Nobody thinks you should be spending every waking hour on work, but you need to make the most of what time you
do spend. Here are some research-backed revision hacks to boost your productivity this December, while leaving room for those important festive frolics.
Always working at the kitchen table, or in the library, or at the bedroom desk you got way back in year seven? Well, maybe it’s time to switch things up a bit.
Research from way back in the 80s – and students don’t change, after all – shows that a change of environments during the learning process can aid memory retention. Think about it: if you study in the same place all the time, your visual, aural and sensory cues are the same for all the information you ingest. Switching things up creates variety in environmental prompts, and associative memory is a powerful thing.
Slow and Steady
You’ve got to learn how to tackle a particular problem, or identify a particular artistic style, or recognise a certain type of pottery – whatever. So you gather together a bunch of samples and slog your way through in one session, hoping that repetition will breed familiarity.
Sound about right? You are – surprise, surprise – doing things wrong. ‘Spacing’ is the act of keeping similar styles of problem apart, and revision sessions spread over a long period. ‘Massing’ is the opposite – in fact, you might be more familiar with the term ‘cramming’. According to
research from the American Psychological Association, the former is the one you want.
The reasoning is simple: we learn better when revising in little bits over a long time, as opposed to lots at once. So take frequent breaks, spread problems of one type over several different revision sessions, and keep subjects varied to maximise absorption.
They say talking to yourself is the first sign of madness. Well, it could also be the first sign of a First.
Production Effect is a phenomenon where the process of ‘producing’ a piece of information, rather than simply observing it, improves your chances of retaining that material. Being forced to not only recall but generate/write/draw/speak answers cements them in your mind much better than simply looking at words on a page. I guess that’s why they say teaching is the best form of learning.
The easiest way to make use of the Production Effect is to say facts and figures aloud during revision. No, it won’t make you popular in the library. But if you’re taking heed of point (1), you’re no longer working there anyway.
There’s An App For That
Can’t control your social media urges? Just HAVE to look at that Snapchat, or check out that FB message, or slide into those DMs? We’ve all been there – struggling to fight the digital urge as our phone quietly vibrates itself into oblivion.
But with so many site-blocking extensions and apps out there, your pleas are answered. Sites like
Self Control literally block your access to certain parts of the internet for particular periods.
You can adjust your settings to suit your goals. Maybe you want to allow yourself thirty minutes of social media a day, or five minutes every hour. Or maybe you’d rather go for a full post-nine Facebook watershed. Whatever. Just get that habit under control.
It’s well known that walking is good for your body. Turns out it works for your brain, too.
2012 study from the University of Illinois found that “short bouts of exercise may be efficacious for maintaining cognitive performance, which may have implications for scholastic achievement.” Basically, taking short walks between revision sessions will help you concentrate. Plus, people who are fit are better at remembering stuff. It’s a win-win.
And what better time to get moving than Christmas, when the pudding’s heavy and the air nice ‘n’ chill? You gotta work off those calories somehow.
Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice . To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London , visit their website.