The Night Before: Studying Habits

There are many good study habits to pick up on, even if you’ve already adapted the “skill” of procrastination. Students can find a way around pushing things off if they put their mind to it. (Photo permission of Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s be honest: Procrastination is a key studying technique many high schoolers have acquired over the years at Leesville. While most of us don’t like to admit it, pushing something off until it HAS to be done is the most convenient way to get things done. That is, until the night before said things are due. These can include projects and classwork, but the most common is studying for quizzes and tests.

I’ll be transparent, too — as a junior, I have the biggest workload I’ve ever imagined and putting things off has become a bad habit of mine. Recently, I’ve wondered what the best ways to memorize things the night before are. After taking AP psychology, I feel like I know more about the mind. Consequently, I was motivated to delve into the subject of memorization and how students can beat out procrastination.

**Please note that this is not a promotion of cramming of any kind. Spending time studying a subject over a lengthy period of time is scientifically proven to increase memorization.**

The first thing I’ve learned about studying, especially cramming, is that comfort level makes a major impact on how well you’ll be able to focus. This includes amount of light in the room, clothes you wear, and study area. Once you’ve found a level of satisfaction where you are comfortable but can still focus, learning will become much easier.

The next thing I like to do is eliminate distractions. This can include family members, electronics, and other noise-making objects. Once I put my phone on the other side of the room, it becomes much easier to stay absorbed in my work. Sometimes, people are caught up in the busy ways of life and forget to take a moment and sit in peace. Breathe for a few seconds and take in the tranquility that you have found.

Other tactics I’ve learned through countless articles and essays have also been beneficial to setting up a study space. Studying in the afternoon provides the most natural light for an area and is often the time when people are the most awake. Green tea is proven to boost working memory, and the caffeine can help to increase energy levels. Grabbing a cup of tea or water before sitting down to cram can help relax but maintain focus.

After properly setting up a space to learn, the studying may commence. Four methods to improve my habits have completely changed the way I process and remember information.

The first trick to use is simply organization. It’s hard to believe that sticky notes, highlighters, and colored pens weren’t created for this exact reason. Making notes colorful and creative can keep a sense of attention to studying. Certain colors, like light blue, are known to stimulate productivity. Although it may seem foolish to make your notes “pretty”, it can actually be extremely helpful.

Next, teach someone else what you’ve learned. No matter if it’s a friend, family member, or dog, explaining concepts and ideas can help to better retain said information. Bringing to mind what you’ve learned, a skill called retrieval, prepares your brain for tomorrow’s test when you’re asked to again recall the same material. This habit is not time-consuming but instead rather effective and can most definitely be used for a night of cramming.

The third, and my most favorite skill, is repetition. Especially when committing definitions or foreign language vocabulary to memory, repeating the same words over and over again can be extraordinarily beneficial. Personally, when studying words for Spanish or history, I find it easiest to consistently write them down over and over again. A piece of paper and a pencil are the only things needed for this activity, and it takes a quick 20 minutes to remember plenty of words.

The last but certainly not least habit I apply to cram sessions is taking breaks. Every 30 minutes or so, I attempt to engage my brain in a different way than the schoolwork I’m doing. Playing piano, listening to music, or picking out your clothes for the next day uses an alternate part of the brain, but still keeps the mind active and alert. Taking a break feels like letting your mind breathe and absorb what you’ve reviewed.

Using just a few easy but helpful methods for a panic of cramming can benefit the memory more than thought possible. It is not impossible to retain information in one day, and you can still make an A on the quiz the next day. Be smart about studying, and you will succeed.


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