How to declutter your mind and study effectively

When it comes to studying, we are given a plethora of methods and tips to grasp the subject we read effectively, but for those methods to actually work we need to know how to get our minds in tune first. Studying isn’t just reading and remembering, it’s an immersive state of mind that brings about new learning and understanding, so with a few simple tools, we can shed the monotony of studying and learn to not only do it well but to enjoy it.

Meditate

The first thing you want to do is clear your head of everything that’s been going on around you lately. Your social life, your family life, your responsibilities – they all need to be pushed out of your mind before you can focus on your work and the best way to do that is meditation. It will only take a few minutes of your time, but it is one of the best ways to declutter your brain and study effectively. All you need to do is find a comforting place, make sure it’s a clean and stress-free environment where you won’t be disturbed.

The short-term aim of meditation is to think about absolutely nothing, and that’s more challenging than you might think, but give it a go. Spend 2 or 3 minutes with your eyes closed, breathe slowly and deeply focusing on your breathing only. With every inhale, feel the positivity and peace fill up your body, and with every exhale, feel the expulsion of all that mental clutter, all the negativity, gone. Remember to think of nothing as best you can, and use ambient (lyric-free) music if it helps to tune out some of the stray thoughts that seep in. After this, you should feel much more relaxed and less distressed at the idea of studying.

Organise your notes early on

Our approach to studying, in the beginning, should be a ‘bigger picture’ mentality. It can be tempting to go straight into lectures and create reams of notes, but these notes aren’t going to help if they haven’t got anywhere to go, which is why you need to think about the bigger picture. Create an ‘outlook’ for each module you take. This should be a document or something similar that has a title page, a contents page, page numbers and references, as well as space under every sub-heading for your notes to go in. This will make everything a thousand times easier because you’ll see exactly where every piece of work should go, especially if you miss any lectures (which, of course, is a very rare occurrence for students).

Fix your attitude to work

One problem that mindfulness can tackle is procrastination. Some days you’ll simply wave off every bit of work for another more productive day, some days you’ll end up going on a 4-hour long clean of the entire house just to avoid your work, but whatever brand of procrastination you suffer from, you need to think about how best to tackle it. One of the simplest but most effective methods against procrastination is your mindset. If you’re not in a working mindset, then you are being driven by the frivolous part of the brain; you’re seeking quick reward activities that are usually fun or comforting to avoid what your brain might perceive as a boring or negative experience.

SWITCH ON. In your mind, you need to change the way you think about work so that you view it as unavoidable. Tell yourself that you are doing this work, and how long it takes is up to you. Once you accept the fact that you must do the work, you can then think about how to do it.

Break it down

This is where you want to move well away from the ‘big picture’ concept because the amount of work at this stage will only bog you down or put you off. This is where you need to break up your work into a smaller list of tasks that are individually very easy and start working through them. Even if you only spend an hour on your work and get through the first of many tasks, you will at least be able to measure your progress, which is one of the most important ways we feel achievement.

Hopefully, with these tips, you can see that studying is far from black and white. It must be adapted and tailored at every stage, so a few mindfulness tips can help to prepare you for studying in a more general sense as well as giving you a much more pleasant studying experience. If all else fails and you simply can’t get your head straight, go for a long walk in nature.

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