Why IU Study Tips so you work smarter
Save time and effort as well as create an environment where you can excel with our study tips.
Prepare for Successful Studying
Modern-day studying requires a lot more independent work. Whether it is due to the increased use of technology and digital materials as a result of digitalisation, or the COVID-19 pandemic, students across the world have needed to adapt how they study and develop new skills. It isn’t always easy to stay disciplined without guidance, this means that students can often fall into bad habits such as cramming, overloading themselves with work, and postponing tasks until the last minute. This can often lead to failure or underachieving.
Are you unsure about some of the best ways to study? Or struggling to stay organised? You’re not alone, that’s why we have put together some tips and methods to improve your time management, learning skills as well as the environment you learn in so you can fulfil your potential. You will also find apps and tools which can help you to do this, so check them out!
How to Manage Your Time Effectively
You want to find the right balance between studying, work and social or family commitments. Everyone needs time to unwind or have fun without sacrificing their grades, that’s why it’s important to plan and structure your time. Here are a couple of methods that can help you to successfully manage your time.
The Eisenhower Matrix is named after the US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It helps you to structure your tasks and set priorities. This approach is often used in the consulting field, but can also be applied to students with some modifications.
Carrying out self-organisation
To start with, collect all your tasks and write them down. Then classify them into one of four categories. Decide whether each task is:
- unimportant and not urgent.
- unimportant but urgent.
- important but not urgent.
- important and urgent.
Important tasks are any that will help you achieve your biggest goals. Urgent tasks usually have a deadline. The Eisenhower Method includes a recommended action for each category that tells you how to proceed with the task.
Categories and Recommendations
Unimportant and non-urgent (D-tasks)
This category contains your time thieves: the many small, unimportant, and non-urgent tasks that take up a lot of time. Your time would be better spent in one of the other three categories.
Recommendation for action: Don’t do them
Examples: Layout design of documents you haven’t written yet, using social media.
Unimportant but urgent (C-tasks)
Tasks in this category should be dealt with depending on how much time you have. Do not give these tasks more time than is absolutely necessary, and make sure that you work through them efficiently.
Recommendation for action: Do it later if possible
Examples: Answering e-mails and chat messages, tidying up at home.
Important but not urgent (B-tasks)
Don’t lose track of these, even though they’re not urgent - after all, they contribute to your goals. They are longer-term tasks, so you can plan them more easily. Think about when you want to tackle these tasks and set yourself clear deadlines.
Recommendation for action: Schedule it
Examples: Time with partner/family/friends, long-term learning and training goals.
Important and urgent (A-tasks)
Tasks that are both important and urgent should ideally be done immediately. Not only do they contribute to the pursuit of your goal, but they also give you a feeling of affirmation if you complete them successfully. Be careful not to pile up too many tasks in this category.
Recommendation for action: complete immediately.
Examples: Exam prep, essays, work tasks.
The ALPEN method is a proven method of time management. It’s a simple and easy-to-use approach that you can use to effectively plan your own day. There are five steps:
- A– to-do list of all planned activities, tasks and meetings
Firstly, you collect all tasks, activities and appointments of the day and create a to-do list. This gives you a good first overview of all your tasks.
- L – estimating Length of time
Next, estimate the time needed to complete each task. Make sure that you calculate the effort as realistically as possible and be quite generous. This will prevent you from taking on too much and being stressed or disappointed afterwards.
- P – Planning buffer time
Avoid planning your entire day. This is not only unrealistic but also increases your stress level. It is, therefore, better to plan for only 50 to 60 per cent of your available time. This way, you can take breaks in between and anything that comes up shouldn’t throw you off too much.
- E – Establishing prioritised decisions
Even with buffer time, it can be difficult to complete all the tasks you have planned. Prioritise and identify the tasks you need to complete by the end of the day. The Eisenhower matrix, for example, can be helpful for prioritising.
- N – Noting down the level of success
At the end of the day, there is a follow-up. This important phase of the ALPEN method serves as your own reflection and holds learning potential. Here you compare your original plan with the tasks you have completed. You should record and analyse any deviations in order to be able to plan even more accurately in the future. With repeated use, the experience you gain in time management with the help of the ALPEN method also increases.
The ALPEN method is popular because it is easy to implement.
Create the Perfect Learning Environment
There are many factors and conditions which affect your concentration and motivation, make sure you set your study space and yourself up for productive learning. We have split them into three categories to pay attention to.
The location you work in has a big effect on how well you work, libraries offer the advantage of having very few distractions, as well as being spaces designed to be well lit and well ventilated.
However, not everyone has access to a library. If you’re studying at home, the best way to find a study location is to divide your work and leisure spaces. Don’t study next to distractions such as your tv, smartphone, or near your bed. If that proves too hard, there are apps that help to block distracting websites and apps. You should create a mental division between your work routine and your free time activities.
You should be working in a clean, well-lit, well-ventilated, and silent environment. Make sure to clean before you begin, as it creates order and stops you from cleaning to procrastinate later.
A space with good natural light is important and stops you from getting tired quickly but avoid sitting in front of a window and in direct sunlight as they can be distracting. Also, ensure you have enough lighting to continue studying after sundown, blue light helps improve concentration. Open the window regularly to get more air in, it helps to get more oxygen to the brain.
Your desk and chair are very important tools, so they need to be up to the job. Your desk needs to be big enough for all your learning materials, 160cm wide and 80cm deep is a good size. Next is the chair, it should be set at a comfortable height where your feet are firmly on the ground with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Chairs with adjustable backrests are also useful as you can vary your position over the day, helping your back.
Remember to have all your equipment ready to go, this is another way to avoid procrastination looking for a book or pen.
Apps to Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder
There is an app for everything these days! And study aids are no exception. Here are a few which will help you in different aspects of your studies.
You can add tasks to different categories (called boards), arrange them however suits you best, and synchronise them between devices and platforms like Dropbox, Hangouts, Twitter and more.
There are three tiers; the standard version is free; the business class version and enterprise version are available for 9.99€ and 20.83€ per user per month respectively. The priced versions offer better security, more features, and larger file attachment options.
You can organise and categorise appointments for work, study leisure across android and iOS. You can view, create and edit appointments at any time, with syncing across devices available, best of all is the cost, nothing!
This app will help you to stop reaching for your phone while studying. You set a period before you start studying during which you don't want to use your smartphone. While you concentrate and learn, a tree grows in the app. The longer you go, the bigger the tree. Each fully grown tree is added to your forest.
If you close the app before you should, the tree dies. This way you see the consequences of your procrastination, but you can create a list of urgent phone apps which will not kill the tree. You can even share results with friends via the app!
Evernote is an all-rounder when it comes to digital note management. You can also add image and video content or PDFs and similar document types to your written notes. Evernote structures the notes by assigning keywords.
The search function really stands out. As soon as you start a search query, Evernote searches through all the notes. In addition to digital entries, handwritten entries, text content from photos and linked PDF or Office documents are also searched. The free basic version supports the synchronisation of up to two devices.
Price: Basic version free
Evernote Plus 29,99€/year
Evernote Premium 59,99€/year
Compatibility: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows and web-based
Microsoft One Note is very similar to a traditional notebook, with the clear difference that the notebook is managed digitally. You collect and structure your notes and spontaneous thoughts by creating hierarchical pages and sub-pages. You can attach image and video content, PDFs or many other file types to your notes.
One Note, like Evernote, has a well-functioning text and speech recognition system that you can also use to search for text components of images. The application can be used across multiple platforms and synchronised with each other, used offline as well as integrated with other Microsoft Office programmes.
Price: Free use
Google offers a free text editor that you can access via your browser. Google Docs is particularly convincing when it comes to effective teamwork. All documents can be edited simultaneously by several people and changes are displayed in real-time. This means there are no more version conflicts and time-consuming document checks. In addition, different permissions (read access, editing access) can be assigned to the project members for the individual documents.
Private users get 15GB of Google Drive storage space is available for free use. With all these features, you can work more purposefully and effectively as a team on your next project.
Price: Free use (15GB included)
Compatibility: Android, iOS, web-based