Study smarter, not longer, this year

Make sure your space is organized and peaceful for when you need to study.

This week, college students across the country are struggling with the first stages of that age-old New Year’s resolution: This year, I’m going to study for an impossible number of hours a day!

Lisa Jacobson is the founder of Inspirica, a company that has been teaching study habits for 25 years. Her advice as the semester kicks off: Don’t try to drastically change yourself with one quick turn of the calendar page.

When it comes to studying, why do New Year’s resolutions fail?
They’re too big. They say, “I’m going to read for three hours a night, every night.” I really believe that, when it comes to college students, incremental changes are far more effective. It’s trying to go just a step above where you were.

What’s a good first step?
It’s an easy one. Just take 15 minutes, sit down on your bed and quietly look at your dorm. Be honest with yourself. Is this a place where I can focus? Set yourself up. Go to the container store and make sure everything has a place. Ask yourself, “When is the most quiet, peaceful time in this space?” Carve out just a half hour during that time of day.

So, are New Year’s resolutions about studying a bad idea?
I think they can work if the goal is to get to a place where you’re working smarter, not necessarily harder. Resolutions can be helpful because you’re teaching yourself life skills. Sometimes parents request tutoring for their kids in college — and I advise that they hold off on taking control like that, because college is the time to learn how to advocate for yourself.

Do some students respond better to background noise as opposed to a quiet room?
Yes! Take notice of when you can concentrate, when you get distracted. Some people need lots of activity around them, so they need to find a busy time at a cafe and make sure they plop themselves down there for 30 minutes a day.


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