Seven study tips for focus and productivity

Set yourself up for academic success with these study tips.

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24 April 2024

A group of student sitting around a table studying

When exam and assignment deadlines are approaching, you might find yourself a bit overwhelmed. And sometimes when we feel overwhelmed, we tend to procrastinate.  

You might even find yourself trying to relax but you have an uncomfortable feeling that you’re meant to be studying.  

In this blog post, we’ll explore strategies that will help you stay focused and productive so that you can still make time to balance everything else in life. 

1. Organisation is key 

One of the keys to academic success is being organised. Plan a study schedule and make time for breaks. When you have a clear outline of how you are going to achieve your end result, you’re less likely to procrastinate. 

You can use a planner or diary to help get organised or there are some great online tools including:  

  • Notion: allows you to create personalised calendars, study plans, organise research materials, track assignments and collaborate with your classmates on group projects.  
  • Todoist: captures your deadlines and exam dates, keeps your course load and assignments organised, and helps you to be more productive. 

2. Take regular breaks  

Did you know that taking breaks can improve your academic performance?  

Studying for hours on end can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. Research shows that our brains need time to rest and recharge to stay focused. 

The ideal duration for study breaks will vary from person to person because everyone’s energy levels are different throughout the day.  

Experiment with different times and break durations to find what works best for you. If you’re not sure, start by taking a 10-minute break every hour or two. When you start to feel tired or lose concentration, take a longer break. Or you can try The Pomodoro method that follows a basic pattern of 25 minutes of studying followed by a five-minute break. 

Instead of turning on Netflix or social media on your break, to properly rest your mind, try these options: 

3. Create a good space to study  

Your study space can play a big role in staying focused and calm.  Here are some ways to create the perfect space: 

  • Make sure your desk and chair are set up ergonomically to avoid injuries or pain in the body. 
  • Use a lamp that doesn't shine directly on your screen and make sure there is no glare or shadows on the screen.  
  • A cluttered desk = cluttered mind so try to keep your desk clean. You can find cheap items to organise your notes and stationery at shops such as Kmart.  
  • Make your study area a lovely place to be - use a diffuser for essential oils, buy a pot plant, a picture to place above the desk or a nice lamp.  
  • Experiment with background music to create a calm atmosphere and drown out any noise. Here are some great Spotify lists: Peaceful guitar, Study Music & Sounds, Lofi Morning, Jazz Vibes, Deep Focus, Chill Electronic Mix

4. Eat the frog first 

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”.
- Mark Twain 

Brian Tracy wrote a book ‘Eat That Frog’ that basically advises you to ‘do the worst first.’  

Is there a particular assignment or exam topic that you’re putting off? Do that one first, because having a task that you’re delaying can drain your energy and make you less productive. 

Once you complete that task, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and relief and you’ll have the momentum to get through your other work much more easily.  

5. Tools to help you stay focused 

It’s easy to get distracted by social media, email notifications and the internet.  

Here are some helpful tools to minimise distraction:  

  • Freedom: blocks websites, apps, and the internet 
  • Opal: an app that helps you balance digital devices usage  
  • Study: an app that plays scientifically designed productivity-boosting sound that can mask noise  
  • Forest: uses gamification to help you stay focused.  

6. Look after yourself  

If you find yourself stressed out by deadlines and exams, it’s even more important to look after yourself and your health. Make sure you:  

7. Find support 

Reach out to your professors or tutors if you are having difficulty with a subject or have questions.  

You can also find a study buddy or join a study group to stay motivated and accountable. 

If you're struggling with your workload or your wellbeing, reach out to student support services or any of the other support services that are available to international students.  

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