Productivity 101: Study Smarter, Not Harder

“Study smarter, not harder”

This is the most common phrase that you always hear but never fulfill in real life. According to my experience, studying harder and longer doesn’t always guarantee you to get A+ in all assignments and exams. Studying hard for long periods is very exhausting and 100% of the knowledge would not last forever in your brain. I used to fail many subjects back in high school but when I started to follow my intuition to study smarter, instead of harder, my entire life was changed dramatically.

Here are my simple tips that could possibly change your point of view of studying:

1. Keep track of everything

List all the assignments and tests deadlines into your planner. Make sure you are constantly checking it so you don’t miss anything and plan self-study time for upcoming tests or use google calendar so you get automatic reminders on your phone/email. This is technically a reminder system to tell you of when you need to do what. It helps to have the bigger picture of what is going on and feel more in control. Don’t forget to schedule necessary time to relax.

2. Make sure you fully understand the concept of the lectures, if not just ask!

This is the most common mistake that students always do. Students tend to memorize everything without learning, in order to get good marks. This habit leads to a higher chance of stress and depression during studying/working. Ask professor or your lecturers when you don’t quite get certain points and if necessary, come to office hours. Students tend to have better understanding when they have a face-to-face explanation. List all the questions that you don’t understand during lectures and during your own reviews and ask them. This will show how excited you are for his/her lecture and develop a good relationship with professors (*psst! They possibly give you good marks if they know you)

3. Have a nice sleep for at least 7-8 hours

Studies show that a lack of sleep can eventually affect your performance. Scientists found that sleep could double the chances of remembering previously forgotten knowledge and makes memories more accessible and sharpens our powers of recall. So, having a nice sleep after learning new information is essential to forming memories. In other words, it’s beneficial to sleep during the night rather than cramming the night before and going into an exam without rest.

4. Have a healthy diet and exercise regularly

Numerous studies have shown that having a healthy lifestyle could boost work productivity. Similar to getting enough sleep, healthy diet and exercise regularly boost energy level, improve memory and thinking skills. Researchers found that regular aerobic exercise that gets your heart and sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, which is the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Eating omega-3 fatty acids – found in fish, kiwi fruit, and walnuts – provide many benefits to the brain, such as improving learning and memory and helping to fight depression.

5. Try something different

Research shows that changing your environment can help retain more information by 40%. For example, changing your usual study environment from IC level 2 to General Library, or from Computer lab to Quad café. These little changes will help reinforce what you’re learning and sharpen your memory.

6. Don’t be afraid of failure

As long as you already did your best, that’s enough. No student would know everything in the exam. Failure is the best teacher of them all. Take your mistakes as an opportunity to learn more. Don’t take yourself too seriously and stop being a perfectionist. Fear of failure could hurt your health, career, and relationships.

Next semester would be a great opportunity to improve your life with these tips. If you’re already satisfied with what you have been doing, that’s great. This works for me, it may work for you. As long as you are already doing your best, good luck will always be by your side.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of Chiasma's as an organisation