How much time should I study?

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  • #1
Felipe Lincoln
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I'm having trouble in studying. I am studying full time from Monday to Monday but I just cannot get focused all the time, I realized that more than half of the time I'm sleepy or struggling to maintain my focus. I'm doing my degree in physics and I feel like I need to study full time, but I just can't do it, what should I do?
 
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  • #2
Choppy
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While it's a general rule that the more time you spend studying the better you do, this has its limits. Really, you want quality, focused study time where you're actively learning and engaged with problem sets. Time spent mindlessly staring at a textbook is really not much better than time spent doing something completely different.

Some general tips to help you stay focused, in no particular order...
  1. Take breaks. Just like an athlete can't sustain maximum performance for an indefinite time, you can't expect to do that either. Allow your mind some time to relax.
  2. Take the time to remind yourself why you love what you're studying. This means spending some time on stuff that you find interesting outside of assigned material. It's a lot easier to maintain your motivation if you're feeding that curious part of your mind, rather than trying to lock it up while you're concentrating only on assigned material.
  3. Be sure you're getting good sleep.
  4. Be sure you're eating properly.
  5. Be sure you're getting adequate exercise.
  6. Set SMART goals for yourself (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-constrained). Sitting down just to 'study' can be almost impossible because you don't have any way of measuring whether you're making progress. May sure to plan your study time, establish goals, and if necessary, break those into smaller goals. Even if you're not meeting them, at least you have a means of knowing where you're at in relation to where you'd like to be.
  7. Control your study environment (to the extent that you can). Try limit distractions and organize your study space.
  8. Mix up your approach to your studies. If something's not working for you, try something new. Consider joining a study group. Or instead of just reviewing notes on a particular topic, try to create a presentation on it. If your pencil and paper approach to problem solving isn't working, try writing some code to solve the problem.
  9. Be proactive about asking for help when you need it. There are no awards for doing everything yourself.
 
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  • #3
Felipe Lincoln
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1) I downloaded a app called Go For It!, it helps me to manage tasks and have a timer to complete each task, I already listed all I have to do in little chunks and I'll see how will it work. Thanks for the advice.

*2) This seems to be good to keep my motivation. Do you suggest to do things that doesn't requires a lot of effort here or not necessary? Should I be doing something like reading an article or watching a video?

3, 4, 5) They all got a time in my daily routine =)

6) The same app I mentioned in the item 1 will do this, I have already listed about 30 things that I pretend to do in 30 minutes each, things like reading a piece of a chapter from the textbook, do exercises 2 and 4, things like that. It was a excellent advice too, I already feel more motivated to tackle each of these tasks.

*7) I have a very nice and quiet place at the library in the university. But distractions I have to struggle a bit to take it off of my routine, have you any advice? I'm afraid of when I take the breaks in my studies sections I'll get engaged to something in the internet and spend more time than I should.

*8) This is a good advice but could be a bit tricky. I have troubles in doing things out of the standard, it will surely takes me more time than it should. I'll think of what I could do..

9) Ok.

Things that are marked with * are the items I still have some doubt.
I really appreciate your advices and your attention. Thank you.
 
  • #4
Felipe Lincoln
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In case of doing some scientific research along with my studies, how should I manage time to dedicate to it as well as others things I like doing?
 
  • #5
Dishsoap
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Don't disregard this suggestion for being obvious... have you considered budgeting your time? I mean actually making an Excel spreadsheet with your waking hours planned. Not every little detail, but jotting down your plans for each hour helps. In my opinion, if you find that you are consistently studying for more than, say, 3-4 hours a day, I think it is worth re-evaluating your studying habits.
 
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  • #6
Vanadium 50
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In case of doing some scientific research along with my studies

If you aren't keeping up now, is it a good idea to add more work?

if you find that you are consistently studying for more than, say, 3-4 hours a day, I think it is worth re-evaluating your studying habits.

While it's true that the time the average student spends studying has fallen over time - and according to one study is now down to 10-13 hours per week - I'm less convinced that the amount of time they should study has fallen as much. The rule of thumb is 2 hours of outside work per credit hour, which means for a 15 hour load this is 30 hours per week. Basically, college is a full-time job.
 
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  • #7
Dr. Courtney
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When I was a student, I needed 2-3 hours outside of class for each class hour. This added up to 30-45 hours outside of class each week for a typical 15 credit hour course load.

As a college professor, I tended to also design my homework assignments with the expectation of students spending this much time on them.

Of course, students still struggling with algebra will need more time in an algebra-based physics class with decent problem solving requirements. Students still struggling with calculus will need more time in physics courses requiring calculus.

But my experience has also been that most subjects have diminishing returns with time spent in one stretch. Both myself and students I mentor are most productive working in planned 1 hour blocks and switching to a different subject after an hour, planning to return later with fresh eyes.
 
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  • #8
Stephen Tashi
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I'm doing graduation in physics and I feel like I need this full time study but I just can't do it, what should I do?

To get good advice, you should make it clear what you are required to do. As a USA forum member, I don't know what "graduation in physics" means. Are you (in USA terms) a college undergraduate majoring in physics? How much choice do you have about the courses you take? Do you have other jobs besides being a student?
 
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  • #9
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I'm afraid of when I take the breaks in my studies sections I'll get engaged to something in the internet and spend more time than I should.
You mentioned in item 1 of your list that you have a timer app. Use this app to set time limits on your break times. Surfing the internet can be a huge waste of time if your goal is to spend time studying effectively.
I would advise limiting the time you spend on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, whatever, if you want to do well in your studies.
 
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  • #10
BigChips
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I think you should study for like 30-45 mins and after that take a break of like 5-10 mins and maybe use phone, walk somewhere, eat something or do whatever you want in that time and then come back to studying.
 
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  • #11
Felipe Lincoln
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Sorry for the lack of information.
I'm a physics undergraduate student from Brazil at the third semester. Alongside doing the course I also work with scientific research, it takes about 8 hours of my week. Besides that I have all the time to dedicate.

Don't disregard this suggestion for being obvious... have you considered budgeting your time? I mean actually making an Excel spreadsheet with your waking hours planned. Not every little detail, but jotting down your plans for each hour helps. In my opinion, if you find that you are consistently studying for more than, say, 3-4 hours a day, I think it is worth re-evaluating your studying habits.
I already have a spreadsheet, but I think it's too vague right now, it's like: study from x to y hours, but with Choppy's advice I break this study time into little pieces and It's already working.
I just didn't understand your last statement. Should I study less than this?

If you aren't keeping up now, is it a good idea to add more work?
I'm not doing bad at university actually, but what I'm doing is being not healthful because it's not effective and it makes me sleep less, do less health things because of time (that I'm not spending it effectively).

You mentioned in item 1 of your list that you have a timer app. Use this app to set time limits on your break times. Surfing the internet can be a huge waste of time if your goal is to spend time studying effectively.
I would advise limiting the time you spend on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, whatever, if you want to do well in your studies.
Ok, I'll do it.
 
  • #12
Felipe Lincoln
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I think you should study for like 30-45 mins and after that take a break of like 5-10 mins and maybe use phone, walk somewhere, eat something or do whatever you want in that time and then come back to studying.

Saw this yesterday, was really helpful.
 
  • #13
Dr. Courtney
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Working smarter rather than harder is one of the biggest lies when it comes to college success.

Success in physics requires both working harder AND working smarter. Majoring in physics IS a full time job requiring 50-60 hours each week of academic effort for a typical course load (15-17 credit hours). Working smarter will likely get you better learning and better grades, but most STEM majors are in fantasy land if they think they can reduce their overall efforts to < 30 hours a week by working "smarter."

Don't cut back study time until you ace a couple of tests or (even better) post a couple semesters with 4.0 GPAs.
 
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  • #14
Vanadium 50
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Working smarter rather than harder is one of the biggest lies when it comes to college success.

A sort of agree with this. "Work smarter, not harder" is half right. It's good to encourage people to work smarter. The problem is that there is also the idea that one can work smarter and therefore work less. i.e. "I have decided that this is as far as I need to go, so by working smarter I can reduce the amount that study gets in the way of beer and football". That works about as well as you might expect.
 
  • #15
Marisa5
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Study with your peers. If you ever go to the gym alone you'll notice motivation is generally much more difficult than if you're with a group working out as a team. Your university should have free tutoring centers or physics study groups. Attend those regularly even if you prefer sitting alone with some headphones on.
 
  • #16
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Study hard is good advice as long as you know your limits and don't overdo it; too much work and no fun eventually leads to a high level of stress and procrastination, so make sure that your study routine is stable (you can keep it for a long time without any issues).
 
  • #17
HAYAO
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Working smarter rather than harder is one of the biggest lies when it comes to college success.

Success in physics requires both working harder AND working smarter. Majoring in physics IS a full time job requiring 50-60 hours each week of academic effort for a typical course load (15-17 credit hours). Working smarter will likely get you better learning and better grades, but most STEM majors are in fantasy land if they think they can reduce their overall efforts to < 30 hours a week by working "smarter."

Don't cut back study time until you ace a couple of tests or (even better) post a couple semesters with 4.0 GPAs.

I think the title "study less, study smart" itself already chooses its audience. That would be the kind of words to give to someone who is seriously overworking, like those who study 60 hours a week outside class but is struggling to get decent results.
 
  • #19
Felipe Lincoln
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The conclusion I came through all the answers is that studying isn't meant to be entertainment, it is work and we have to put a lot of effort since it's not easy, but yeah I like to have this kind of "job". I'm changing my routine daily based on all the answers from here and it's being very good to me, I'm managing to do my tasks and felling more motivated.
There is one chapter about your problem, plus the rest is probably helpful too, related issues, in this book now available free I just discovered.
https://thuvienebook.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/tony-buzan-use-your-head.pdf
Ok I'll read this right now. Thank you.
 
  • #20
Krushnaraj Pandya
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Besides the already great advice given here, one thing that helps A LOT is meditating for an hour (and reducing an hour of sleep if you have a really tight schedule). In India the ambitious high-school student studies up-to 15 hours a day, (I limit myself to around 7 hours a day) and what keeps us (maybe just me?) going is that we always know where we're heading in life by studying so much extra material and where we want to end up. while at the same time not compromising on our current happiness by just loving science subjects :D
Also, a proper form of meditating really increases the sharpness of your mental faculties
 
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  • #21
vela
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I just didn't understand your last statement. Should I study less than this?
I believe what Dishsoap is getting at is that doing well in a course shouldn't take a ridiculously large amount of time so if it does, it's probably because you're not using the time effectively. It may help to try other learning techniques that will achieve better results in less time.

Study with your peers. If you ever go to the gym alone you'll notice motivation is generally much more difficult than if you're with a group working out as a team. Your university should have free tutoring centers or physics study groups. Attend those regularly even if you prefer sitting alone with some headphones on.
I second this advice. For most people, learning is helped by some sort of social interaction. Discussions with your peers will keep you focused and may expose you to points of view that you hadn't considered. Also, it's a lot easier to stay motivated when you know others are in the same boat, and you're all trying to understand the material together. If you're alone and feel isolated, it's easy to get frustrated and simply give up.
 
  • #22
BorekFan101
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Hey man I find that taking regular breaks and switching your brain off for a few hours helps! definitely go and out and party every now and again, see your friends! if you can finish tasks off as quick as you can too relieve some stress! Goodluck Man!!!!
 
  • #23
rootone
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I'm having trouble in studying. I am studying full time from Monday to Monday but I just cannot get focused all the time, I realized that more than half of the time I'm sleepy or struggling to maintain my focus. I'm doing my degree in physics and I feel like I need to study full time, but I just can't do it, what should I do?
Sleep is not a bad thing.
 
  • #24
RawrPanda
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Hey =) I am an undergrad student too, and i used to have concentration problems when it comes to study hours and hours. but i found out some tips that actually helped me get things done the easiest and fastest way.
First of all, before you start to study i recommend you have a little workout, it can help you concentrate believe me :)
Eat healthy food, and avoid energy drinks they just will make you dizzy :)

Use the Feynman technique , read and repeat what you have learned in your own words, like you explaining to a kid. try it, it does work perfectly.
specially if you read theories like relativity or topics related to astronomy it can be pain in the toushy(haha) if your are planning to read 100pages a day just like a robot :) o0)
 
  • #25
Haelfix
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My favorite tip is to study enough of a subject, so that you could teach your friend in class the exact lecture (and homework problems) given that day. Bonus points if you actually do it with someone (you will rapidly realize that you don't understand as much as you should). This typically adds about an hour per credit to the work load.... However it decreases the amount of time necessary to cram for tests at the end of the semester (when you don't have very much time).

My second biggest tip (and this separates in my opinion the really elite students from the merely A students) is to know it all before you actually take the class! Why do you know it? B/c you enjoy everything so much that you can't help learning it before the class. In other words, it's not a job, it's a passion and a hobby. That's why the OP doesn't quite make sense to me.
 
  • #26
Mister T
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In case of doing some scientific research along with my studies, how should I manage time to dedicate to it as well as others things I like doing?

My suggestion is that you try to avoid watching the clock. They may not work for you, but it has always worked for me. I pay attention not to the quantity of time, but the quality of the time spent. When I study I strive for understanding, and if you're striving for something else, that may be a separate problem that could also be addressed.

What motivates us to adopt time-management strategies? It's when we find we don't have enough time to complete required or desired tasks. So some of us make schedules and watch clocks. I don't. I look back to see what I did that might have been a waste of time. I can almost always find it. And when I can't that means that there just wasn't enough time and no amount of time management would have fixed that.

Are your time-management strategies a way for you to avoid wasting time? If so, is there some better way to build the required discipline necessary to not waste as much time?

For me, I find it very rewarding to reach an understanding of something that I've been struggling to understand. That is my motivation.
 
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  • #27
CWatters
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I did my degree some 40 years ago. The routine then was to spend 9-5 most days at the university in lectures or private study. Wednesday afternoon was sports day. Cook and eat as soon as you got home. Study until 9pm. Two or three beers in the bar and bed. One day at the weekend for chores (washing clothes etc) and sport/leisure. One day for study/project work.
 
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  • #28
jim hardy
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Like @CWatters my college days were a long time ago.

The fraternity where i lived believed in getting through school. Quiet study hours were enforced from 6 to 10PM five days a week.
I found that was enough time to get most homework done.
But coursework was paced about as fast as i was capable of absorbing and i learned quickly to never get behind. Catchup is extremely painful.

It's important to be rested.
If you've kept up, the best way to prepare for a test is to cook a small T-bone steak for dinner and have no sugar or alcohol with it.
Then spend maybe twenty minutes looking over the chapters you'll be tested on.
Get to bed early , get up early and walk into that test well rested and alert.

Well, at least that's what worked for me. I liked physics and made straight A's in it.
Math was my struggle. It always took up 3 of my 4 study hours and i only squeaked by..

Your brain is a machine. Don't abuse it.. Feed it well and give it adequate rest .

old jim
 
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  • #29
Felipe Lincoln
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It's being extremely helpful to hear your experiences. I already changed my routine and I feel a lot of change in my productivity.
I realized that I was acting only mechanical and only focusing on doing the obligatory tasks and it was making me procrastinate for getting bored for never be doing other thing than mechanically solving list of problems. I saw that with organization, with one day of focused work I could do what I struggled to do in about 3 days so I feel that I have time to spend studying the beauty of the theory from what I'm learning.
I'm starting to learn more than the minimal required to pass the tests and still able to do my tasks in time.

I also look at the behaviour of the top students from my university. What they do is rush the tasks they're given as soon as it comes to them and after that they start reading a book that isn't used in the course in order to get extra content, and the more important, they don't waste time.
 
  • #30
jim hardy
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I also look at the behaviour of the top students from my university.

yes, emulate the successful folks. Form the same habits they have.
I sure wish i'd figured that out a couple decades earlier.

old jim
 
  • #31
Hammer007
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I find that when studying a particularly difficult area it helps to have a goal in mind; when studying see if you can find an application for the material you are working on. In this way you actually have a reward that is both internal and external in nature. Also more likely to retain information when application is available.
 
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