Teens and college students: Tips for better homework and study habits
**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**
By Amber Woods
For many teenagers and college students, studying and homework are an unwanted part of their lives. As a young person you would rather be spending homework time doing the other things, which often makes it hard to concentrate and not to get distracted.
Finding the right environment
Procrastination and distraction are the two common enemies when it comes to homework and studying. If you truly want to spend as little time as possible doing your homework and studying, it vital that you prepare your environment so that it is free from distractions. The environment in which you carry out your homework has a significant effect on your productivity. It is therefore important to find out where you feel the most comfortable and productive so do not be afraid to try out different places. If you are studying at home, for instance, your bedroom may not be the most comfortable or productive place for you. Try the dining room, the study, or even create a workplace in the garage, just as long as it works for you.
Before you start with your homework or studying put away and turn off everything that could distract or interrupt you. Your desk should be clear of all books that you will not need during the study session, and there should be no articles or gadgets that will distract you from your work. Switch your cell phone to silent and put it away out of sight. If you are going to be working on a computer, log out of Facebook, Twitter, Skype, your email account and any other apps that will easily distract you. Also, if you are a clock-watcher you need to put anything that displays time out of sight. Simply set the alarm on your cell phone for when you plan to take a break or finish studying. Likewise, if you find yourself spending time staring out of the window, switch on the light and close the curtains.
It is important to be comfortable, although not too comfortable! A work station or desk with a comfortable chair is perfect, whereas reclining in a comfortable armchair, or lying on your bed with your books is not going to be conducive to a fruitful study session. You need to make sure that your study environment is well ventilated and not too hot or too cold. If you are hot you will become lethargic and sleepy, and if you are too cold you will be uncomfortable and have trouble with your concentration. If you not able to control the temperature of the environment then you need to dress appropriately and find a spot where you feel most comfortable when doing your work.
Distractions really are the enemy of effective study. You must try to eliminate from your environment anything that you personally find distracts your attention when you are studying. Most people prefer to work in a quiet environment in order to concentrate as they are unable to screen out noise. Others actually find a quiet environment distracting as any sudden sound breaks their attention. The same is applicable to movement; some find movement distracting and others are not affected by it at all.
Before starting your homework or studying make sure that your mind is clear of any other distractions. Make sure that you have completed your chores that need doing, make any necessary phone calls, check and reply to any text messages or emails that you need to and so on. Having all of these things out of the way will free your mind of these distractions enabling you to stay focused on your work.
Make sure that you are not tired when it is time to study as you will not be able to make the best use of your time, and your ability to retain the information you are studying will be hampered. Regular breaks during long periods of study are advisable; perhaps a ten minute break after an hour of study, or a twenty minute break after an hour and a half.
Music can distract your attention, but for some people it actually puts them in the mood and helps them to get on with their studies. Various research has been carried out with differing results, but the general opinion is that light background music works for many people, and can actually improve memory retention. Loud heavy music is not recommended and nor is listening to music through headphones as it is believed to decrease a person’s memory retention.
Effective study is all about self discipline and finding the correct environment which suits your style of studying. Not all people are the same, so you really do need to work out what works best for you. When you do find something that works, try to duplicate it again.
Amber Woods is a blogger from Chicago who currently lives in Canada. She’s creative, passionate about learning new things, loves creating infographics, and enjoys writing about education in an easy-to-understand manner.