Being productive means making the most of your time. Unproductive UCAT study sessions may slow down your progress, and as a result, it may take you longer to internalize and automate strategies. If you’re like most students, you may struggle with this area. The first step to becoming more productive is being honest with yourself – know when you’re wasting your time, and take the appropriate action to ensure you’re getting the most out of your study sessions.
Here are some research-based tips that may help you work more productively:
1. Location, Location, Location
Decide where you want to study. In your home? At the library? It doesn’t matter as long as you know you won’t get distracted. Once you’ve decided – try to stick with it, and keep all your UCAT resources there. Studies have shown that your hippocampus (in your brain) associates different types of focused work with particular places: if you’re working on different things (or not working), consider dedicating a desk or table or section in your house for each.
2. Create the habit
It may be easier to get into a ‘habit’ of UCAT study, rather than forcing yourself every time you need to do it. Keep to the same routine: after dinner, before breakfast, after the gym, etc. Once a habit is formed, various elements from the environment can act as a cue to activate the behaviour, even without you having to make the decision. Research suggests the best time to study is early in the morning and before you sleep. In the morning, you’ll be fresh (hopefully) and have a clear mind. But in the end, you should know when you’re at your best – protect those peak hours for your UCAT practice.
3. Remove distractions
Turn off your all your notifications. When you’re working, your computer, phone or whatever gadgetry you have shouldn’t be chiming every time you get a new message. We live in a world where everything is competing for our attention – but to be productive during our study time, we need to stop being in a mode where we’re reacting to things. Don’t get us wrong, these things are great in moderation, but they will seriously decrease the quality of your practice if you’re constantly being distracted. A single notification can take your mind away from your work even if you don’t choose to check it. As Time Ferris (productivity guru) puts it: ‘Focus is a function, first and foremost, of limiting the number of options you give yourself for procrastinating’. Interestingly, in a study, high-school students whose classroom was situated closer to a noisy railroad line were a full academic year behind students with a quieter classroom.
4. Set clear goals beforehand
You should try to start your UCAT sessions knowing exactly what you need to work on or going to do – spend time in the previous session or night before defining your most important UCAT to-dos for the upcoming session. Writing things down also relieves any anxiety you might have and gives you something concrete to achieve. The more specific you are with your goals the better: it means you’ll be more committed to doing it and forces you to actively reflect on your progress.