You want to be an A grade student but you’re also your own worst enemy. Stringing your study sessions together as the days and weeks roll by? The hardest thing on earth…
Don’t worry. I know that feeling all too well. Back in the day, before I discovered the following techniques, I was probably the world’s worst for consistently hitting the books. But eventually I got things together, even becoming a med student in the process!
And in this article I’m going to who show you how. Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Simple tips and tricks you can use to show up to study everyday
- The principles of deep work and maximum study efficiency
- Why most study advice is typically wrong
Ready to learn more? Let’s go.
Here’s how best to study consistently…
First things first, you’re going to want to set yourself a very clearly defined goal.
“I want to accomplish X in this study period.”
It could be a certain amount of flashcards, pages read (and notes made), practice questions attempted etc. The important thing is that’s tangible and achievable. And that you stop once it’s done.
I generally always advise people to write this down and keep it visible while studying. That’ll help do two things; 1) keep you focused on the task and 2) remind you of the end point.
Something extra to add to your goal setting that can help with consistency is reminding yourself of your why…
- What are these study sessions for?
- What does that big picture look like?
Often visualizing this in your own mind at the start of each session is like rocketfuel for helping you study longer hours.
Break It Up
It’s much more effective to break your study goals into chunks rather than cram sessions. There is also plenty of evidence that suggests spacing your sessions out helps better with long-term recall (source).
Consistency is all about showing up. Again and again. You’ll do that best when your energy levels are stable.
Not when you’ve been up the whole night fueled on energy drinks to get you through.
This is why scheduling is one of the most powerful of tools when it comes to putting in the work.
Looking at your day and understanding all your time commitments, then planning your study sessions around that, goes a long way to ensuring you’ll keep it up.
When you know a certain time period is dedicated to study, and that time either side of that is reserved for other things, you’ll be encouraged to follow through.
Hardest/Most Boring Task First
One more thing that can make all this even more powerful is scheduling the hardest (or most boring) task first.
Knocking that off your list early can help renew energy levels as you know it’s (relatively) all down hill from here.
For the top students that means using active recall techniques first. These techniques, although challenging and tough, are where most of your study gains will come from.
Interleave/Switch Up Subjects
It’s really hard to stay consistent with your studies when you’re laser focused on one topic. It won’t be long until you exhaust yourself thinking or answering questions on that one thing and your mind starts moving away.
Novelty can help massively here. Plan your sessions so you dip into several different areas or topics in a single sitting. That way you’ll keep things fresh enough.
Deep work is a principle from Cal Newport’s excellent book of the same name. It’s all about getting maximum efficiency from your work/study sessions.
In a nutshell it’s a philosophy that draws on most of the tips already explained; scheduling, tackling difficult tasks first, engaging in active recall (where the 80/20 rule is) etc.
It ensures your sessions aren’t wasted. Something that’ll keep you motivated to keep coming back day after day.
Cut All Distractions
One of the core aspects of deep work is eliminating all possible distractions.
You can do this by:
- Killing access to all your digital devices
- Completely unplugging from the internet
- Isolating yourself in a study space where nobody can interrupt you
You get the idea.
Doing this, even for short periods of time, is huge for productivity. The more productive you get, the easier it’ll be to keep going. Procastination gives way to consistency.
Without rewarding yourself how are you ever going to approach studying with anything but resentment?
Just like in a job you’d get rewarded with a salary (with the hope of getting you to come back and do more work), so it’s the same with study.
You need to make sure you finish each session with something you like doing.
Scaling this down into smaller rewards, like in breaks between pomodoro sessions, is another way to work it. The treat will reinforce your hard work and encourage you to step up to the plate again.
Finally, the last way to keep consistency up is to let yourself recap exactly what it is you achieved (or failed to do) during each session.
Making a quick note on what it is you got done (and have left to do) is amazingly useful. You’ll know exactly what to get started on during your next session and you’ll jump faster into it as a result.
This is another reason why I love plug-ins like Anki’s heatmap review. They do this reflection for you.
Hopefully the tips above can help show you that staying consistent is well within your grasp!
Should I be obsessed with studying?
Getting obsessed with studying and refining your methods can definitely help when you’re first starting out. Personally speaking however, there is a point of diminishing returns! If you’re obsessed about the process rather than actually doing the work, then it’s just procrastination at that point…
Obsession is a double-edged sword. It can help you learn a lot in the beginning (and develop effective systems) but can quickly turn to distraction if you let it.
How to study for hours with concentration
Forget these YouTube students who’ll tell you they can ‘study 100 hours straight without stopping bla bla’. It’s total rubbish. Clickbait designed to get you watching.
There are limits to how long you can study with focus and concentration. How can there not be when you’re a human being needing energy to live?
A couple of ways to prolong that time though are to address that problem directly. So, do things like the following:
- Ensure you get enough sleep (7-8 hours every night)
- Stay hydrated
- Stay well-fed with healthy food sources
- Be conscious of your caffeine and sugar intake (watch out for those energy-depleting spikes)
And, oh yeah, practice all the tips we talked about above!
How to study 16-18 hours a day?
Don’t. It’s ineffective, inefficient and could have serious impacts on your long-term health. Study consistently, in smaller periods (with greater focus), instead.
How to study without feeling sleepy?
Avoid caffeine, sugar and studying near to the hours you’d typically be winding down to go to sleep. Deep Work suggests the mornings are optimal for the most productive work. They’re also the time when you’re usually most free from distraction too.
How can I force myself to study?
By employing the tips above; being clear with your objectives, reinforcing your sessions with fun/leisure and understanding your why (your reason for studying in the first place).
Forcing yourself with masochistic self-talk, although it might work for some, probably isn’t all that effective long-term.
How to study for long hours at night?
I’d avoid doing so but if you really don’t have any choice then stimulants will obviously help. Coffee and sugar baby.
Final Thoughts: How To Study Consistently
Successful studying, for the most part, isn’t about finding some game-changing hack. It’s about systems and processes. Things designed to keep you coming back that help you make slow but consistent progress over time.
Hopefully this article has given you some nice ideas how!
If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following articles useful:
- 10 Powerful Study Techniques Like The Pomodoro Method (Useful Alternatives)
- Coffee Before Exams? (Everything You Need To Know About Studying With Caffeine)
- Ali Abdaal Guide – Medicine’s YouTube Star Making $1M+ Annually
Image Credit: @Jess Bailey at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.