How to Study Stress-free
How to Study Stress-free
Human beings have no limits on what they can learn, as long as they know how to do it. One of the greatest learning experts in the world explains how to succeed in studying in a free online course. No “magic” — only specific methods, their application, and knowledge of your brain’s biology.
If you are among those who are about to return (or have just done it) to school desks or university classrooms, we have good news for you: you can learn just about anything, provided you know the right methodologies.
That is stated by Barbara Oakley, an engineering professor at Oakland University and the author of “Learning how to learn,” an online and free course on learning techniques, which have been applied by more than 2.3 million students in 200 different countries.
In a long interview released in Quartz, Oakley explains how the course ranges from neuroscience to practical advice that can radically change our approach to study.
“Most people don’t know how their brain works and how to make the most of its potential to learn efficiently,” explains the expert. “I approached advanced mathematics at the age of 26. I had a lot of hard work to do, but I discovered a lot about how to learn.” If you don’t want to use a custom essay service and study effectively, you should keep on reading.
The Pomodoro Technique
One of the topics the expert addresses in her course is the tendency to postpone things. And, she explains that one of the best tricks to be able to focus on the study is to apply the Pomodoro technique, invented by the Italian Francesco Cirillo in the 80s.
It is a matter of dividing the study day into short 25-minute intervals (to measure time, Cirillo used a simple tomato-shaped kitchen timer, hence the name). In this time frame, it is easy for anyone to keep concentration and devote themselves intensely to books. At the end of the 25 minutes, you should take a 5-minute break before you start again.
And this pause is the fundamental part of the process because it is the period in which the brain (unconsciously) processes and “sediments” what it has just learned.
Sleep is Crucial
Sleep plays a fundamental role in learning processes: when we sleep, the brain cells relax and release fluids that have the task of eliminating the toxins accumulated during the day.
When facing an exam without enough sleep, a question or a challenging test means dealing with a “poisoned” brain.
Not only that: during sleep, our brain creates a neural “warehouse” in which it stores information. Cutting sleep time means making this stage of learning more difficult.
Experts recommend 8 hours of sleep and no fewer. So say yes to an occasional nap during the day, especially if you didn’t sleep enough at night.
Music? Yes, but...
Studying while listening to music may not be a problem, provided it is only instrumental and limited in volume. But beware: if you get used to concentrating only with music and at the time of the exam you cannot listen to it, you will create a stressful situation for your brain, which will lack the usual background melody.
No last-moment studying
The British call it cramming, and it is the tendency to prepare for exams and quizzes by studying everything at the last moment in very long intensive sessions.
According to Oakley, this behavior must be avoided: given the importance of sleep for learning, cramming what you should study in two or 3 weeks in a couple of days limits the number of neural structures and connections the brain has to build to enable us to master the subject. Therefore, it is prudent to plan the study, dedicating all the time you need.
The average person can concentrate intensively for no more than four hours a day. It means that, during the study or project designing, it’s better to deal with the topics that require the most attention first. During the rest of the day, it is better to focus on easier aspects that need less focus.
According to the expert, storing information in your long term memory is like putting the toothpaste back into the tube — tricky but not impossible. To learn notions and dates, it may be helpful to associate images with concepts.
Do you have to remember the meaning of the Spanish word “zumo” (fruit juice)? You can associate it with the image of a sumo wrestler drinking juice. Create a unique associative “chain” by connecting the new concept to what you already know and can easily remember.
Anxiety and Stress
In the heads of many students, the moment of the exam or the task in the classroom can trigger powerful attacks of anxiety or even panic. How to fight them? Oakley advises learning the most common breathing and relaxation techniques, but above all — rethink the situation and the feelings it causes. Eventually, you will realize that the position you are in is not that scary or even worth worrying about.