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Getting down to study

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 possibly can.

Getting Started

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.

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.

Suggested Visualisation

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!

“He who has begun has half done. Dare to be wise; begin.”

Horace