Hey guys, what is up, welcome once again to another article in the series Lifehacks. We want you to develop all sorts of skills that will enable you to become more succesful in life. In a day an age where an explosion of information has taken place, we think it is vital for you to understand how to navigate through these seas of information. For this, we are going to talk about how to study effectively. We have a video and a summary for your convinience. Enjoy!


How to Study Effectively: Tip 1

The first tip I have for you is: Get the right motivation.

The truth is, if you have the right motivation to study, then that is already sufficient to become successful in your area of expertise. So why should you be motivated to study, or to learn new things at all? I would like to refer to Aristotle right now, perhaps the most brilliant person that has ever lived, who defined man as the rational animal. What makes us different from all other people is the fact that we are rational, and they are not. What does it mean to be rational? Well, it means that we don’t have to listen to our emotions all the time, and instead can use reason to make decisions. For example, us humans can eat things that we don’t necessarily like in order to stay healthy. Animals can’t really make this rational decision. Animals can’t really do this. When was the last time you heard a giraffe say, hey Lucy, I’ve put on a few pounds, no more sugar for me!

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Buste of Aristotle

Using reason is all about using information to help make decisions. You can make better decisions in life if you have more knowledge ready at hand. In the introductory video of Lifehacks I said that little things matter. To become really good in something you need to do many little things right. All the little things that you know contribute to your decision making processes every day. The more you know, the broader the perspective is from which you can view things, and will help you make better decisions.

For example, before I started out at university, I always fell for those clickbait articles on the internet. I would always start to read the snippet that is supposed to lure you in, and then I would always click on it, read the entire thing and become disappointed in the end that it was not so great as they made me believe. This is in fact the strategy that clickbait has, the end product doesn’t matter that much. They just want to lure you into the page and make you look at other advertisements, that is how they earn money. They don’t care if their actual content is of high quality. When I began studying communication and media I started to learn this, and in general what kind of strategies media has to grab our attention. This has given me the strength and willpower to fight these urges that media induces on us.

This is one example of how learning new stuff can help you change your life for the better. But the thing is, every little bit helps out. Really, everything you learn helps make you a more wise and strong person. If you just know this fact, that every little thing matters, and that everything you learn contributes to making you a more complete human being, then in my view it is not really hard to find the motivation to study or learn new things. It is in my eyes the key to a happy life. It is in our nature to learn things and become wise, as a rational being. So why not do it? And when it becomes a habit, it won’t even cost energy anymore, it is just something fun you do, like watching movies.

How to Study Effectively: Tip 2

The second one is: do the most difficult or important things in the morning.

This is because of this thing called willpower. Our willpower sorta works like a battery throughout the day. When we just wake up, our batteries are fully charged and ready to go. And as the day progresses, your batteries become more and more drained, you become more tired and stuff, and then it becomes really difficult to the things that matter the most.

Let’s take a very easy example, let’s say that you want to do two things on a day. One is to watch 5 episodes of your favorite show, which will take around 5 hours. You also need to study for an exam tomorrow, and you estimate that you still need around 5 hours of studying to get a good grade. Now what is the order in which you should do these activities?

If you are awake and had breakfast and stuff at around 10:00, and first start out with watching your show, then you will be done around 15:00. You probably need to get dinner started soon, so you hang out, maybe do some chores and then cook and eat dinner. Eventually you will start around 18:30 and still have 5 hours to go.

Now this would be a disaster for your ability to study! Your willpower was at a 100% in the morning but now it is drained to around 50%. You muster up the power to work an hour or two, but then the willpower is at 20% and you are like never mind, I can afford one failing grade. Then you stop at around 22:00, hang out a bit more and go to sleep. Contrast this with starting immediately with studying at 10:00 in the morning with 100% willpower, and then being done at 15:00 with 25% willpower left. You don’t need much more than that to cook a meal, do some chores around the house and to watch your favorite tv show. In fact, you probably need 0% willpower to watch tv, or do any other relaxing activity. That is the whole point of relaxing, you do it because you worked and need to unwind.

And the Final Tip of the Day

The last one is: take breaks.

You are far more focused and have more ability to work hard if you frequently take breaks. In one hour of studying, you should in general be relaxing for around 15 minutes. You can organize these minutes in any way you want. You can take them all at once, or take two smaller breaks of around 7 or 8 minutes. I usually vary between the two. Lately I also experimented with the following strategy: take 5 minutes of breaks every hour, and then take a long break after 2.5 hours of work. I have to say, that this works as well!

The thing is, if you don’t take breaks the following will happen. You will study for around an hour, then you will start to become a bit impatient, and then skip a few parts. You will be like, ah I know this already, skip. And then you start skipping more and more until finally you say ah I know this stuff already, I’m good. But you don’t really know all the theory, it is just a clever way of your brain to deceive you to not do any more work. In the end you will fail your exam and not even no why. But I studied! I knew everything! Well, not really.

Taking a break is also really good for your brain to consolidate what it has learnd. You can only cram a limited amount of information in your head in an hour or so. Then you need to give your brain the time to process the information, and make connections to other things you already know. Otherwise you are only piling on something which is already full, and this will not be an effective way to study at all.

Further Reading

Learn more about willpower.


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