How to Get Into the Study Mindset – Here Are Our 6 Tricks
As you go through high school and the study load increases it is important to learn how to get into the study mindset. We’re all familiar with the idea of the zone – also known as a state of flow – that mental place where all outside noise seems to fade away, where the body and the mind seem to come together in perfect harmony, where our focus becomes laser-like and unwavering, and we’re able overcome any challenge or obstacle that gets in our way. Elite athletes often talk about being in the zone, and the role it plays in performing at their peak. Think about Michael Jordan dominating the NBA in the ‘90s, or more recently, someone like Novak Djokovic on the tennis court. You can see it in their eyes. It is just them and the match. Their minds are quiet. The crowd, the opposition, just obstacles. Their attention is firmly and fully on the task at hand.
Being in the zone is not an elusive phenomenon unique to elite sport though. It is a state of being that may present itself in an infinite number of situations: exercising, doing the dishes, playing music, reading a book, working, the list is endless.
Here are 6 tricks to answer the question of how to get into the study mindset.
- Physically and mentally prime yourself.
Being in the zone requires the use of your subconscious mind. It’s pretty well impossible to get into a flow with something if your brain hasn’t had previous exposure to it, and the chance to map its terrain. Imagine learning any new activity for the first time (driving, swimming, baking, making pottery) – your mind is simply too alert, too conscious of trying to develop new skills to enter a state of flow. For this reason, your best chance of getting into a study mindset is with something you’ve physically done beforehand, or at the very least thought intensely about. Try and spend 5 or 10 minutes visualising the task at hand before starting, thinking about what needs to be done step by step. You might try doing this just before bed, or in the shower in the morning, but give your mind some time to process and store this mental preparation so it can filter into your subconscious.
It’s also important to prepare yourself physically. You won’t just roll out of bed and get straight into the zone. Just like a car engine needs some warming up, your brain needs some oxygen, and some stimulation to get going. Some form of exercise (a walk or jog, some push ups or star jumps) or deep breathing will get oxygen flowing to your brain, and give you a better chance of getting into a flow.
- Find or create the right working environment.
Everyone works differently according to their environment. Some people will thrive in the quiet atmosphere of a library; others may need the stimulation of a busy café. The trick, however, is to try and identify what works best for you, and this requires some reflection or observation. Try and recall times in which you worked productively or efficiently, and see if you can identify any similarities between them. Alternatively, become aware of your concentration levels in different spaces in the moment. Then, once you’ve recognised what working environments suit you best, gravitate towards those as often as possible.
Additionally, it is important to complement your working environment by ensuring your study space is optimally set up. This means having everything you need at hand, including study materials, water, and possibly some food. If you do get in the zone, you want to stay in it for as long as you can! Getting up for anything, even if it’s just once to get a snack, will break your concentration and bring you right back to reality.
- Remove all distractions.
For better or worse, modern society has become inundated with sources of distraction. Just think about how many alerts your phone might receive in a single day from messages, phone calls, alarms, emails and social media! As mentioned, it is impossible to get into the zone if your mind is continually brought away from the task at hand. When learning how to get into the study mindset, try switching your phone onto ‘do not disturb’, aeroplane mode, or off altogether. Better yet, leave it in another room (out of sight, out of mind). Also, if you’re working on a computer, make sure you mute all notifications.
And on the theme of distractions, multitasking must absolutely be avoided. While there is always the temptation to multitask in today’s world, it is simply incompatible with getting into a state of flow. If you want to enter a state in which you can perform at your absolute peak, you need to be solely focused on one task.
- Use music.
Some people may disagree with this, but there’s a reason so many elite athletes have got their headphones on in the moments before a big event. Music can help! Music connects to our emotions, and thereby activates our physical and mental spheres. In this way, it helps to get our body working in harmony as one unit, which is a necessary precondition for getting into the zone. That being said, it is important to choose the right kind of music. A pop song with lots of vocals is likely to be more distracting than focusing. Ambient music without lyrics is a safer bet – anything from Mozart, to European house music, or even miscellaneous white noises like rain or ceiling fans. Added bonus: music also blocks out distracting noises.
- Challenge yourself.
Doing things that we find easy just doesn’t get our brains going the way a challenge does. Part of the trick with getting into the zone is to stretch our mental comfort zones a little. Our minds need to be stimulated and focused, but without feeling deterred or overwhelmed by something that’s too difficult. Try engaging with some more advanced content, or some more challenging questions, or even turn study into a game and set yourself time-based tests – How many questions can I answer in 10 minutes? How many words can I write in half an hour?
- Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is quickly becoming a bit of a new age cliché, but for good reason. Its practice is a relatively simple one, with significant and wide-reaching benefits touching many areas of our lives (not least of which is mental health). With respect to the ‘zone’, the practice of mindfulness has some crucial similarities, including the unity of the physical and mental spheres, and an unwavering concentration on one object. Practicing mindfulness, through things like meditation or yoga, helps condition your brain for long periods of concentration, greatly improving your chances of getting into the flow and staying there.
If you find it hard to get into the study mindset, our team of academic personal trainers can help you learn how to get into a study mindset! Click here to find a tutor near you!