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How to Study Longer?

  1. Jul 30, 2012 #1
    For every hour of studying I take a 15 minute break and walk around outside but after about 3 hours of total studying my brain becomes unwilling to think hard.

    I try eating, drinking water, and even taking a 1.5 hour break but it's like my brain is only willing to challenge itself for so many hours per day. Past a certain point, if I come to something I don't understand and try to reason through it (you know, a thing called learning) I can feel my brain actively resisting and straining to return to more comfortable, familiar thoughts.

    Is there any cure for this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2012 #2
    Also, I saw a post by mathwonk one time that said during grad school he used to study about 12 hours per day, and I'm sure this was hard studying not just spacing out in front of a book for 3 hours so you can say you studied for 3 hours like many people do.

    Can the brain become conditioned for this or are some people just way better at maintaining concentration and handling the discomfort of confronting the unknown than I am?
  4. Jul 30, 2012 #3
    I find one of the biggest things that keeps people from studying is distraction. This used to happen to me a lot. I got rid of the TV a long time ago, but for about 6 months I lived without a computer. I study a lot now, but I studied A LOT then... simply because I had nothing to do except sit around, read, study, or exercise. I think that many people could gain from assessing the amount of distractions they have in their lives.

    Granted, it could be problems with motivation, health, or a myriad of other issues.
  5. Jul 30, 2012 #4

    I can go for ~15 hours a day studying (all time except for eating and sleeping etc) and it's pretty much just from practice.
    Of course, it also helps to be interested in the subject and caffine also helps.
  6. Jul 30, 2012 #5
    Like the poster above me mentioned, coffee actually does a lot to help you focus. I find when I have a couple of cups of coffee, I can read textbooks much quicker and much more efficiently. This is of course just a little thing, but if you haven't already become addicted, I'd give it a try.
  7. Jul 31, 2012 #6
    Caffeine, I love caffeine pills.
    There was a certain mathematician who used to take amphetamines every day, it is not a healthy habit but it worked for him.
    I'm obviously not recommending that, but caffeine is legal, safe(if you're not crazy and take 20 pills) and you can simply drink coffee instead.
    Also exercise is good, don't go around months without exercising just studying and working.
  8. Jul 31, 2012 #7
    Some people, like me, get nervous from high doses of caffeine. I've found out that physical exercise few times a week (6, because your body will need the one day of rest) and a healthy diet improve my studying. Of course this means sports and healthy diet whole year round, because your body will need some time adjusting to it. I laugh at people starting to eat healthy during exam periods, but eating junk food the rest of the year.
  9. Jul 31, 2012 #8


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    As mentioned before, the most important point is getting rid of distractions. Everything you do requires a certain amount of brain power, including reading news, playing games, or reading online forums (:)). Even if the activity is rather different, this still counts for your total toll. You might want to read "RF Baumeister et al. -- Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource?" (googling might get you a .pdf).

    Once you're through with that (the distractions, that is), your main option is practice. But just like with physical excercise, it's easier for some persons than for others, and you might have intrinsic limits which will never allow you to go for more than six hours of intensive concentration work, no matter what you do. Just as not everyone can learn to do the 150kg squat or to sprint the 100m in 11s.
    But do not let that discourage you: Putting in this amount of work is more than enough if you do it with the correct amount of effectivity and efficiency. Very few people can actually do more than that on a typical day, and often they don't do it with high effectivity.

    If in doubt, maximize the studying result, not the effort!
  10. Jul 31, 2012 #9
    If I like what I'm doing,I lose count of time.This is why I always start-off with the chapter I love most.Works for me.I have type-2 bipolar and hence need to diversify my days.I do this by working on engineering stuff as a past time.Studying the whole day is ********.Didn't Henri Poincaré get his idea when he was hopping onto a bus?this was a part of his daily observational walk.It seems he worked only 6 hours a day and spent the rest on observation and playing around with math puzzles.
  11. Jul 31, 2012 #10
    Paul Erdos :)
  12. Jul 31, 2012 #11
    There are a few little things that help when studying... I've been in school for something like 8 years (was initially a physics major, had to work full time and switched to history major part-time, and am now back to physics), so I feel like I'm probably a study expert at this point.

    - Don't eat any carbs before you study or go to class. Protein, vegetables, and maybe some fruit (but not bananas) if you feel like you need it. It might be that your blood sugar is crashing if you tend to eat carby foods a lot. Same with a lunch break; the only carbs you eat should be at night if you're planning to study all day.

    - Listen to music with a beat, but that isn't too complicated. This keeps your brain plugging along with the music. I find that This Morn Omina is the best math music for me, personally. I'll listen to like 4 or 5 albums by them, look at the clock and am amazed at how much I got done. Don't listen to anything with lyrics to distract you, unless you're okay with listening to another language, since you can't understand it anyway.

    - Do NOT cross your legs when you study. This just makes blood pool in your legs, so even if you walk around every 15 minutes you might still be keeping blood from getting to your brain when you're actively studying. Similarly, make sure your posture is good... if you tend to slouch, your neck is going to be at a weird angle and you're restricting blood flow that way, too. This can be hard when you're hunched over a book, but your muscles will get used to it eventually.

    - Do you study at home/in your dorm, or do you go to a library or somewhere to do it? Slowly start staying longer and longer at the library, maybe by only 15 mins or so, and it'll train you to believe that "when I'm at the library, it's study time".

    - You can also use a trigger, which... I'm not sure how I feel about and don't use it myself, personally. But just like Pavlov's dog, you can use something that tells your brain, with no exceptions, that it's time to study. I've read it more than once where a specific type of stretch and/or breathing exercise is used. You might even be able to start off each study session with the same song, or something like that. I used to listen to a certain song in the wee hours of the morning (just because it turned out that way) and now I associate it with dawn. I can't tell you whether it works for studying, but you can try it when you first start studying and then later when you lose steam. This will take a while to train yourself for, though, and I'm not sure how long it will take.
  13. Jul 31, 2012 #12
    Oh, and one more thing... if you use caffeine, I've found that a few cups of green or black tea is MUCH better than coffee or soda, because the caffeine type is different and doesn't lead to the same coffee/soda crash. It feels much more natural and easier on the system, but the alertness is the same if you drink enough of it.
  14. Jul 31, 2012 #13
  15. Jul 31, 2012 #14
    Try to build it up from three hours. For example decide to start studying for four hours every day for a month and really put effort in that last hour. If that's too much try half an hour or something like that. Then next month up the ante and try for 5 hours or so. But you have to do that every day for a month. Also here is a tip for experience maybe after one month it still doesn't feels right to study for 4 hours try for another month or so, because it will end up being a habit and you won't have to think about it. Also search for "willpower" on amazon. There is a good book by Roy F. Baumeister on that topic.

    Also i think having a good lifestyle will help. Eating right food, exercising, getting enough sleep and so on. This is a bit to general and it takes time to see effect on studying but in a long run it will help you.

    Just my two cents.
  16. Jul 31, 2012 #15
    Like dustbin said, distractions are a huge factor in getting your work done. Although, I had a computer, I lived without internet for a term and my grades shot up instantly. I had to go the library just to check my email and would usually wind up staying for a while to study.

    Diet and exercise are obviously of daily importance. Fruits and vegetables are good. However, I personally usually eat tons of tuna while studying. It's high in protein, and high in fatty acids like Omega 3. Not to mention the best part--its crazy cheap at the store.

    Music works for alot of people, but definitely not everyone. For instance, I cannot listen to music while reading, but enjoy it while working through problems.

    In my experience, the most important factor to being able to study longer is using interest as motivation. Even if you dislike the subject you need to study for, you've got to find a way to make it personally relevant and enjoyable. That way, you'll also retain the material way better too.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2012
  17. Jul 31, 2012 #16
    Keep taking the breaks for sure; Try switching subjects or topics periodically....or work theory for a while, then maybe make notes, then work a problem....Another great way to learn is to tutor someone....not multiple hours every day but trying toteach someone else really cements ideas.

    Change positions, maybe do light exercise of different types during breaks. Do you use a good chair?? Change positions? Maybe change chairs every hour, too??
  18. Jul 31, 2012 #17
    This is pretty good too, even if you are just thinking about how you would tutor someone.
  19. Jul 31, 2012 #18
    This isn't something that I personally utilise myself because I have no trouble studying for 12 hours straight, but some classmates mentioned something about 'binaural beats.' I have no idea if this is some sort of quack science because there aren't any conclusive studies for this as far as I know, but I don't think it can hurt. You can look for these audio clips on YouTube...apparently there are certain brain waves assigned to be activated during different activities (sleep, relaxing, studying, physical activities, sexual, etc.) and if you listen to the audio with the appropriate waves, it will "activate" that part of your brain...it could be a placebo, but some students say it works for them. You could try this and look for the wave audio that is specifically designed for "study" time.
  20. Jul 31, 2012 #19
    Also tuna is quite endangered at the moment because of overfishing. Diversify your fish. ;-)
  21. Jul 31, 2012 #20


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    Not to mention the amount of mercury you accumulate in your system from eating that much seafood
  22. Jul 31, 2012 #21
    There was a guy in my anatomy and physiology class a couple of semesters ago who had mercury poisoning from eating a lot of canned tuna. I don't know exactly how much, but it was definitely with every meal.

    x2 on the over-fishing point.
  23. Jul 31, 2012 #22
    Eat sardines
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