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Developing Smart Study Habits

http://blog.iqmatrix.com/smart-study-habits
Its what you learn after you know it all that counts.
Harry S. Truman
Developing smart study habits or skills?
Whether we are learning at school or on the job, one thing is very clear:
we need more than just effective study skills to keep us ahead of the pack and o
n top of the material we are required to learn.
Dont get me wrong, learning effective study skills is a very important component
, however, study skills alone wont make you a great learner.
Your first and primary goal is to develop smart study habits that will naturall
y promote and enhance your learning experience. This post will discuss these hab
its in some detail and provide you some relevant suggestions and tips.
First we will take a look at setting up your ideal learning environment. We will
identify the important characteristics that you must set into place, and provid
e you with effective guidelines that will naturally promote a deeper and more pr
ofound learning experience.
Secondly, we will explore the concept of well-being and help you to understand h
ow to improve your study regime by incorporating healthy habits that will enhanc
e your thinking and improve your energy levels.
Thirdly, we will break down the process of getting into an ideal learning state
that will dramatically accelerate your learning potential. We will specifically
take a look at things you must do and areas you should be focusing on prior to b
eginning your studies.
Finally, we will zoom-in on the benefits and process of taking regular study bre
aks. By the end of this discussion you should have a thorough and complete under
standing of what it takes to create smart study habits that will naturally enhan
ce and accelerate your ability to learn.
This post is for information purposes only. Please seek the guidance of your phy
sician before undertaking any strenuous exercise or nutritional program.
Creating Your Ideal Study Environment
The environment you use for study purposes is as important as the study skills y
ou utilize to help you accelerate your learning potential.
In this section of the mind map we will discuss some of the important characteri
stics of your study environment that you must attend to in order to create a sup
portive and healthy environment that will promote more effective learning.
Taking the time to set up your study environment, will assist you immeasurably w
ith developing smart study habits.
Your Environment Must
Your study environment must promote ease and relaxation, however not so much tha
t it puts you to sleep. ;)
Creating a relaxing environment involves a combination of visual, auditory, gust
atory and physical objects that naturally relax and promote a deeper state of le
arning.
Your environment should also motivate and inspire you to reach new heights and l
evels of learning excellence. This may involve hanging up inspirational photos o
r setting up your environment with tools and materials that make you more effici
ent and effective throughout the learning cycle. It doesnt really matter how you
choose to spice up your environment, as long as it helps to motivate, inspire an
d promote your personal growth and well-being.
Environmental Characteristics
Here is a list of characteristics that you must focus on in order to create an i
deal study environment that will promote relaxation, motivation, inspiration and
personal growth:
Low in Stress
First of all, you must remove all stress inducing stimuli from your environment.
This could be physical objects, sounds, smells and anything else that distracts
you or causes feelings of stress and uneasiness. Particularly pay attention to
colors. Very bright colors such as reds and yellows naturally stimulate thinking
, however they can also trigger higher levels of stress on an unconscious level
of awareness.
Dark colors such as blacks, dark grays and browns are probably the most unwelcom
e colors if you desire to improve your focus and concentration. If the walls or
objects within your study environment are predominantly made up of these colors,
then you are doing your brain an injustice, and making learning far more diffic
ult than it should be.
Authentically Pleasing
Your study environment must be authentically pleasing to your senses.
Studies have shown time and again that the most ideal colors that promote prolon
ged learning are pastel blues and greens. These are very calming and soothing co
lors that will help keep you inspired and focused. In addition they can also pro
mote and encourage creative thought.
Setting up an authentically pleasing study environment also goes back to the con
cept of motivation and inspiration. If for instance you find inspiration within
the natural wonders of our mother earth, then set up your environment accordingl
y with pictures and paintings of beautiful panoramas, or simply purchase some in
door plants and strategically position them around your study area. Your imagina
tion is your only limitation.
Enhances Personal Learning Style
For the purpose of this discussion it is important to understand that you have i
ntrinsic personal study preferences that naturally enhance and accelerate your l
earning. Your environment must be designed in a way that naturally promotes and
encourages your ability to learn using your personal learning style. This involv
es utilizing space and tools effectively, while organizing your environment sens
ibly in ways that makes learning a lot more fun and enjoyable.
Has Adequate Amount of Ventilation, Light and Water
The air we breathe, the light we receive and the water we ingest are vital and c
ritical components to the human species. Without these three essentials we canno
t function and will simply cease to exist.
If your study environment does not have adequate amounts of all three of these i
ngredients, then you will suffer the consequences with unproductive study time a
nd ineffective learning habits.
The oxygen you inhale has to be of the highest quality. Sitting around in a stuf
fy environment will simply lead to a stuffy and foggy brain. Opening a window (e
ven just a little bit) will go a long way towards improving your thinking.
Light is another critical component to effective learning. Essentially, you are
looking for natural light that comes from the sun. If this light isnt available,
then a light box will do the trick.
If your environment is dark and murky it will accelerate the feelings of tiredne
ss, procrastination and laziness. Therefore, always make sure that you have adeq
uate natural lighting at all times.
When it comes to sunlight, dont misconstrue this suggestion as meaning that you m
ust have direct sunlight shining into your study environment. This isnt the case.
Instead, adequate amounts of indirect sunlight reflecting off other external ob
jects is probably a better alternative.
Finally, dont choke your body with caffeine or alcoholic drinks while youre studyi
ng. Have a fresh jug of pure filtered water that is of room temperature on your
table or desk at all times. Water is essential to counter dehydration of your br
ain. This is why it is very important to regularly sip water throughout your day
to keep your mind fresh and active.
Organized
Spend some time organizing your environment from top to bottom in a way that wil
l boost your productivity. An unorganized environment simply makes learning more
difficult. Moreover, disorganization means that you must spend valuable time se
arching for things that have been misplaced or thrown away accidentally. This is
pretty much the essence of procrastination, a deadly trap that sneaks up on us
when we least expect it.
Clean up your environment today by finding a place for everything including book
s, stationary, materials, resources and anything else you need on hand to help i
mprove your productivity and learning. You should essentially have all the tools
you need for your studies at arms length.
Visit your local store and purchase some small containers, drawers, a file cabin
et, and other small stationary materials that will dramatically improve your org
anization and systemization.
Treat your study environment as a small business that needs to be organized from
top to bottom in order for it to function effectively and promote a deeper and
more profound learning experience.
Soothing to the Ears and Nose
Your environment must promote a soothing and somewhat tranquil experience.
Your clarity of thought is either enhanced or distracted as a result of the smel
ls and sounds that occupy your study environment. Take some time to really get t
o know your brain and determine what will sooth it into a deep state of learning
. Also identify and find soothing music or natural environmental sounds that you
could potentially play in the background as you study.
Conduct some further research into the power of smells and essential oils. Some
essential oils are well known for their relaxation properties and naturally calm
the mind and promote clarity of thought. Organizing some essential oils and an
oil burner could well be one of the most intelligent decisions you make when it
comes to creating your ideal learning environment.
Minimizing all Distractions
Sometimes its not so much what you add to your study environment that makes the b
iggest difference, it is rather what you remove from your environment that deter
mines how successfully your study session unfolds.
Your environment should essentially be a distraction free zone. This means remov
ing absolutely all people, noise, and visual distractions.
Remove people by closing your door, or at least shading yourself away from them
in someway by using a curtain or something similar that will put a line of separ
ation between you and these distractions.
Filter out all distracting external noises as much as possible. If you cannot re
move these noises then simply fill your environment with music, nature sounds or
even a tricking water fountain that will dull external noises and promote a dee
per and more fulfilling learning state.
Finally, remove all moving distractions from your study environment. Anything th
at moves or shuffles around within your environment will distract you and pull y
ou away from your ideal learning state. This could be people, pets, or even thos
e little desk accessories that we tend to play with a little too often.
Comfortable
Your environment must be comfortable.
For the purpose of this discussion, comfort is created in three distinct ways. F
irst of all the room temperature of your study environment must be comfortable a
nd on the slightly cool side. The higher the temperature gauge rises, the lazier
your brain becomes, and the more effort it takes to achieve your ideal learning
state. A solution for this is to keep the temperature slightly on the cool side
, encouraging you to wear more then just a t-shirt.
The second guideline for achieving comfort has to do with the clothes you wear w
hile you are studying. Ideally your clothes should be loose, soft and smooth to
the touch. If on the other hand you are wearing tight and harsh clothing, then t
his will likely slow down the circulation of blood to your brain and create disc
omfort and irritation.
Finally, make sure that your desk and seat are as comfortable as possible allowi
ng you to study for extended periods of time without too much trouble. If you ge
t tired of sitting consider purchasing a height adjustable desk?
Creating a Sense of Well-being
There is no doubting that our health and well-being are closely tied to our clar
ity of thought. As such, within this section we will take a look at our mental d
iets, including the suppressants and stimulants that guide and transform our thi
nking patterns on a moment-by-moment basis. We will also delve into exercise and
explore its benefits for your brain.
Common Thinking Suppressants
We must be very careful and aware not to fall into the habit of consuming foods
and beverages that are likely to sabotage our study regime.
Here is a quick look at the types of foods and beverages you should avoid at all
costs, including the pitfalls of not following this advice.
Types
Within a few hours of undertaking your study regime, be sure to avoid consuming
the following foods and beverages:
Carbohydrates
Caffeine
Large meals
White bread
Starches
Dairy
Fries
Sugars
Alcohol
Promote
All the above foods and beverages can sabotage your learning by promoting foggy
thinking, sluggishness, limiting concentration levels, dulling your senses, and
stimulating tiredness. Even though caffeine initially works as a stimulant to pr
omote a greater clarity of thought, it however very shortly becomes a suppressan
t that dehydrates your body and leads you down a fatiguing spiral of ever deeper
feelings of sluggishness.
Common Thinking Stimulants
Developing smart study habits requires a personal and intimate understanding of
the body-brain connection, which allows you to make effective decisions that wil
l naturally promote and improve your ability to think more creatively. Likewise
, these stimulants also naturally promote and enhance your energy levels.
The following list of supplements and foods have been shown to improve thinking
and encourage better concentration:
Supplements
Vitamin A, B, E, Lecithin, Sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Chloride, Copper
and Zinc, all work together to stimulate the brain and improve a persons ability
to think. However, please be aware that moderation is the key. In the meantime p
lease consult with your nutritionist for further information and guidelines abou
t the supplements that you should be taking to improve your thinking.
Foods
All veggies and fruits, proteins found in salmon, beans and meats are known for
their stimulating effect on the thinking processes of the brain. Studies have ac
tually shown that by eating the protein portion of your meals first, you will na
turally enhance your ability to think.
Partaking in a Regular Exercise Regime
Im sure we have all heard experts talking about the fundamental connections betwe
en the body and brain. Essentially what this means is that whatever you do to yo
ur body will affect your brain and your process of thinking. Consequently the th
oughts that you feed your brain with will likewise influence your body in immeas
urable ways.
For the purpose of building smart study habits, it is critical to understand the
importance of exercise in promoting higher energy levels and a greater clarity
of thought.
Exercise is an essential aspect of life that we must incorporate into our daily
routine. It effectively improves your oxygen intake and releases unwanted tensio
n and stress out of the body. Mixing up your weekly exercise routine with aerobi
c activity, strength training and stretching is the most sensible strategy to fo
llow. Likewise, you should also be exercising your brain to enhance your thinkin
g and memory.
Finding Your Ideal Learning State
Having already created your ideal learning environment and laid down the foundat
ions for implementing effective well-being habits, you are now ready to delve he
ad-first into the process of developing your ideal learning state to dramaticall
y accelerate your learning ability.
Finding your ideal learning state is something that initially requires a little
work, time and effort. However, once established you will be able to trigger thi
s state in an instant and turn your mind and body into a very effective study ma
chine.
Here are some suggestions that will get you started on the right track:
What to do Before You Begin Learning
It is very important to undertake the following steps before plunging head-first
into your studies. Initially these steps might feel cumbersome, however over ti
me they will become an important and integral part of your study regime that wil
l strengthen your resolve and enhance the learning experience.
Set Goals
Setting smart study goals is always the very first place to begin your journey t
owards mastering any subject area.
Your goals should be set by following the SMART FOR ME process of goal setting.
Your goals must therefore be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed,
focused, optimistic, ready, meaningful and exciting.
Following on from this, you should also put into place a rewards system that wil
l help motivate you as you achieve the various steps of your goals successfully.
Simply, reward yourself each time you move a step along your journey towards at
taining your objectives. However, please be careful not to allow this reward pro
cess to distract you from your goal or from the remainder of the actions you mus
t take to bring your objectives to fruition.
Once you have set your goals, it is a good idea to future-pace the outcome you w
ill now be working towards. Do this by closing your eyes and seeing yourself alr
eady having achieved your goal at some point in the future. Now, gradually pace
yourself back in time, slowly to the present moment while envisioning all the st
eps you took that allowed you to attain this goal.
Calm Your Mind and Relax Your Body
You have now set your goals, and are ready to begin submerging yourself into tha
t ideal learning state that will effectively enhance your learning experience.
The first step is to learn to relax your body and mind. You will find it difficu
lt to achieve your ideal learning state if your body is stressed or over stimula
ted with thoughts and unresourceful emotions. Your best and most ideal strategy
is to take some time to calm your mind and body before undertaking the learning
process. Do this by playing some calming background music while you sit or lie d
own quietly breathing deeply and bathing yourself fully within this moment of re
laxation. Move through this process for about five minutes before proceeding to
the next stage.
The Process for Creating an Ideal Learning State
As you enjoy the bliss of this relaxed state you now find yourself in, slowly br
ing to mind a positive and successful learning experience that you once went thr
ough. Make sure that this memory represents an empowering learning experience wh
ere you successfully overcame an obstacle or challenges that eventually lead to
a positive and outstanding result making you feel intelligent, creative and in c
ontrol of your destiny.
Take the time to close your eyes and visualize this experience utilizing the pow
er of all your senses. See what it was like, hear the sounds, feel the emotions,
taste the aura of the moment and smell the scent of the feelings that made this
learning experience stand-out in your mind. Now, take the time to intensify thi
s experience even further by enhancing your sensory memory of this period in way
s that will promote excitement and invigorate your body.
When you feel that you have achieved a peak emotional learning state a moment wh
ere you are completely and utterly bathed within this learning experience immedi
ately create an anchor or trigger-word that you will use to instantly capture th
ese feelings of learning at a later time.
An anchor is something that can be attached to your body. It is basically a plac
e you tap or touch yourself each and every time you experience the feelings of t
his enhanced learning state.
At the same time while you are tapping your body, utilize a word to describe thi
s experience such as yes or I am in my zone. Vocally shout this word or phrase as
you tap or touch a part of your body repeating for several minutes.
When this process is completed successfully, you will have entered your ideal le
arning state, which will promote a deeper and far more accelerated process of le
arning.
Each time you repeat this process you will enhance this memory, and eventually a
ll you will need to do to put yourself into this enhanced and ideal learning sta
te is simply trigger the anchor you originally created.
The simple act of touching or tapping this specific part of your body while verb
alizing your trigger-word out loud, will automatically put you into your ideal l
earning state.
Keep practicing this process over-and-over again until your ideal learning state
is automatically triggered by the anchors you create.
Prerequisites for Achieving an Ideal Learning State
Along with the process discussed above, there are also five other prerequisites
that will assist you with getting into your ideal learning state.
Build Positive Expectations
In order to be successful with your learning, you must develop a sense of positi
ve expectation and confidence about the material you are studying. To do this yo
u must first convince yourself that this material will be easy to learn and mast
er.
Build a Burning Desire
Developing an underlying burning desire that will keep you studying even when th
ings turn sour, is a very important fundamental aspect that will help to boost y
our learning experience. The question you should be asking yourself here is:
What will I gain from learning this material?
Determining what you will gain from the subject you are about to study will keep
you persisting forward when things get a little difficult or tough to handle.
Simply reflect on all the areas of your life and determine how this material wil
l help to enhance these aspects of your life today, tomorrow and moving into the
future.
Build Unstoppable Motivation
Developing unstoppable motivation is closely tied to the process of building a b
urning desire.
When it comes to enhancing your levels of motivation about a specific topic or s
ubject area that you are about to study, begin by asking yourself:
How will learning this subject benefit me personally?
Again, here you are looking at both short and long-term benefits that are direct
ly linked to your needs and wants.
Take a moment to close your eyes or simply jot-down on paper all the ways you wi
ll benefit from learning this information. Later on when you feel as though you
are lacking in motivation, simply refer to this list and reflect on your notes s
eeing in your minds eye in vivid detail the benefits that this subject has for yo
ur current circumstances and future life experience.
Build a Sense of Anticipation
Building a sense of anticipation is a great strategy for fighting off the procra
stination bug.
To develop anticipation you need to ask yourself:
Why is learning this material important for me?
Again, make a list of all the things you can think of that make learning this su
bject, topic or information worth your time and effort. The more detail you put
into creating this list, the greater sense of anticipation you will build over t
he long-term.
Build Relevance to Your Life
Finally, before undertaking your studies, you must go through the process of mak
ing this material relevant to your life.
As we go through school we often fail to fully assimilate the information we lea
rn because we simply do not see it as being relevant to our lives. However, by a
sking yourself the right kinds of questions, you can indeed build relevance, whi
ch means that the subject you are studying will be far more likely to be assimil
ated and integrated into your long-term memory.
To create relevance, simply ask yourself the following questions:
What do I already know about this material I am about to study?
What dont I know, and what questions do I have about it?
What potential skills will I acquire by taking the time to learn this material?
How will these skills benefit me, and what will they allow me to do today and in
the future?
How applicable is all of this to my life?
Importance of Taking Study Breaks
The final step along your journey towards creating smart study habits, is to acq
uire an understanding of the importance of incorporating regular study breaks in
to your study regime.
The following section will break down this process and provide you with a few su
ggestions that will point you in the right direction.
Study Break Benefits
Taking regular and planned study breaks is known to relieve tiredness while impr
oving absorption of the material you are studying.
Your brain works much like a library cataloging information into relevant sectio
ns and topics as you absorb and learn new material. This is all well and good if
we are learning in small and manageable chunks. However, the moment we begin fl
ooding our brain with too much information at one time, is the moment when unfor
tunate congestion begins mess things up.
If you have ever experienced the feelings of overwhelm, then you know how frustr
ating this feeling can get, especially when prolonged feelings of overwhelm can
lead to a lot of stress and procrastination.
Did you know that your brain remembers absolutely everything that you ever see,
hear, touch, taste and smell? Yet, most of this information is never correctly c
ataloged into relevant topics and categories that make it easy to remember and r
ecall.
The major benefit of taking study breaks is that it allows the brain time to ord
er and organize the information you are learning into small manageable chunks th
at can then be located and recalled at a future time.
The Study Break Process
Here is a simplified version of the ideal study break process.
You may feel at times that you do not need to take a break, or that you simply d
o not have time to step away from your studies. However, keep in mind that study
breaks are not designed to be taken when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed.
Instead, they should be taken before the feelings of overwhelm or fatigue take c
ontrol of your body and mind.
Study breaks are designed as a tool to keep your body and brain fresh in ways th
at will improve long-term memory and help better categorize the information you
are learning for more effective memory recall.
Here is a quick three point break down of the process:
Study for 25 minutes
Studies have shown time and again that the human brain cannot fully concentrate
on a specific topic for extended periods of time over 20 to 25 minutes.
Even though throughout your study regime you may feel as though you are still wi
thin your learning zone, you may in fact be slowly moving out of that zone, and
therefore becoming gradually less focused and productive as the minutes tick by.
However, if you chunk your study time into 25 minute blocks, you will find that
your brain will be far more centered, relaxed and focused as a result.
Another reason to keep your study chunks to no more then 25 minutes, is because
we naturally tend to remember and recall most of the information we learn at the
beginning and at the very end of our study chunks. This means, that if you exte
nd your study chunks to over 60 minutes, then there will likely be more informat
ion within the middle of this study chunk that is likely to be misplaced or forg
otten.
Take a Break for 5 minutes
Your breaks should be no longer then five minutes. Here you want to take a break
from your studies, however you dont want to distract yourself from them.
Your break must be utilized in ways that will settle your mind and effectively a
llow you to integrate the information you have just learned during your most rec
ent study chunk.
While taking a break you could lie down with your head slightly tilted towards t
he ground (this will allow for more blood to flow to your brain). In this relaxe
d position simply close your eyes and allow your mind to just gently drift over
the material you have been learning. It is important not to try and force yourse
lf to remember what you were studying, but rather watch your thoughts as though
observing clouds passing by through the sky. Incorporating deep breathing exerci
ses will further enhance this process and allow you to better assimilate the inf
ormation you have been learning.
The second option you have is to simply take a walk and remove yourself from you
r study environment. However, it is important not to distract yourself by watchi
ng television, listening to the radio or talking with others. Just walk quietly
and gently reflect on the information you have just learned.
Conduct a Review for five minutes
When you get back to your studies it is critical that you do a quick five minute
review of the material you studied during your most recent study chunk. This wi
ll further help to assimilate this subject into your long-term memory.
Please do not overlook the importance of this five minute review, as it is an ab
solutely critical component of the learning process.
As a final thought, you should also conduct a longer 25 minute review of the mat
erial after you have successfully cycled through five study chunks.
Final Thoughts
In this day and age, developing smart study habits is no longer a choice, it is
rather a prerequisite and an essential complimentary process to effective and ac
celerated learning. You will gain in extraordinary ways by physically taking the
time to develop these smart study habits and incorporating them into your study
regime. They will not only better prepare your mind for the process of learning
, but will also unquestionably transform your personal approach to thinking abou
t what you are learning.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any further thoughts, ideas, refle
ctions or suggestions about this topic, than please feel free to comment below.