Why studying for large chunks of time can be counter-productive
We’ve all had those days where no matter what good fortune comes our way in the morning or afternoon, we still walk around with a slight furrow in our brow knowing that a night chock-full of homework and studying awaits. It’s like a Utah Jazz fan watching the wildly entertaining 1997 NBA Finals on ESPN Classic – he or she might enjoy it for awhile, but in the back of their mind they know the Michael Jordan buzz saw is coming to ruin their hopes and dreams. (Too young to remember? That's fine, you get the point...)
Alright, so maybe Michael Jordan draining threes isn’t exactly the same as laboring through endless schoolwork. I have an attachment to sports analogies so bear with me.
But you get the gist – what to do when faced with the daunting night of all-work, no-fun?
To start, the answer is not to lock yourself in a computer and desk-fitted isolation cell to serve your night of punishment. Studying efficiency is not directly related to hours spent doing so.
The mind remembers things that are unique. Why do you think you remember the awful prank your friend played on you six years ago but don’t remember the definitions you spent two hours reading over last week?
Repetition and marathon study sessions just aren’t the brain’s cup of tea. Or, as this insightful article puts it, "Rote learning is for suckers."
Therefore, the most effective way to tackle your mountain of work is to study in short bursts. Thirty minutes on, fifteen minutes off. Read two chapters, destroy your buddy in Halo, read two more chapters.
Or for the ridiculously motivated: read two chapters, run two miles, read two chapters, win the productivity award.
This way, each time you sit down to start studying your brain is refreshed and ready to go. Similar to the method of studying before bed, studying in short bursts simply plays more to the brain’s strengths. Do you apply this method to your studying? What works best for you?