how to study effectively
In searching for how to study effectively, you should try your best to focus completely on your assignment or upcoming exam. Source: Dominick Reuter/AFP

These days, dedicating all your focus to a specific task can be extremely difficult. This is especially true with the number of distractions we’re constantly overwhelmed with — from phone notifications to invitations out with friends. 

In this, the question of how to study effectively is always on every student’s mind. University is incredibly demanding, and requires deep levels of focus and determination to tackle urgent assignments, exams and projects. For most students, this can be a huge struggle to achieve — and often feels like a mountain to overcome. 

Twitter user Ben Meer, however, has found a way to overcome this struggle. As a former MBA student at the prestigious Cornell University, Meer is one of few candidates who managed to land a spot at the Ivy League institution. Still, getting through his programme required a level of focus and dedication — which meant he needed to adopt new study methods to keep afloat. 

Eventually, he managed to study for four hours straight at a time. How did he achieve this? He shares his tips in a Twitter thread, which we’ve outlined for you below. 

How to study effectively: Advice from a Cornell MBA grad

Studying for long periods of time isn’t always the best way to work. It can often lead to burnout or higher-than-usual stress levels. 

Meer, however, has perfected a method that allows him to study for hours at a time without experiencing such side effects. The Cornell grad explains the reason behind his decision to study in four-hour blocks: batching. 

What does this mean, exactly? According to science, task batching is a productivity strategy in which you group similar tasks together to be able to complete them all at once. 

This is a direct contrast to multitasking, which has been proven to be less effective in preventing procrastination or one’s ability to produce quality work. In fact, research shows that multitasking is detrimental in a number of ways: 

  • People who multitask take 50% longer to accomplish a task; 
  • The human brain isn’t capable of handling more than one task at a time;
  • Multitaskers make up to 50% more errors than those who focus on one project at a time.

This means that in searching for how to study effectively, you should try your best to focus completely on your assignment or upcoming exam. 

Studying for hours at a time is possible with high levels of discipline and focus. Source: Dominick Reuter/AFP

#1: Study your interests

Meer’s first piece of advice is that it’s important for you to choose a subject that you are truly passionate about, or at least interested in. 

These are not just simple words of advice; science shows that passion has a motivating factor, which naturally leads to increased learning potential for students. 

“The harsh truth: if you’re not passionate about the topic, you’re going to get beat by people who are,” the MBA graduate writes. “They won’t be counting the hours.”

#2: Have a plan

Meer advises that you should plan what you’re going to study in advance to make the most out of your time. 

“Identify a goal for the four-hour block,” he writes. “Prepare all the resources you need and set them up in advance. You’ll have everything you need to start.”

#3: Hide your phone

Your phone is laden with distractions: random notifications from apps you never use, message pings and the temptation to check your Instagram feed. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the best strategy to keep you from getting distracted from your studies. 

Finding it difficult to be away from your phone? Check out these apps that are designed to keep you productive, even with your devices around you. 

Try to eliminate as many distractions as you can when you have to study. Source: Loic Venance/AFP

#4: Optimise your senses

To achieve deep focus, it’s important that you prime all your senses for your studies. Meer highlights some methods to keep your senses in check: 

  • Hearing: Use noise-cancelling headphones 
  • Vision: Hide bad triggers 
  • Smell: Use an aromatherapy diffuser
  • Touch: Set a cool room temperature

For more on how to study effectively by priming your five senses, read this article

#5: Manage your energy

The issue with studying for long periods of time is that you might end up getting hungry or thirsty. This is a double-edged sword: lack of nutrition can disrupt your thinking, but getting up to prepare food or drinks for yourself can interrupt your focus. 

To avoid this, Meer suggests that you keep adequate supplies in stock. This includes healthy snacks, lots of water, caffeine (if you need it), and chewing gum.

#6: Plan for contingencies

Have you ever begun your study session only to realise that you don’t have the right supplies to get you through? Or perhaps you’ve forgotten your laptop charger and end up having to interrupt your work to fetch this? 

Avoid this by planning for anything that might go wrong in advance. Think of all the ways your studies can be interrupted and how you can combat this. Always have extra supplies on you — this way, you won’t have to leave your work desk for anything less than an emergency. 

#7: Create incentives

The last tip on how to study effectively? Meer says it’s important to create incentives to reward yourself after a long bout of studying. This will create a positive association with studying in your mind, making it easier for you to stay motivated and get through your tasks. 

The Cornell grad says this could be anything from planning to watch your favourite show or arranging a date or meal with a friend. “You’ll be more motivated to focus now so you can enjoy your time later,” he writes.