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Staying productive when studying

Relentless study and revision can make you burn out - here are our tips and tricks to keep on track when learning and revising...

If you sometimes feel like your brain has hit a wall when you’re studying, you’re not alone. It’s bound to happen when you’re learning and getting to grips with tricky concepts.

When this happens, there’s no reason at all to feel like a failure - it’s just your brain asking for a break.

In fact, there are plenty of things you can do to stay productive - which includes taking some time out!


Make a timetable

Planning what you’re going to focus on and when can be really beneficial. It can help organise your mind and spur you on to achieve what you set out to.

There are lots of ways you can do this. For example, you could be like a Victorian and draw up a timetable with pencil and paper, opt for the highly dependable spreadsheet, or jump to the present day with a task management app like Trello.

The important thing is that you feel like you can stick to your targets, with some leeway.

Try not to only put work in there. Schedule breaks, set aside time to catch up with family and friends, eat, and anything else that’s important to you.


Use productivity apps

Here are some apps that are designed to help you stay on track with your learning:
  • Evernote - a note-taking app that’s compatible with most smartphones and laptops. You can scribble notes on its paper-esque interface, or just type.
  • Pocket - lets you save articles, web pages and videos for viewing later.
  • myHomework Student Planner - has a calendar where you can jot down important deadlines. There’s also a Homework section for your assignments.
  • Trello - lets you organise your projects and deadlines via boards.

Find yourself constantly refreshing your Instagram feed? Fortunately (or unfortunately), there are apps to stop you overusing social media and similarly distracting sites. AntiSocial is one you could use for your phone, and StayFocusd is a Google Chrome extension.


Sort out your workspace

A cluttered desk can lead to a cluttered mind… Clean and tidy your workspace to make it somewhere you’re happy to work from. In fact, tidying up could be the break your brain needs to reset and figure a study-related problem out.

If your desk is currently a complete mess and you don’t know where to start, you could adopt Marie Kondo’s method of deciding what to keep based on whether you feel joy when you hold it. But maybe don’t do this with the notes from a topic you’re not particularly enjoying!


Mix up where you’re working from

It might be a nice idea to vary your work environment, to help avoid feeling bored of the same old space. While we're waiting for the world to open up again, it's not as easy as it might be to mix things up. But if you usually work from your bedroom try working from other rooms in the house, if these are available. Or take your laptop to study spaces at your school or university.

You could also consider having study sessions with friends - either in real life where/when possible or on video call - so you can motivate each other.

To help you move around with ease, you might want to keep study materials and notes in a cloud storage service so you can access them anywhere. You can also turn on offline editing - handy for those of us with temperamental internet connection.


Take breaks

You should regularly take some time out to relax your brain, as otherwise you may find it tricky to concentrate and really absorb things.

Schedule breaks in your timetable, and maybe try to avoid spending all of them WhatsApping. Go for a short walk, have a healthy snack, or talk to someone - letting your mind wander and not think about work can actually help you figure things out.



Exercising can be a great way to combat stress. It can also boost your self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy.

For exercise to benefit health, you just need to be moving quickly enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer. So even if you’re not the next marathon superstar, a brisk walk will do the trick.

For health geeks, a fitness tracker will monitor your vitals and workouts.


Eat healthily

A well-balanced diet gives you the energy you need to stay on top of things during the day, as well as the nutrients you need for growth and repair.

The NHS Eatwell guide recommends:
  • At least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Meals that are based on higher fibre, starchy food - such as potatoes, bread, rice or pasta.
  • Some dairy or dairy alternatives.
  • Some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein.
  • Unsaturated oils and spreads, consumed in small amounts.
  • Plenty of fluids.


Drink water

If you’re not properly hydrated, it may prove tricky to concentrate. Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue and headache.

The NHS Eatwell guide recommends having 6-8 glasses of water and other liquids per day. For the record, low-fat milk and sugar-free drinks like tea and coffee all count. 

Learn from the best

Some celebs are renowned for their exceptional success, ability to prioritise their hectic schedules and dedication to always improve.

Vanity Fair has interviewed a few of them - Terry Crews, for example, always manages to find some ‘me time’ in his hectic work and exercise schedule:

While Creed actor Michael B. Jordan has a busy schedule, he still manages to make time for his friends and read graphic novels:

Check out our full revision advice, including everything from creating a revision timetable that works to some bizarre study tips that might work perfectly for you.

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