Most people try to study smarter by being more productive. However sometimes trying to be more productive just isn’t enough. You only have a limited attention span you can spend studying each day – here’s a few simple tricks to help you get the most out of it.

Your attention span is like an elastic band – you can only stretch it so much before it snaps. That’s why if you don’t take regular breaks whilst studying, you’ll find yourself crashing early on and unable to do any more work. You’ve got to work out when you are at your most attentive, and do your hardest work then. Your attention span can be divided into three phases: really active, active, and inactive. In your really active attention span, you are on top of your game and feel like you can work hard and get a lot done with few distractions. In your active attention span, you are working at a fairly average level with a greater risk of distraction. In your inactive attention span, you feel like you can’t concentrate on anything except for simple tasks.

All of us go through each of these three attention span phases during the day. However, we usually flick between each of these phases at roughly the same time every day. That’s why some of us do our best work late at night, whereas others prefer to get up early and study in the morning. The trick is to work out your attention span schedule. Sit down for a few minutes, and think about the different times of the day and when you work best. It doesn’t have to be an exact science – even morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, evening and night will do. You should have a fairly good idea of your attention span phase at each of these times. Now, all you have to do is plan your work so you are doing the hardest work that needs the most attention during your really active attention phase, and so on.

Divide all your work into these three categories. Do things such as planning, exam prep, and revision in your really active phase. Things such as homework can be done in your active phase, and save your inactive phase for things such as packing your bag for the next day, organising your notes, etc.

Using your attention span in this way is a really simple but effective way to study smarter. You’ll not only end up getting more done, but the standard of your work will also be higher. Work with your brain, not against it!

This post was one of a study series written by Jenny Pollock

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