You’re ready to start on your studies. This can be a daunting prospect. So far you’ve
managed to busy yourself with lots of other tasks, but now it’s not possible to hide
from the real thing any longer – the work is there, ready and waiting for you to
make a start.
So let’s look at the process of getting started, and how to make it as easy as we
Step 1 – Set Objectives
At the start of each session, you should set yourself your objectives, for example,
how long are you going to study for and what are you going to study? You’ll get these
objectives from your weekly study timetable that you’ve already produced (you have
produced one, haven’t you?). This is why having a timetable is so important – it
gives you targets to aim at, and gives you the direction you would otherwise lack,
helping you avoid that fear of the unknown.
And if you’ve got your weekly timetable right, you’ll have already built in some
subject variety and varying levels of difficulty to the session. If not, think about
how you can do this to avoid boredom setting in.
Step 2 – Organise Your Study Session Environment
Make sure you have everything around you that you need to study – paper, pens, pencils,
ruler, study manuals and textbooks, computer (if you’re using an e-learning type
approach), highlighting pens, calculator, whatever items are needed to get you through
the study period.
Then there is no excuse to go wandering off to find something you suddenly need when
things get tough during your studies.
And make sure the environment is the nearest to the ideal one that you can manage
– turn that TV off!
Step 3 – Organise Your Study Session Timings
Build In Breaks
You already know the amount of time you’ve allocated to study, because you’ve just
looked at your weekly timetable when setting your objectives. But it’s really important
that you don’t study for too long without a break. In fact, you should never study
for longer than 45 minutes without a break. So remember to build in these breaks
into your plans. Each one only needs to be 5 or 10 minutes long, just enough time
to take you away from your studies and allow your brain to switch off and relax.
Suggestions for Break Activities
In terms of the 5 to 10 minute breaks between each study period, here are a few ideas
to help you decide what you’re going to do during the break.
Listening to music
Making a drink
Short household tasks
Taking a short stroll
Playing a musical instrument
“Just doin’ nothing”
Wandering round the garden
The list is endless. Do whatever feels right.
Set Rewards as Carrots
Make sure as well that you’ve set yourself a reward for the end of the session if
you meet your objectives. It might be watching your favourite TV program, or having
that drink with your friend. This gives you something concrete to look forward to
if you complete your set objectives, and so a reason for not giving up if things
get difficult. Associating the completion of a study task with personal celebration
and reward makes the whole study process more pleasant, and so increases the probability
that you will continue your studies in the future.
Step 4 – Visualisation
The power of visualisation has been scientifically proven in countless experiments.
Use it to your advantage now.
You’re at your desk, materials around you, objectives set. Close your eyes, take
three or four deep breaths, and then for one minute use your imagination to create
an image in your mind’s eye of you studying successfully during the study period.
Use all your senses to create a vivid picture of you working. See the look of concentration
on your face, feel the paper and the pen in your hand, smell the distinctive aroma
of a highlighting pen as you mark important areas of your study text. Then imagine
a picture of you having successfully achieved your goals for the session, the look
of satisfaction on your face as you clear your materials away.
A Minute Well Spent
You need only take a minute or two to carry out this visualisation. Hardly a waste
of time in the grand scheme of things. Do it every time you sit down to study, and
it can help put you in the right frame of mind to start your studies positively.
Step 5 – Go!
At last – you can start!
Don’t Panic – The First Few Times Will Be The Hardest
Starting to study is a bit like starting a new diet – at first, it’s hard to be disciplined,
to know the plan and to keep to it every day. Everything’s new and unfamiliar, the
end seems a long way off, and there are lots of temptations to entice you off of
the path along the way.
Take heart though. As with dieting, getting down to your studies will eventually
become second nature and simply part of your life. You need to re-educate yourself
to do this in the same way dieters need to re-educate themselves in the way they
eat. Eventually it will become habit. Honest!
Step 6 – Record Your Progress
When you get to the end of your study session, record what you’ve done on your weekly
study timetable. Your timetable is invaluable in tracking your progress and allowing
you to control your studies effectively. So note down the time you’ve spent and
the subject areas you’ve spent it on.
And remember to give yourself that reward if you’ve met your objectives!