First day of school – that one day you look like your life’s all put together. Studying is sometimes a big pain especially if you just hate the subject. But don’t escape your way out of school, don’t forget that you need this education. So instead of sulking and trying to memorize your way to freedom, here are some productivity tips to improve your studying.

While in school, write! And write the way you think.

When I first got into college, I would bust out my best notebooks and ballpens ready to take note of every single thing my prof would say. That was short-lived because I figured I could just bring my laptop and type my way to success. When lectures became too difficult to follow even through typing, I would just use my phone to record the lecture.

The problem was I just didn’t retain anything. The ideas seem to all be stuck on just the surface of my brain waiting to be used for a quiz or something then completely forgotten right after I pass my paper. What about comprehensive finals?

You don’t have to write every single thing like a machine. Write in a way that’s meaningful to you – maybe write the way you think or talk. This will make sure you understand the topic in your way of thinking. You don’t have to pressure yourself to write neatly.

Note down the whys and hows. The whats and whens usually show up on Google anyway, at least for most of them. And while you’re writing, include questions you have for the topic. These are questions you can ask your teacher or ask yourself while you’re studying.

While studying, make a flowchart

Just organize one thing while studying – your thoughts. For oral exams, I make a pretty comprehensive flowchart. It keeps track of the sequencing of ideas for better understanding. This is also great for people who are more visually engaged since it uses both images and words to follow a certain topic.

For this, I usually use the course outline as a guide. Per topic, I write maybe 2-3 sentences and then branch them out accordingly remembering how to transition from one topic to another.

Flowcharts can be done wherever you’re most comfortable. You can do them through Powerpoint, Canva, or Google Slides. I personally draw them by hand on a big piece of paper because I retain more information when I write them by hand.

I know some people who use Post-Its and a whiteboard so they can move ideas from one end to another. This is also so they can keep track of the topics they already fully understand and those that need a bit more work.

Reset your brain

I talked about this in a previous article but I’ll share it again. Remember that you brain can only take so much. Sure you can force overload the hell out of your brain folds but that would be unhealthy and it won’t really do much for productivity. After a good 15 or 20 minutes, make sure your brain gets rest for it to ‘reset’.

If you plan on not sleeping, take a 5 minute breather by doing something repetitive. Peel potatoes, color a whole page on a coloring book, or clean your room. It works the same way you get woke during a 15-minute shower. You occupy your conscious thinking with mundane activities as you let your subconscious take care of creative ideas. Alternatively, you can just walk around!

Keep a very specific to-do list

I keep a bullet journal because nothing really happens if my thoughts aren’t organized. I don’t really care if my books and notebooks are all over the place as long as I can organize my thoughts while studying, tbh. And so I don’t lose track of all the topics I have to cover, I keep a very specific to-do list. Keep the task short and concise, that way you can easily check them off the list once you’re done (a really satisfying feeling too). 

How specific? Well more specific than “Study for Math 11 Long Test” for sure. I start by listing down the difficulties I have with the topic. Remember the first point in this article when I suggested you write down questions you have for yourself while during class? This is where it all goes. Then list down all the topics for the quiz along with their subtopics.

Lost or just not a fan of lists? Use the course outline instead. Your specific to-do list will help you address all the subjects for the test and you won’t end up missing one and panicking.

Listen to podcasts

If for some reason you’re not cramming for the first time in forever, listen to podcasts. Podcasts are great sources of information if you’re looking for casual conversations on a certain topic. Some podcasts also provide student-friendly discussions so you will surely be able to understand some aspects of the topic you weren’t able to follow during class.

Philosophize This! provides simple explanations for daunting and mind-boggling theories. Its host has topics on Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, and Kant among many others. There are also podcasts for socially relevant topics like cultural appropriation. BFM Night School has great discussions on these and so do Ted Talks and Vox.

Best of all, podcasts like these are free on the iTunes Store.

Watch videos

Honestly, I have the attention span of a hamster and the memory of a goldfish. I study better with both visual and audio cues so I do end up just watching YouTube videos when reading books and handouts don’t work anymore.

YouTube channel Wisecrack uploads videos like 8-Bit Philosophy where they discuss philosophers as 8-Bit characters. It makes studying super fun and easy! The School of Life is also a great source for history and philosophy topics you found difficult in the classroom.

Make sure to actually take notes while watching and use this only as a supplement for your studying. YouTube doesn’t cover everything so please listen in class too!

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