Studying…it’s not fun. For many of us, it’s not very enjoyable.
It can be a chore to sit down in front of pages upon pages of notes. The black ink from your pen stares back at you. Quite honestly, it’s intimidating. You want no part of this. You don’t enjoy the mental quarrel, but getting your mind adjusted to this upcoming battle is a necessity. Unless you want to fail your next exam, you’re going to need to study. Time’s running out! The test is in a few days and you still haven’t absorbed any of the content. Fast-forward to the day of the test. You still aren’t confident that you know the material. The overwhelming stress is slowly crushing youI
Does that scenario sound familiar? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. There’s a roadblock that everyone needs to overcome in order to study for their upcoming test. This is what’s known as the J-Curve.
A term borrowed from economics, the J-Curve fundamentally shows a general ineffectiveness followed by an upward trend beyond the original starting point.
Why am I mentioning this? Well, the J-Curve works the same way when it comes to studying.
After you initially hit that roadblock, there comes a point when focus and productivity decreases. Ordinarily, this is the point when most people give up. Whether they choose to do something else, mentally tap-out, or even fall asleep, the average person drops off from studying the intended material–they forfeit the opportunity to absorb the necessary material.
However, just like with the J-Curve, if you push forward and stick with your studying, you’ll soon discover that your focus and productivity will eventually increase past its initial point.
Now, I’m not saying that you’ll be super enthused about studying and develop some form of photographic memory. What I am saying is that the desire to give up diminishes.
Your brain will adapt to you attempting to study and you’ll actually unconsciously block out all of the internal and external distractions that were hindering your performance.
Of course, the ideal advice would be to avoid the J-Curve entirely—simply sit down and begin absorbing the information immediately. Realistically, that doesn’t happen and there are dozens upon dozens of reasons why that is. However, I’m going to give you a few tips that I’ve learned that will help you get as close to avoiding the J-Curve (at least the brick wall that initiates the J-Curve) as possible.
1. Get a Routine
You may have seen this tip before and if you haven’t, check out my post on The Power of a Planner. This is ultimately probably one of the best tips I can offer.
Study at the same time every day!
If you create a habit of studying at a certain point each day, you’ll soon discover that less willpower is required. Willpower is very much like a muscle on your body. The more you use it, the more it enhances and develops. It becomes stronger and far more durable! Once you begin to do this, the J-Curve will virtually disappear from your life!
2. Put away the electronics!
You read this correctly. Put away the electronics. Put away the electronics. Put away the electronics! No phone, no television, no beeper or pager (whatever those are)! Electronics, like your phone or television, act as a distraction and prevent you from absorbing the necessary content. In my opinion, turn off your phone AND place it as far away from you as realistically possible. You don’t want these things in a direct line of sight as you may be tempted to use the device.
3. Force yourself to study!
This tip directly challenges the entire concept of the J-Curve. If you took my advice and followed the first step, this tip won’t apply to you. However, if you chose not to create a routine then you can always tackle studying head-first and force yourself to study. It won’t be fun and it won’t necessarily be easy but inevitably, you will experience the increase in focus that comes during the J-Curve. Again, I don’t recommend this because honestly, it’s just more work than necessary.
4. Do Not Cram!
For all of you procrastinators out there, I’m talking to you! As an ex-procrastinator, I can attest to the stress that can overwhelm you when one waits until the very last minute to absorb a lot of material. Honestly, sometimes cramming works well but most of the time it doesn’t pay off well. For one, you might contain the information in your short term memory but it doesn’t take long for the information to fade away. Ultimately, cramming is just a bad method. It’s a high risk for low reward.
5. Choose your Setting Wisely
Your setting can guide your focus and ability to study. If you’re in an environment that discourages studying then it goes without saying that your efforts will be compromisedy—you won’t be able to gather the necessary information correctly. Now, determining the perfect setting is highly unique to the individual. Some prefer completely quiet areas, others prefer some noise, and then others even prefer noisy environments. This is something you’ll need to experiment with.
6. Rest your brain for a bit!
Don’t overwork mind or you may see diminished results. According to an article by the Huffington Post, the brain can only really focus on something for about 45 minutes before overall concentration and effectiveness decreases. It’s important to allow your brain some time to de-load. This is another reason why cramming is bad since those who cram usually tend to study an extensive amount of material for a long period of time.
7. Interact with your content
Do you recall some of the nursery rhymes and little phrases you heard as a child? Can you still recite them from memory today? If so, then you probably spent at least a small amount of time interacting with the content. What does this mean? Well, interacting with the content refers to taking a concept and molding it in a way that best appeals to you.
Now, how you do this is entirely up to you. Some use acronyms such as PEMDAS while others may use basic rhymes or songs. I’ve even seen some make a simple concept they’re attempting to learn and organize it into an elaborate short story. The key is to actively manipulate the contents into something easily remembered.
Keep in mind that you may need to play around with this a little in order to discover what works best for yourself. Some can make catchy songs and memorize it easily while for others, a short phrase might work far better. Experiment a little.
8. Become a more enthusiastic learner
This tip isn’t just great for studying but is a great tip to consider for life in general. A big part of studying comes down to one’s mindset. Remember, I mentioned earlier that the J-Curve is the decrease in performance after the wall that appears from attempting to study, which is then followed by an increase in performance.
The key component to consider is that there is no J-Curve if studying isn’t viewed as a chore. If it were pleasing, one could jump right into studying. Well, by becoming a more enthusiastic learner in general, you eliminate the initial barrier. Once you begin to become intrigued by anything and everything in the world around you, learning new things no longer is a chore.
Rather, it merely becomes a positive trait. It eventually becomes a habit of its own that you can use to your everyday advantage. My best tip to becoming a more enthusiastic learner: open your mind to everything and become more curious towards the world around you. There’s an infinite amount of knowledge to discover and with each new piece of information you learn, your perception of the world changes dramatically. Give it a shot!