For most of my studying life, I’ve never been able to work anywhere near as long as many other people I know. After 2-3 hours, I would be exhausted, and once I stopped, that was it for the day.
However lately, I’ve managed to get masses of work done in one go, and stay productive without taking massive breaks. Here’s how I did it!
(Note- I was suddenly able to start working much more intensely once I’d been in treatment for mental illness for almost a year, so that may also be a factor. These are just things I did in addition to that minor little thing).
- Prepare for your work. This is key- without it you’re going into a day without a plan, and hence no structure. You can plan your day as rigidly or as loosely as you would like, so long as you know what you would like to cover. Personally, I use very loose plans, just choosing 3 main topics, or 1 large task for the whole day. I know some people plan when exactly they work, and if that works, great! I prefer to be flexible so I can do whatever work I most feel like at the time. Make sure to pack everything you need, or have it at hand.
- Move to a workspace that is isolated enough to protect you from distractions, comfortable enough that you can sit there for a few hours, and has plenty of space to put all of your stuff. Once you get here, get settled in, but do it quickly. Take out any materials you need for studying and start work pretty much immediately. Don’t get distracted by your phone or fun websites. Turn off or silence your phone, and block any distracting websites on your laptop, should you be using one (I like SelfControl for that).
- Once I get started working, I tend to work until my brain starts to feel fuzzy, and I can feel my focus slipping away. If you’re having trouble focusing in the first few minutes of work, don’t give up. Identify any distractions that are hindering your focus and think about what you could do to mitigate them. If I’m having problems focusing because friends are around, I apologize and leave to work alone. If it’s noisy, I move somewhere quieter, or listen to white noise. If it’s too quiet, I listen to non-distracting music, either instrumental, or music I’ve been listening to a lot lately so nothing new can grab my attention.
- If you’ve been trying to work for an hour, and you really can’t, even if you’re removed distractions, give yourself a break, and try and assess what might be bothering you. Are you hungry? Is it too stuffy? Is the environment bad? A change of scenery is usually good in this case, so long as you don’t try and move every 20 minutes.
- Sometimes you just need to push through the misery and work, regardless of how little focus you have. Work despite your lack of focus, and remind yourself that half-assing something is better than not-assing anything.
- Once you’ve been working for a while and your brain feels fuzzy, or you feel tired, it’s important to take a break since your retention and performance will begin to suffer. Don’t take too long a break, as that can lead to procrastination and stopping work, but it is vital to do something other than study. Things that I do for breaks:
- go buy a cup of tea
- go to the bathroom
- skype my parents
- play a mindless and repetitive game on my phone
- take a quick walk around the library building
- have a quick chat with a friend
- read a chapter of a fiction book (dangerous since I sometimes don’t stop reading)
- fill up my water bottle
- clean up my workspace and throw away any scrap paper
- go buy food (I eat a lot of sugar when I study like this, but fruit would be better learn from my mistakes)
- write a tumblr post (this is a fantastic break from thermo atm)
- As soon as your brain stops feeling fuzzy, or is at least less fuzzy, get back to work doing something different if you can, or finish off what you were doing and switch topics or tasks. I really find that making sure that you’re not doing exactly the same kind of thing the entire time really helps. Variety really keeps me from getting incredibly bored over the course of the day, and reengages you since it’s something new.
- Repeat until you notice that you’re getting tired in shorter and shorter intervals. If I feel forced to take multiple breaks in the space of say, half an hour, and I’ve been working all day, then I know I’m reaching the end of my tether, and I’d better stop. This is usually between 8-12 hours of work.
- NOTE: I only work this long when I am in last-minute exam preparation. Before the last week before my exams I was working maybe 4-5 hours a day, since I was doing a different type of revision, taking notes and reviewing them and making and using flashcards. For an overall review of notes and doing past papers and marking them then addressing my weak spots, it’s easier to work longer. It’s also easier to work longer when you’re writing a report or an essay, since that naturally has different stages you can cycle through (I can write another post about that too, since I have a research proposal to do for mid-June!). I also tend to sleep about 11 hours a night when I work this much, since it really exhausts me. Be sure to pace yourself appropriately and don’t let yourself burn out
Okay, there we have it, my tips for working for long periods of time! I hope you enjoyed it (if you made it all the way to the end-kudos!), and do let me know if there is any other advice you’d like! Best of luck my lovelies xx