In a previous post, we looked at how sleep is one of the most important factors in learning. While this is true, there are a number of other things which may affect how well you learn.

Whether you are currently having trouble studying, or just want to make sure you are giving yourself the best learning experience possible, it's important to consider all the things around you which could be having an impact on how you are learning.

We take a look at 3 things which could be affecting your learning, and some tips on how to combat them!

Time Management

Clock

Making sure you are organised and have enough time to get things done may seem like an obvious one, but it is still a hurdle most of us fall at when it comes to studying. While you may be totally organised for one project, you may forget about other ones you should be doing, meaning these ones are left until the last minute. Having to complete a task in a rushed manner will probably mean your quality of work will be quite low, as well as the fact you won't have given yourself enough time to absorb the information you are supposed to be studying.

The first thing you want to do to improve your time management is to write out a weekly plan of how you currently spend your time. This should include things like work, time spent in classes, and things like hobbies or going to the gym. Once you see how your week is usually split, you can see how much time you have to fit in studying.

Allocating set times every week to studying should help you fall into a rhythm, which means sitting down to studying will become a natural part of your routine.

Once you've mapped out how much time per week you can spend studying, the next stage is to set up a specific study plan. This will probably change every week, and is more focussed on the specific subjects you will be studying, or the assessments you will be working towards at any given time. This will mean you can forward plan if you have a number of assessments due at once, meaning you can spend the required amount of time on each of them, without being rushed.

Marking down all the work you have to complete is a great way to make sure you don't forget anything, but it should also help you feel more in control of your studying. Having a clear idea of what you need to focus on in the coming weeks should help prevent you getting overwhelmed by work, which is what could happen if you leave everything to the last minute. There's nothing worse than trying to study when you are stressed!

Environment

Students at desks

The environment you study in is a really important thing to consider, because what works for one person, may not work for someone else! It's important to find the correct learning environment for you, so you get the most from your study sessions. Here's a list of things you may want to consider when deciding where and when to study.

  • Location. Where do you feel most in the mindset to study? Some people like studying in somewhere like a library, as it's quiet and lots of other people studying around them can make them feel focussed. However, other people like nothing better than settling in on their sofa or bed at home, as they know they'll have everything they need within easy reach. Think about where you feel the most comfortable, and pick that location! It doesn't matter if it's different to everyone else in your class.
  • Company. Do you prefer to study by yourself, or in a group? On your own you can be free of distractions and able to just get on with it. However, in a group you have the chance to ask questions or discuss things if you get stuck. Working in a group may help keep you on track of you start to flag too, and other group members can make sure you stay focussed. This may also depend on the type of studying you are doing too, as a project may be great thing to discuss in a group, whereas you may want to write an essay completely on your own.
  • Surroundings. What helps keep you focussed on the task at hand? Do you like complete silence to study in, or could you not dream of revising without listening to music? If you like working in total silence, don't be afraid to turn off your phone and pop a 'do not disturb' sign on your door and just get on with it, even if all your classmates are working in a big group. If you can't study without music, consider making a study music playlist to help keep you focussed. You can even make it the same length as your study session, so you don't have to keep an eye on the clock!

It's really important to find out what works for you when it comes to a study environment. You want to be comfortable in your surroundings, and excited about settling down to study, so just go with what feels right. Don't go to the library if it makes you feel too pressured to be constantly working, and don't study on your own if you know you work better in a group! Finding the perfect combination will make studying something to look forward to, and should make sure your learning is a good experience.

 Study Material

Open book

This is one problem you really need to combat whenever you start a new class or course, as making sure you prepare yourself with effective study material is the most important thing you can do. The aim is to make sure you are as prepared as possible, so when you are looking back over your material when revising or trying to write an essay, you have all the information in front of you.

Firstly, make sure you take notes in class. You may think you are able to sit and soak up all the information being directed at you, but chances are you'll only remember the vague outline of it, which may not be enough at a later date.

It is also a good idea to spend a little time after class to tidy up your notes as it's important to make sure that what you've written down will make sense to you later, as well as making sure you can actually read your handwriting. What you wrote down in a rush during class may be hard to read and just random sentences when you look over it in a few months time, so taking a little time at the end of each day or week to make sure your notes are understandable will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Giving yourself this extra tasks of reorganising your thoughts can really help you get to grips with the material, and help you absorb the information better.

You may also want to go through your class notes and expand them with information from text books or suggested readings from your class. This will let you link up ideas which you had yourself with examples from the text, and will produce quite comprehensive study notes for you, as well as direct you to which parts of your books to look up should you find yourself stuck. You can do this either by writing out whole passages, or just page numbers from your books, alongside your writing notes. You can also do quite simple things like marking paragraphs or chapters with coloured sticky notes, and then colour co-ordinating your study notes to match up with related sections of your reference books.

Finally, make sure you keep everything from your classes as you go along, as you may really need it later. If you are given handouts, or copies of a teacher's presentation, keep these safe! It may be a good idea to store everything in a folder, as this way things can be stored in date order and added to easily. You can also store you own handwritten notes in beside any handouts you have, making it easy to find all the material you have on any given topic.

While you may not think you need to be organised and take notes early on, just think what future you will need when they are preparing writing an essay or taking an assessment, and you can see how important it is that your study material is as organised as possible.

Conclusion

Everyone learns differently, but if you consider the points we've listed above, it should help you see how you can improve your learning quite easily just by spending a little time thinking about how you study currently.

A little planning with your study notes and time management, as well as picking the perfect location to study in, will go a long way towards making sure you're fully concentrating on your learning, and retaining as much information as possible.