It works. Remember Pavlov's dogs salivating every time they heard a bell ring? Just as association worked with them, it can also work with you. If you attempt, as nearly as possible, to study the same subject at he same time in the same place each day, you will find that after a very short while that when you get to that time and place, you're automatically in the subject groove. Train your brain to think French on a time-place cue, and it should take you no longer than ten minutes a day to get into the French mood. Not only will you save the time and emotional energy you once needed to psych yourself up to French or whatever else, but the experts say you'll also remember more of what you are studying.
In fact, if you're doing straight memorization, don't spend more then twenty to thirty minutes, first, when you are under an imposed time restriction, you use the time more effectively. (Have you noticed how much studying you manage to cram into the day before the big exam? That's why it's called cramming).
Second, psychologists say that you learn best in short takes. (Also remember that two or three hours of study without noise or other distractions is more effective than ten hours trying to work amid bedlam.) In fact, studies have shown that as much is learned in four one-hour sessions distributed over four days as in one marathon six-hours session. That's because between study time, while you're sleeping or eating, etc., your mind is absorbing what you've learned.
The specialists say you'll get your most effective studying done if you take ten minute breaks between subjects. (Again, it's akin to behavior modification. Pavlov's dogs were taught to respond on cue by being reward with tidbits. The break is your reward.) Dr Walter Pauk, director of the reading and study center at Cornell University, suggests you take a short break whenever you feel you need one, so you don't fritter your time away in clock watching and anticipating your break.
Another technique for keeping your mind from wandering while studying is to begin with your most boring subject or your hardest one, and work toward the easiest and/or the one you like best.
Brain waves are like radio waves. If there isn't enough space between inputs, you get interference. The more similar the kinds of learning taking place, the more interference. So separate your study periods for courses with similar subject matter. Follow your hour of German with an hour of chemistry or history, not with Spanish.
Psychologists have found that everyone has a certain time of day when he or she gets sleepy. Don't try to study during that time. Instead, schedule some physical activity for that period. If you do have a pile of school work, use that time to sort your notes or clear up your desk or study with a friend.
If it is a lecture course, do your studying soon after class; if it is a course in which students are called on to recite or answer questions, study before class. After the lecture you can review, revise, and organize your notes. Before the recitation classes you can spend your time memorizing, brushing up on your facts and preparing questions about the previous class. Question posing is a good technique for helping the material sink in and for pinpointing area in which you need more work.
Researchers have found that the worst way to memorize--the way that takes the most time and results in the least retention--is to simply read something over and over again. If that's the way you memorize, forget it. Instead, use as many of your senses as possible. Try to visualize in concrete terms to get a picture in your head. In addition to sight use sound; say the words out loud and listen to yourself saying them. Use association; relate that fact to be learned to something personally significant or find a logical tie-in. For example, when memorizing dates, relate them to important dates that you already know.
It really takes less time in the long run. Read with a purpose. Do not just read through your assignment from beginning to end. You'll remember a lot more if you first take time to follow the ok4r method devised by Dr Walter Pauk.
Underline, star, or otherwise make the ideas that your teacher says are important, thoughts that he/she says you'll be coming back to later, items that she says are common mistakes. Watch for the words--such as examples, especially in subjects such as math.
Research has proven that it is not how much time you study that counts but how well. Use your study time wisely. I hope these suggestions will help.
Reproduced with the permission of Gregory Wells, Coordinator, William James Center, Davis and Elkins College, Elkins WV., NACADA Conf. 1987