Why prepare mentally before studying? Because it can increase your performance. A lot. With almost no effort on your part. The exercise prescribed below primes the brain for information input. It also serves to enhance cognitive delivery faster. This quick tutorial on preparation before studying can be done in less than 10 minutes with practice.
Part 1: Mental Preparation begins with Physical Preparation
Get your room ‘in order’. You don’t have to set your whole room. Just set your study space. Your study space is the work space you will be studying in. Learning and studying is faster if your work space is efficient which includes making your books, stationery and tools easily accessible.
Room temperature should not be too hot or too cold. Cool is good – helps one keep awake. Well-ventilated, well-lit room. Hard desk and chair. If your circumstances do not allow for that, consider moving the study space to some place private, quiet (i.e. no distractions from other people, you can play your music) where you can have these things. Otherwise, do what you can do.
Avoid distractions. Whilst some students might find posters of hot celebrities motivating, avoid them in the study space. Mobile phones, smartphones and tablets should be kept away whilst studying, to avoid the distraction of social media. You can look at social media and chat to friends after the study sessions, sure, no problem. During the study sessions, you study. After the study sessions (and before), you do whatever you want. During breaks, you do refreshing things (walk around, watch a bit of comedy, talk to people, go out and enjoy nature even if it’s just your back yard). The rule of thumb with breaks is not to do something debilitating. Avoid excessive drinking which will cause a hangover.
Get the books out and set them in a prioritized manner. Before you start to study on a particular day, night or evening, get out all the books and assignments you want to study for that day, night or evening, and pile them in the order that you will tackle them. This is the most important step.
Allocate how much time you are going to study. This time is inclusive of breaks. Break up the time you are going to study into ‘study sessions’, each session devoted to a particular subject. To help retain attention, or at least make things more colourful and interesting, you might want to avoid the same subject in two consecutive study sessions. Try to alternate with different subjects.
Plan what you are going to study, in order, during your study sessions. Knowledge of what work assignments, homework, etc. you have due is advantageous because you can plan your study sessions around it. (Forgetting assignments and homework leaves a bad taste. But it sometimes happens. Avoid it where you can.)
Know that you can’t do everything in a day. Unless your course content it quite sparse.
Do the most important work first. If you don’t finish all the work, that’s okay. By doing most important things first, you will feel accomplished. The less important work that’s not done today can be prioritized for the next day.
Part 2: Mental Preparation
This step requires you to know your motivation, your reason deep down inside why you want to study. It could be doing well in exams so you keep face with friends; to beat your competitors (because dammit, you don’t want them to beat you); to do well in exams so you get a bursary to study further; to earn some money… Whatever it is, as long it is true to yourself, it’s good.
Sit down in front of your desk and pile of books you’ve set out for studying. Okay, this might seem a little zen-like – but give it a go and we promise you will be surprised by the results.
Sit up straight. Teacher-ish we know, but it’s good for your posture in your old age, and more importantly, right now. It helps one stay awake, helps one concentrate.
Visualize. Your motivation, your passion, the thing that fires you up to study. Stay here for a few moments.
Visualize what it would look like, feel like, achieving your goal. Feel it in your body.
Look at the books in front of you. Know that each of them is helping you toward your goal. Going through each of them, is like taking a step toward your goal.
Part 3: Actually studying.
Once you feel motivated from the inside, the feeling of success of achieving your goal, that comes from doing each of the books – start studying. Remember: Always study smart, and use the most effective studying techniques!
Time to spend on each part
Part 1 (Physical Preparation) should take you no longer than 15 minutes. If you are taking longer to set your room, just set the study space, organise the notes and books you need, put away the others. Be careful with loose papers – you might need them later. Organise what to study (decide what to study) quickly, less than 5 minutes.
Part 2 (Mental Preparation) may take longer at first, but after a few times, especially after you know your motivation, less than 1 minute. When visualising your motivation, and visualising achieving your goal, keep the mental image of your success until you feel the emotional, the physical reaction in your body; it should take a few seconds if you know your motivation and don’t let your fear control you.
When you’ve practiced the parts, especially after your study space is ordered, it should take less than 10 minutes.