According to your calendar, it’s time to study.
You open the worn binding of your textbook and begin to scan. You get a few pages in before your eyes start to droop. You completely forget the last sentence you just read and begin to play with the fringed corners of the pages. Only after the sixth time through the paragraph do you realize you’ve been reading the same thing over and over again.
Staying focused while studying is no small feat. We’re constantly tempted by distractions, whether from our external surroundings or our own internal thought processes. Especially for adult students with so many other things going on in life, distractions to studying are numerous.
But learning and studying aren’t restricted to reading pages from a textbook. While that’s a helpful learning strategy for many—especially verbal learners—that’s not the case for all learners.
When you’re stuck in a studying rut, whether reading a report for your job or catching up on an assignment for school, you can get creative with how you continue to learn effectively. Reading from a textbook is just the beginning.
Here, we share five creative ways you can stay focused and study.
If you’re the artsy kind of person, writing and drawing out flashcards can be a great study tool you can use to retain information. As you go through a textbook or other reading material, jot down important notes on flashcards that you can keep and review for later.
To spice it up, use different color flashcards for different categories of information. Doodle or draw pictures on the cards to help you remember. Gather up your different colored pens to categorize the different information that you come across.
Using flashcards is a great practice for visual learners—those who learn by seeing pictures, graphs, etc. It’s also a helpful habit for verbal learners to read information and then write it down on a notecard in a way that’s easy to remember.
2. READ YOUR TEXTBOOK WITH FLAIR
Do you read bedtime stories to your kids in fun character voices to make the story more interesting?
What if reading your textbook or work material could be just as entertaining?
A 2016 article from Bustle by Karen Belz suggests reading your textbook as if it were a dramatic play.
Now before you shake this idea off as childish and odd, consider how much more enjoyable storytime is when the reader makes the content entertaining by transforming the words into a more engaging experience. Your textbook can be just as enjoyable.
Belz suggests to split up your textbook or other reading material into different roles. Then, either out loud or internally, read each part as if it were being performed on stage. That summary of business trends in Europe you’re reading could transform into an enthralling monologue performed by a top executive looking to expand his organization. You’ll just need the creativity to add in that role.
If you have kids and a lot of reading material to go through, consider casting them as different roles to help you study, too. It may not have the same plot as a bedtime story, but it can be just as entertaining with the right attitude. Props are also encouraged.
3. COMPOSE A SING-A-LONG
If you’re not up for dramatic reading but still want to channel your inner performer, consider turning your reading material into a song.
Did you ever listen to Schoolhouse Rock! when learning about multiplication, grammar or finances in grade school? Some can’t even describe what a conjunction is in grammar without thinking about the popular “Conjunction Junction” song.
And you can do the same thing with your own material that you’re learning.
Create your own rhyme for those customer names you should remember for your big meeting coming up. Describe the plot of a Shakespeare play by putting the words to your favorite song. Rap out the steps of applying for a loan.
This study practice is great for auditory learners—those who learn best by hearing information. Once you come up with a great tune or beat, record it so you can listen to the information on the go.
4. BECOME THE TEACHER
Another way to creative yet effective studying is by teaching someone else what you’re learning.
An article from British Psychological Society by Christian Jarrett shares that students who spend time teaching what they learn experience greater retention than those who just use that same amount of time simply studying.
Now it’s your turn to become the educator and teach others about what you’re learning. This is a great way to get your kids involved. Play “teacher” by getting a whiteboard and maybe some worksheets, and teach your family or friends what you’re learning. This type of studying technique gets you up, active and interactive with others—which is great for interpersonal learners.
5. GET MOVING
Studying doesn’t have to take place while sitting still.
Take a walk while you listen to an audiobook of your textbook. Do five push-ups every time you finish reading through a report. Take a lap around the house for each page you finish reading.
Incorporating physical activity has shown to have a connection to academic performance. For example, according to a report by Active Living Research, greater physical activity has been linked to higher academic performance with both short-term and long-term benefits.
Whether you study while moving or use exercise as a break and reward from studying, be sure to include physical activity and healthy living into your studying habits.
USE YOUR CREATIVITY
Don’t be stuck in a studying or working rut. With a little bit of creativity and catering to your unique learning style, you can create a study or work plan that is conducive to your academic and career success. Highlighting and commenting in a textbook is just the start of study strategies.
You may need to try out a few strategies before you discover a study habit that works for you. The important thing is to always keep learning, growing and exploring how you can improve yourself.
Enjoy your educational journey by discovering studying practices that work for you. As a PGS student, you also have access to academic resources to help you thrive in your learning and studying. Discover how you can incorporate these resources into your study routine to elevate your learning.