your environment, as long as it helps to motivate, inspire and promote your personal growth and well-being.
Here is a list of characteristics that you must focus on in order to create an ideal study environment that will promote relaxation, motivation, inspiration and personal growth:
Low in Stress
First of all, you must remove all stress inducing stimuli from your environment. This could be physical objects, sounds, smells and anything else that distracts you or causes feelings of stress and uneasiness. Particularly pay attention to colors. Very bright colors such as reds and yellows naturally stimulate thinking, however they can also trigger higher levels of stress on an unconscious level of awareness.
Dark colors such as blacks, dark grays and browns are probably the most unwelcome colors if you desire to improve your focus and concentration. If the walls or objects within your study environment are predominantly made up of these colors, then you are doing your brain an injustice, and making learning far more difficult than it should be.
Your study environment must be authentically pleasing to your senses.
Studies have shown time and again that the most ideal colors that promote prolonged learning are pastel blues and greens. These are very calming and soothing colors that will help keep you inspired and focused. In addition they can also promote and encourage creative thought.
Setting up an authentically pleasing study environment also goes back to the concept of motivation and inspiration. If for instance you find inspiration within the natural wonders of our mother earth, then set up your environment accordingly with pictures and paintings of beautiful panoramas, or simply purchase some indoor plants and strategically position them around your study area. Your imagination is your only limitation.
Enhances Personal Learning Style
For the purpose of this discussion it is important to understand that you have intrinsic personal study preferences that naturally enhance and accelerate your learning. Your environment must be designed in a way that naturally promotes and encourages your ability to learn using your personal learning style. This involves utilizing space and tools effectively, while organizing your environment sensibly in ways that makes learning a lot more fun and enjoyable.
Has Adequate Amount of Ventilation, Light and Water
The air we breathe, the light we receive and the water we ingest are vital and critical components to the human species. Without these three essentials we cannot function and will simply cease to exist.
If your study environment does not have adequate amounts of all three of these ingredients, then you will suffer the consequences with unproductive study time and ineffective learning habits.
The oxygen you inhale has to be of the highest quality. Sitting around in a stuffy environment will simply lead to a stuffy and foggy brain. Opening a window (even just a little bit) will go a long way towards improving your thinking.
Light is another critical component to effective learning. Essentially, you are looking for natural light that comes from the sun. If this light isn’t available, then a light box will do the trick.
If your environment is dark and murky it will accelerate the feelings of tiredness, procrastination and laziness. Therefore, always make sure that you have adequate natural lighting at all times.
When it comes to sunlight, don’t misconstrue this suggestion as meaning that you must have direct sunlight shining into your study environment. This isn’t the case. Instead, adequate amounts of indirect sunlight reflecting off other external objects is probably a better alternative.
Finally, don’t choke your body with caffeine or alcoholic drinks while you’re studying. Have a fresh jug of pure filtered water that is of room temperature on your table or desk at all times. Water is essential to counter dehydration of your brain. This is why it is very important to regularly sip water throughout your day to keep your mind fresh and active.
Spend some time organizing your environment from top to bottom in a way that will boost your productivity. An unorganized environment simply makes learning more difficult. Moreover, disorganization means that you must spend valuable time searching for things that have been misplaced or thrown away accidentally. This is pretty much the essence of procrastination, a deadly trap that sneaks up on us when we least expect it.
Clean up your environment today by finding a place for everything including books, stationary, materials, resources and anything else you need on hand to help improve your productivity and learning. You should essentially have all the tools you need for your studies at arm’s length.
Visit your local store and purchase some small containers, drawers, a file cabinet, and other small stationary materials that will dramatically improve your organization and systemization.
Treat your study environment as a small business that needs to be organized from top to bottom in order for it to function effectively and promote a deeper and more profound learning experience.
Soothing to the Ears and Nose
Your environment must promote a soothing and somewhat tranquil experience.
Your clarity of thought is either enhanced or distracted as a result of the smells and sounds that occupy your study environment. Take some time to really get to know your brain and determine what will sooth it into a deep state of learning. Also identify and find soothing music or natural environmental sounds that you could potentially play in the background as you study.
Conduct some further research into the power of smells and essential oils. Some essential oils are well known for their relaxation properties and naturally calm the mind and promote clarity of thought. Organizing some essential oils and an oil burner could well be one of the most intelligent decisions you make when it comes to creating your ideal learning environment.
Minimizing all Distractions
Sometimes it’s not so much what you add to your study environment that makes the biggest difference, it is rather what you remove from your environment that determines how successfully your study session unfolds.
Your environment should essentially be a distraction free zone. This means removing absolutely all people, noise, and visual distractions.
Remove people by closing your door, or at least shading yourself away from them in someway by using a curtain or something similar that will put a line of separation between you and these distractions.
Filter out all distracting external noises as much as possible. If you cannot remove these noises then simply fill your environment with music, nature sounds or even a tricking water fountain that will dull external noises and promote a deeper and more fulfilling learning state.
Finally, remove all moving distractions from your study environment. Anything that moves or shuffles around within your environment will distract you and pull you away from your ideal learning state. This could be people, pets, or even those little desk accessories that we tend to play with a little too often.
Your environment must be comfortable.
For the purpose of this discussion, comfort is created in three distinct ways. First of all the room temperature of your study environment must be comfortable and on the slightly cool side. The higher the temperature gauge rises, the lazier your brain becomes, and the more effort it takes to achieve your ideal learning state. A solution for this is to keep the temperature slightly on the cool side, encouraging you to wear more then just a t-shirt.
The second guideline for achieving comfort has to do with the clothes you wear while you are studying. Ideally your clothes should be loose, soft and smooth to the touch. If on the other hand you are wearing tight and harsh clothing, then this will likely slow down the circulation of blood to your brain and create discomfort and irritation.
Finally, make sure that your desk and seat are as comfortable as possible — allowing you to study for extended periods of time without too much trouble. If you get tired of sitting consider purchasing a height adjustable desk?
Creating a Sense of Well-being
There is no doubting that our health and well-being are closely tied to our clarity of thought. As such, within this section we will take a look at our mental diets, including the suppressants and stimulants that guide and transform our thinking patterns on a moment-by-moment basis. We will also delve into exercise and explore its benefits for your brain.
Common Thinking Suppressants
We must be very careful and aware not to fall into the habit of consuming foods and beverages that are likely to sabotage our study regime.
Here is a quick look at the types of foods and beverages you should avoid at all costs, including the pitfalls of not following this advice.
Within a few hours of undertaking your study regime, be sure to avoid consuming the following foods and beverages:
• Large meals
• White bread
All the above foods and beverages can sabotage your learning by promoting foggy thinking, sluggishness, limiting concentration levels, dulling your senses, and stimulating tiredness. Even though caffeine initially works as a stimulant to promote a greater clarity of thought, it however very shortly becomes a suppressant that dehydrates your body and leads you down a fatiguing spiral of ever deeper feelings of sluggishness.
Common Thinking Stimulants
Developing smart study habits requires a personal and intimate understanding of the body-brain connection, which allows you to make effective decisions that will naturally promote and improve your ability to think more creatively. Likewise, these stimulants also naturally promote and enhance your energy levels.
The following list of supplements and foods have been shown to improve thinking and encourage better concentration:
Vitamin A, B, E, Lecithin, Sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Chloride, Copper and Zinc, all work together to stimulate the brain and improve a person’s ability to think. However, please be aware that moderation is the key. In the meantime please consult with your nutritionist for further information and guidelines about the supplements that you should be taking to improve your thinking.
All veggies and fruits, proteins found in salmon, beans and meats are known for their stimulating effect on the thinking processes of the brain. Studies have actually shown that by eating the protein portion of your meals first, you will naturally enhance your ability to think.
Partaking in a Regular Exercise Regime
I’m sure we have all heard experts talking about the fundamental connections between the body and brain. Essentially what this means is that whatever you do to your body will affect your brain and your process of thinking. Consequently the thoughts that you feed your brain with will likewise influence your body in immeasurable ways.
For the purpose of building smart study habits, it is critical to understand the importance of exercise in promoting higher energy levels and a greater clarity of thought.
Exercise is an essential aspect of life that we must incorporate into our daily routine. It effectively improves your oxygen intake and releases unwanted tension and stress out of the body. Mixing up your weekly exercise routine with aerobic activity, strength training and stretching is the most sensible strategy to follow. Likewise, you should also be exercising your brain to enhance your thinking and memory.
Finding Your Ideal Learning State
Having already created your ideal learning environment and laid down the foundations for implementing effective well-being habits, you are now ready to delve head-first into the process of developing your ideal learning state to dramatically accelerate your learning ability.
Finding your ideal learning state is something that initially requires a little work, time and effort. However, once established you will be able to trigger this state in an instant and turn your mind and body into a very effective study machine.
Here are some suggestions that will get you started on the right track:
What to do Before You Begin Learning
It is very important to undertake the following steps before plunging head-first into your studies. Initially these steps might feel cumbersome, however over time they will become an important and integral part of your study regime that will strengthen your resolve and enhance the learning experience.
Settingsmart study goals is always the very first place to begin your journey towards mastering any subject area.
Your goals should be set by following the SMART FOR ME process of goal setting. Your goals must therefore be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed, focused, optimistic, ready, meaningful and exciting.
Following on from this, you should also put into place a rewards system that will help motivate you as you achieve the various steps of your goals successfully. Simply, reward yourself each time you move a step along your journey towards attaining your objectives. However, please be careful not to allow this reward process to distract you from your goal or from the remainder of the actions you must take to bring your objectives to fruition.
Once you have set your goals, it is a good idea to future-pace the outcome you will now be working towards. Do this by closing your eyes and seeing yourself already having achieved your goal at some point in the future. Now, gradually pace yourself back in time, slowly to the present moment while envisioning all the steps you took that allowed you to attain this goal.
Calm Your Mind and Relax Your Body
You have now set your goals, and are ready to begin submerging yourself into that ideal learning state that will effectively enhance your learning experience.
The first step is to learn to relax your body and mind. You will find it difficult to achieve your ideal learning state if your body is stressed or over stimulated with thoughts and unresourceful emotions. Your best and most ideal strategy is to take some time to calm your mind and body before undertaking the learning process. Do this by playing some calming background music while you sit or lie down quietly breathing deeply and bathing yourself fully within this moment of relaxation. Move through this process for about five minutes before proceeding to the next stage.
The Process for Creating an Ideal Learning State
As you enjoy the bliss of this relaxed state you now find yourself in, slowly bring to mind a positive and successful learning experience that you once went through. Make sure that this memory represents an empowering learning experience where you successfully overcame an obstacle or challenges that eventually lead to a positive and outstanding result — making you feel intelligent, creative and in control of your destiny.
Take the time to close your eyes and visualize this experience utilizing the power of all your senses. See what it was like, hear the sounds, feel the emotions, taste the aura of the moment and smell the scent of the feelings that made this learning experience stand-out in your mind. Now, take the time to intensify this experience even further by enhancing your sensory memory of this period in ways that will promote excitement and invigorate your body.
When you feel that you have achieved a peak emotional learning state — a moment where you are completely and utterly bathed within this learning experience — immediately create an anchor or trigger-word that you will use to instantly capture these feelings of learning at a later time.
An anchor is something that can be attached to your body. It is basically a place you tap or touch yourself each and every time you experience the feelings of this enhanced learning state.
At the same time while you are tapping your body, utilize a word to describe this experience such as yes or “I am in my zone“. Vocally shout this word or phrase as you tap or touch a part of your body — repeating for several minutes.
When this process is completed successfully, you will have entered your ideal learning state, which will promote a deeper and far more accelerated process of learning.
Each time you repeat this process you will enhance this memory, and eventually all you will need to do to put yourself into this enhanced and ideal learning state is simply trigger the anchor you originally created.
The simple act of touching or tapping this specific part of your body while verbalizing your trigger-word out loud, will automatically put you into your ideal learning state.
Keep practicing this process over-and-over again until your ideal learning state is automatically triggered by the anchors you create.
Prerequisites for Achieving an Ideal Learning State
Along with the process discussed above, there are also five other prerequisites that will assist you with getting into your ideal learning state.
Build Positive Expectations
In order to be successful with your learning, you must develop a sense of positive expectation and confidence about the material you are studying. To do this you must first convince yourself that this material will be easy to learn and master.
Build a Burning Desire
Developing an underlying burning desire that will keep you studying even when things turn sour, is a very important fundamental aspect that will help to boost your learning experience. The question you should be asking yourself here is:
What will I gain from learning this material?
Determining what you will gain from the subject you are about to study will keep you persisting forward when things get a little difficult or tough to handle.
Simply reflect on all the areas of your life and determine how this material will help to enhance these aspects of your life today, tomorrow and moving into the future.
Build Unstoppable Motivation
Developing unstoppable motivation is closely tied to the process of building a burning desire.
When it comes to enhancing your levels of motivation about a specific topic or subject area that you are about to study, begin by asking yourself:
How will learning this subject benefit me personally?
Again, here you are looking at both short and long-term benefits that are directly linked to your needs and wants.
Take a moment to close your eyes or simply jot-down on paper all the ways you will benefit from learning this information. Later on when you feel as though you are lacking in motivation, simply refer to this list and reflect on your notes seeing in your mind’s eye in vivid detail the benefits that this subject has for your current circumstances and future life experience.
Build a Sense of Anticipation
Building a sense of anticipation is a great strategy for fighting off the procrastination bug.
To develop anticipation you need to ask yourself:
Why is learning this material important for me?
Again, make a list of all the things you can think of that make learning this subject, topic or information worth your time and effort. The more detail you put into creating this list, the greater sense of anticipation you will build over the long-term.
Build Relevance to Your Life
Finally, before undertaking your studies, you must go through the process of making this material relevant to your life.
As we go through school we often fail to fully assimilate the information we learn because we simply do not see it as being relevant to our lives. However, by asking yourself the right kinds of questions, you can indeed build relevance, which means that the subject you are studying will be far more likely to be assimilated and integrated into your long-term memory.
To create relevance, simply ask yourself the following questions:
What do I already know about this material I am about to study?
What don’t I know, and what questions do I have about it?
What potential skills will I acquire by taking the time to learn this material?
How will these skills benefit me, and what will they allow me to do today and in the future?
How applicable is all of this to my life?
Importance of Taking Study Breaks
The final step along your journey towards creating smart study habits, is to acquire an understanding of the importance of incorporating regular study breaks into your study regime.
The following section will break down this process and provide you with a few suggestions that will point you in the right direction.
Study Break Benefits
Taking regular and planned study breaks is known to relieve tiredness while improving absorption of the material you are studying.
Your brain works much like a library cataloging information into relevant sections and topics as you absorb and learn new material. This is all well and good if we are learning in small and manageable chunks. However, the moment we begin flooding our brain with too much information at one time, is the moment when unfortunate congestion begins mess things up.
If you have ever experienced the feelings of overwhelm, then you know how frustrating this feeling can get, especially when prolonged feelings of overwhelm can lead to a lot of stress and procrastination.
Did you know that your brain remembers absolutely everything that you ever see, hear, touch, taste and smell? Yet, most of this information is never correctly cataloged into relevant topics and categories that make it easy to remember and recall.
The major benefit of taking study breaks is that it allows the brain time to order and organize the information you are learning into small manageable chunks that can then be located and recalled at a future time.
The Study Break Process
Here is a simplified version of the ideal study break process.
You may feel at times that you do not need to take a break, or that you simply do not have time to step away from your studies. However, keep in mind that study breaks are not designed to be taken when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed. Instead, they should be taken before the feelings of overwhelm or fatigue take control of your body and mind.
Study breaks are designed as a tool to keep your body and brain fresh in ways that will improve long-term memory and help better categorize the information you are learning for more effective memory recall.
Here is a quick three point break down of the process:
Study for 25 minutes
Studies have shown time and again that the human brain cannot fully concentrate on a specific topic for extended periods of time over 20 to 25 minutes.
Even though throughout your study regime you may feel as though you are still within your learning zone, you may in fact be slowly moving out of that zone, and therefore becoming gradually less focused and productive as the minutes tick by. However, if you chunk your study time into 25 minute blocks, you will find that your brain will be far more centered, relaxed and focused as a result.
Another reason to keep your study chunks to no more then 25 minutes, is because we naturally tend to remember and recall most of the information we learn at the beginning and at the very end of our study chunks. This means, that if you extend your study chunks to over 60 minutes, then there will likely be more information within the middle of this study chunk that is likely to be misplaced or forgotten.
Take a Break for 5 minutes
Your breaks should be no longer then five minutes. Here you want to take a break from your studies, however you don’t want to distract yourself from them.
Your break must be utilized in ways that will settle your mind and effectively allow you to integrate the information you have just learned during your most recent study chunk.
While taking a break you could lie down with your head slightly tilted towards the ground (this will allow for more blood to flow to your brain). In this relaxed position simply close your eyes and allow your mind to just gently drift over the material you have been learning. It is important not to try and force yourself to remember what you were studying, but rather watch your thoughts as though observing clouds passing by through the sky. Incorporating deep breathing exercises will further enhance this process and allow you to better assimilate the information you have been learning.
The second option you have is to simply take a walk and remove yourself from your study environment. However, it is important not to distract yourself by watching television, listening to the radio or talking with others. Just walk quietly and gently reflect on the information you have just learned.
Conduct a Review for five minutes
When you get back to your studies it is critical that you do a quick five minute review of the material you studied during your most recent study chunk. This will further help to assimilate this subject into your long-term memory.
Please do not overlook the importance of this five minute review, as it is an absolutely critical component of the learning process.
As a final thought, you should also conduct a longer 25 minute review of the material after you have successfully cycled through five study chunks.
In this day and age, developing smart study habits is no longer a choice, it is rather a prerequisite and an essential complimentary process to effective and accelerated learning. You will gain in extraordinary ways by physically taking the time to develop these smart study habits and incorporating them into your study regime. They will not only better prepare your mind for the process of learning, but will also unquestionably transform your personal approach to thinking about what you are learning.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any further thoughts, ideas, reflections or suggestions about this topic, than please feel free to comment below.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Would you like to keep these concepts at the forefront of your mind? If so, then you might like to download the accompanying mind map reference poster to your iPad, tablet or computer. The map presents you with a quick overview of this article. It’s designed specifically to help improve your memory and recall of this information so that you can better integrate these concepts into your daily thoughts, habits and actions. Your purchase will also go a long way towards supporting the further development of these maps.
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Here’s some DOODLEspiration…
Below you will find a little doodle that we’ve prepared for you to help keep some of the ideas discussed within this article at the forefront of your mind. Use it as a desktop background or download and share some DOODLEspiration with your family and friends. 🙂
Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 5 Habits of Great Students @ Washington Post
- 10 Highly Effective Study Habits @ Psych Central
- Several Lessons to be Learned from the Finnish School System @ Open Education
- The Ultimate Student Resource List @ Lifehack
- 12 Tips to Improve Your Study Habits Next Term @ Pick the Brain
- 10 Online Learning Tools for Students @ Make Use Of
- 10 Web Tools to Save Your Butt in School @ Make Use Of
- 3 Tools to Conduct Better Research on the Internet @ Make Use Of
- 35 Tools for Teachers, Tutors & Students @ Mashable
- Developing Good Study Habits Really Works @ Psychology Today
- Study Smarter Not Harder: What Successful College Students do Differently @ Psychology Today