… And (just as importantly) how to actually remember what you learned in that time.
Sometimes you might (accidentally of course) leave a lot of exam revision for the last moment and be forced to cram. Or maybe you really just want to see some good results. Either way, there are are some things you can do to help yourself succeed during a mammoth study session.
Before we get too much into the specifics of how you can study for a long period of time — keep in mind it’s not all about the long 14+ hour grinds. You might be more effective in studying for shorter periods.
Whether you’re studying in the last hours or even weeks before an exam what really matters is how good you are at learning (and retaining) information. Studying is not about how long you spend looking at a book or a computer screen. We’ve covered studying tips before on how to get the most out of your sessions and I know I keep saying it – but it’s because it needs to be said.
But let’s get on to looking at how you can keep your focus while studying – assuming you’re going for the longer grinds.
Firstly, I’m assuming most peoples struggle is actually finding the willpower to start a marathon session like this. Finding the motivation for studying is a bit like riding a bike or lifting weights in a gym. The more you do it – the easier it becomes.
Motivation is fickle. Fleeting. The right track and a good coffee might get you through for an hour or two (a good time to get started) but it isn’t motivation you want for studying long hours. It’s willpower. It’s a lot easier for someone to study long hours when they’re already used to studying longer hours.
If you’re not a battle-hardened library warrior you’re going to need some extra effort to get started. But I can at least tell you it will get easier. And if you do resort to coffee – try and avoid the sugar-loaded options. They’re also great for the start but come with a sugar crash later on.
Breaks – The Obvious and Not So Obvious
We all know we should be taking breaks when studying. I mean, this isn’t news. Nobody is stopping the presses here.
But there are things you can do to make it more productive.
Studies have shown that losing your attention to a task costs you more than the moment it takes to look at your phone for example. It takes on average 20 minutes for you to get back to your original attention level if you were deep in thought.
So limiting yourself to only checking your phone on your breaks (I mean come on – we know you want to check those notifications) will help remove the urge not to do it more.
But, sitting around on your phone for your whole break isn’t really ideal. Ideally (if you can really muster the self-control) you’d keep the phone off the whole time and spend your breaks exercising. Yep, making a tough day tougher.
But exercise (even if it’s just a walk around the block) is proven time and time again to improve your mental performance, both long and short term.
It also gives your mind a chance to make use of the subconscious to work on concepts or problems which might have been plaguing you. We’ve all had that moment in the shower or walking along the street when your brain suddenly spits a solution at you – it’s because when you’re not taxing your prefrontal cortex you give this a chance to do the job it’s meant to do.
Tailor YOUR Studying
What works for one person might not always work for another so a little playing about to see what works for you is generally a good idea.
For example, it’s a complete myth that you’re better to study early in the morning. Absolutely disproven time and time again. Some people are more effective studying at night and this can be for both internal and external reasons – so I absolutely stress (again, as I do all the time) it’s worth experimenting with your studying routine to adapt it constantly.
But toppers have some great advice on what they do and it’s worth listening to and trying for yourself.
Akshay Shastri had this great tip I love to share:
From November 2016 to November 2017, I continuously studied for 15 hours (give or take). Hame tab hi kaam karte hai jab pichwade pe aag lagti hai.
Meaning — We only work hard when we have fire up our ass.
I was pursuing Chartered Accountancy, one of the toughest exams in India, undoubtedly. Everyone in my friends circle studied for the same amount of hours I studied. Everyone concentrated 15 hours a day easily, the formula is hereunder.
Can I assume that you have the utmost will to clear whatever exams you are putting your hours for? This assumption is important. Because everyone I know who cleared had fulfilled this assumption.
Time Management and Planning are the key to success.
You have 24 hours in a day, sleep for 7 hours. I used to sleep for 6 hours. I was inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger. I saw a video on Goalcast, where he mentioned that to succeed, he used to put more hours. He used to sleep 6 hours which is enough, if not then sleep faster. I used this approach. In the beginning I wouldn’t lie, I was little tired. But I knew studies are necessary and this is my little sacrifice for that prestigious degree.
So now 24–7 = 17 hours left.
Wake up at 5:45 am precisely, get ready by 6 a.m.
Study from 6 am to 8:30 a.m. Have breakfast : 15 mins (max).
Study from 8:45 am to 1:45 pm : 5 Hours continuously. In a closed room, only have a bottle of water with you and strictly no cellphones, laptops, tablet or any other electronic devices. Don’t worry you can do it.
Take a break, have lunch from 1:45 to 2:30 pm.
Resume studies from 2:30 till 6:30 pm. Take a brisk walk and enjoy nature for half an hour. I regularly use to do it. I use to go for a walk in a nearby park listening to Eminem,various motivational podcasts.Sometimes funny stand ups. My mind was free of all the clutters of studies. I never used to think about studies for that half hour at all.
Resume again from 7 pm to 8:30 pm. Have dinner from 8:30 to 9:00 pm.
Resume your studies from 9:00 pm till 11:00 pm. Go to sleep at 11:00 pm and continue again everything the next day.
So in total you had 17 hours (after deducting sleep from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am).
17 hours — 15 mins (breakfast)- 45 mins (much needed break & lunch) — 30 mins(Brisk walk : extremely necessary) — 30 mins ( dinner) = 15 hours.
Have WILLPOWER and that fire under your ass to succeed.
Nothing can stop you and you will have full concentration when you have that single goal in your mind.
What you get done is far more important than how long you study for. If you’re efficient with your studying techniques you can get more done in 2 hours than in 20. So before anything else take an hour or two to improve your studying ability and you’ll avoid wasting a lot of time. Better studying results in less work? Too good to pass up.
One of the easiest ways to do this is brushing up on your memory and improving your ability to learn faster. You know who’s a master at this kind of thing? Chess players. I’m not suggesting you go and learn chess at the level of a grandmaster (unless you have a spare decade) but, luckily, a grandmaster has an audiobook ‘Unlimited Memory’ — which you can download for free with Amazon’s Audible.
It’s about 2.5 hours long but, since it’s an audiobook, you can listen when you go to bed or something. I guarantee it’ll change the way you study and even if you cancel Amazon lets you keep the entire audiobook. You can download it here.