Study University

5 Ways to Prepare for Productive Study

July 18, 2016

Everyone has those days where it’s a struggle to get study done. Whether it’s a matter of not being motivated to start the work or facing a number of distractions, here are five ways to help you prepare for a productive study session.



1. Clean workspace to study

Having a workspace is an important part of staying on task. Avoid soft settings such as lounges or beds and set up on a desk, breakfast bar or dining table where you have a hard surface and a chair to sit on. Make sure your space is clean and clear. Wipe it down and remove all clutter – anything you are not using should be removed. Make sure you have everything that you need. One of the biggest distractions is having to get up every 10 minutes when you realise you need coloured pens or different book. Nothing stalls productivity more than stopping a task and looking for something as it opens you up to distractions. Once you have a workspace set up for your study you can begin to get work done.


2. Make a list

Making a list is extremely useful and helps to clarify what you want to get done. Be specific about the tasks you put on it. For example, instead of writing “Essay”, you can change it to “Essay introduction” or “200 words of Essay”. Whenever I see something like “Essay” on a to do list it seems like such a daunting task that I don’t want to start at all. By breaking it down into specific, achievable tasks you increase your motivation because you know it can be completed and it gives you some idea of where to begin larger tasks. It feels good to tick things off or cross things out and this will only inspire you to do achieve more. Also, when writing a list of study or work to complete it ensures that you cover all tasks and don’t forget anything.


3. Know when to take a study break

If you have a lot of work to get through, it is vital to have a break. Nobody wants to be working for 5 hours straight and it does nothing but tire you out. The key is to decide on your breaks before you start. Avoid scheduling your breaks at a certain time, like 1 o’clock for lunch, because often this results in waiting for the clock to tick over and no work being done. It is better to set yourself a goal of the tasks that you want to complete. For example, completing 3 tasks on your list before you stop for a bite to eat or completing 500 words of an essay before you take a break. You can even set yourself time goals like 30 minutes of writing study notes before a five-minute break.

Make sure that you set yourself reasonable goals though. Some things will take more time than others and you don’t want to be stuck studying continuously. Taking smaller more frequent breaks allows you to refresh your mind and come back to your list with a new focus, meaning you can get more study done.


4. Noise

Noise can be one of the biggest distractors when you are trying to get something done. Ideally you want a quiet place to work but sometimes this can be difficult. My house is a constant buzz of noise (with two loud brothers and barking dogs) and there is always something going on. When you cannot find silence, you can use headphones. I tend to avoid listening to music with lyrics because I find this most distracting. The best music to listen to is classical or non-lyrical music. Even sounds of nature are good to keep you on task without disturbance.

If classical isn’t your thing, you can try exploring Spotify or YouTube for other non-lyrical tracks, in fact, film or video game scores are always quite good. My favourite is a symphonic version of the music from the video game Legend of Zelda which helps keep me focused (and searching for orchestral or symphonic versions of most music gives some great results!), but everyone is different and it’s a good idea to try different things to understand what works for you.


5. No phone/Facebook/social sites while you study

It may seem obvious but it is necessary that you stay away from social networking websites, emails, phone notifications and other electronic devices that encourage procrastination. Often you will be using laptops and phones to study and so it is not practical to work without them. Luckily, there are a number of blockers available for your browser that allow you to use the internet without wandering into the abyss of social networking or infinite scrolling. My favourite is a Chrome extension called StayFocusd. It allows you to block any websites you want for a specific amount of time. It’s very user friendly, intuitive  and you can customise it to what distracts you. LeechBlock is a similar extension available for Firefox users.

Putting your phone on silent or placing it face down on your work space area can help you to ignore pop up notifications. Many phones now also have a “Do Not Disturb” feature which allows you to put important contacts on a list, blocking notifications and calls from everyone else.


Obviously everyone is different when it comes to being most productive and everybody studies in different ways. Using all or just some of these 5 tips will prepare you for a productive study session and help you to focus on the study you want to complete so you can get more done in the time that you have.


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  • I really love these tips! It’s lovely to be reminded of different things to help you get ready to study! I know setting myself up for success when studying is always my weakness. I get distracted so easily.

  • This was super helpful! I sometimes forget when I’m studying that I need a break every now and then.