Favorite Study Hacks

Y’all, I was not always a star student. I have had ADD for as long as I remember, and while I know that this doesn’t mean I’m not a smart or capable student, it does mean that my brain doesn’t fit in to a typical classroom and study environment quite as easily as a neurotypical person’s brain does. My learning disability is part of who I am and I love and appreciate my whole self, and one of the awesome things about having ADD is that it has made me really intentional about studying. Medications don’t do that much for me anymore and all I have to rely on to fill the gap between how I learn and how I’m expected to learn are what are called coping mechanisms– behaviors that I’ve developed to help me fit in to an environment where I’m a little different. Finding good coping mechanisms has been necessary for me to succeed as a student, and I think even neurotypical folks can benefit from what I’ve figured out. Here are three of my favorite online tools for studying:

1. Timers: This is definitely the most important study hack I’ve figured out. One of my favorite patterns is setting a timer for five minutes and promising to write 100 words in five minutes, then taking a five minute break. I can sustain this pattern for around two hours and then maybe I switch to reading or something that’s less intense for me than writing. Another favorite pattern is setting a timer for 25 minutes and working for that period of time, then taking a five minute break. Every couple of breaks can be fifteen minutes long. I find this pattern quite sustainable and usually do it when I don’t need to work as quickly as the 5/5 pattern. I’m not sure how it is for other people, but for me writing 100 words in 5 minutes is very quick and takes a lot of concentration for me, which is a limited resource.

My favorite link for this is: http://tomatoi.st/

2: Rewards: Having something to look forward to is a great motivator. Candy, breaks, recreational reading or Youtube-watching, visiting friends at their carrels, and visits to a fountain are all great rewards, as well as a full night of sleep and deep feeling of satisfaction. I love Written? Kitten! as a reward system. Every 100 words you write, it shows you a new picture of a kitten! You can also switch out kittens for any keyword that will search Flickr. (Did I invent Written? Butts!? Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t.) It’s also a great way to see concrete progress. I’ll often say to myself, “In three kittens I’m going to bed.”

Here’s the link: http://writtenkitten.net/

3: Noise: Having the right music, sound, or silence can really change how things go for me. Sometimes this means being mindful of my environment– Lusty has a different, social white noise vibe than Carpenter, where you can practically hear the books snoring. I really haven’t found any consistency in what is best for me, but I have figured out that switching up what’s in my ears can really give me better energy if I’m not getting anything done. In addition to switching up the ambient noise situation, it often helps me to play around with different music or different kinds of white noise. I have two favorites in particular. One is Ravi Shankar and Phillip Glass’s Meetings Along the Edge. I can’t explain why but this piece really, really helps me write. I play it on repeat. My other favorite is listening to ambient noise like rain or a crackling fire (or both, if I want to feel like a lumberjack writing novels in my log cabin in the forest by my wood stove on a rainy night.) Here are the links to my secret power song, a website that puts YouTube videos on repeat, and a great website for background noise.



2 thoughts on “Favorite Study Hacks

  1. Hi Ingrid,

    I found your blog through the campus enewsletter and thought to send you a link to one of my favorite internet radio stations for work / study / focus:

    You can find this on iTunes in the Ambient music section too.


  2. Hi Ingrid,
    I totally agree – learning should be made to work with you, especially when you’re in higher ed. I tend to do a combination of YouTube and the white noise method by making a playlist on YouTube and then let it play on continuous/shuffle. It’s a great way to save money if you have very specific tastes.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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