Kaakacheshta, vakodhyaanam, swaana-nidra tathaivacha
Alpahaari, grihastyaagi vidyaarthi panchalakshanam
Any mention of studying & what makes a good student would be incomplete without this Sanskrit shloka. It means – the five most important qualities that any sincere student needs to possess are: perseverance like a crow (never gives up), concentration of a heron (who catches fish like no one else does), sleeps like a dog (always alert), does not over-eat and does not socialize like a house on fire. It’s a very brief summary of this entire blog post on how to study for long hours with Concentration.
Why study for Long hours
Studying for long hours is a feat that many want to master, as I have come to know (It is a very frequent question that I answer regularly in my ‘Events for Youth’). Some of the most prestigious exams in India require a rigour in preparation that’s not easy to achieve. One of the many reasons why engineering graduates from the top IITs and NITs in India have a higher chance of doing well is – their successful IIT JEE preparation builds resilience in them. Anyone who aces those exams must have put in tremendous level of effort; not to mention long study hours.
And why only JEE. The civil services exams, one of the most prestigious and difficult to crack exams in the Indian education system – require extremely rigorous level of concentrated and continuous studying – day after day, month after month. Even those who couldn’t clear them unfortunately, have much higher levels of concentration.
And you can always ask CA & GATE students. Study hours are a touchy topic for them 🙂 … I get to meet a lot of students and parents during my work as a Motivational Speaker & Career Counsellor. I believe it is very important to suggest career options not just on the basis of ‘what’s trending’ but also on what an individual’s abilities are. I can say from my experience – that whenever I see someone who shows signs of resilience and concentration, I do suggest them to give a thought to these careers because their chances of fairing the exam well are a little higher. Consequently, I have also seen such students succeed in such exams – which proves my hypothesis.
Here’s what to do
So, if you are sitting for any of those exams, it is imperative that you train your mind and body to sit and study for long hours with concentration; else it would be a tough nut to crack. For those who have such exams coming up, or generally need to get into the habit of sitting and studying for long – this blog post is a must read.
When I started writing this post, I spoke with my cousin who cleared all his CA exams in the first attempt. The last few months preceding his exams, he truly lived like a pariah whose only goal was to never write the exam again, which means he had to clear it this time itself. His inputs, along with my experiences with many others have helped me put this together for you. Here are a few things you can do to study for long hours with concentration:
1. Know why you are doing it
You need to really love what you are studying and why you are studying if you want to be able to sit for 12-13 hours a day, forget the world and just dive into that goal. If it’s just another exam, you will find it difficult to convince your ‘baawra mann’. It could be things like – you want this as bad as you need air, you will not go through this hectic experience again etc. For whatever reasons you find appropriate, you need to convince yourself that you have no other option but to study for long hours; and not CRIB about it.
2. Fix a Place
The place where you perform an activity the most, imbibes those very vibrations. That’s why our beds make us the laziest and most restful. Same with studying. Fix a place for yourself and try to study there as much as possible. It will set the mood quickly and ensure that you waste less time getting into the study mode.
Also ensure that the place is well ventilated. Being holed up in a room for better part of the day can get really stale and depressing. Fresh air does wonders to the mood, even if you don’t realize it.
3. Have a Routine
This is so so so very important. Having a routine will help you time your syllabus, revisions and even your daily chores that you still have to do despite the challenge. I know a student who used to time his bath when his maid came in to clean the room because he wanted to utilize every minute. You need to at least try and get to the last minute of the clock if you want to be able to study for long hours.
4. Meditation & Mindfulness
Sitting for 3-4 hours at a stretch is taxing to the mind. Your brain will be getting a higher level of exercise and you need to prepare your brain for it. Trust me, meditation is one of the MOST effective tools at your disposal. It calms you, helps you focus, keeps you relaxed and guided and often gives you a sense of detachment from the result; which is very important.
I would suggest 15-30 mins before starting the long hours of study and 15-30 mins before you hit the bed. The beginning meditation sets you in the right mood for the groove and grind. And the last one siphons off the toxic build-up of anxiety after the day’s study and relieves stress. (More on Meditation & Mindfulness)
Very important. I know of people who develop acute back pain problems because of long hours of sitting and working or studying. So, instead of deciding to invest into doctor’s fees, invest in a good set of chairs and tables. The ones with good back support, butt support and arm rest are advisable.
We often do not realize the hidden role that comfort plays in being able to pull off long study hours. An uncomfortable body gives out subtle signs in the form of distractions, more frequent need for breaks, wandering minds and off course, pains. Avoid the bed if you are studying for long hours. It is not only the worst for your back but also for the alertness of your mind.
6. Food and Fitness
Eat less. Over-eating makes you sleepy and drowsiness can’t be good for concentration ever. A light stomach means an active mind (because the blood will majorly then flow to the brain and not to stomach). It is also advisable that you keep yourself aptly hydrated. Keep your fluid intake intact as dehydration will definitely mess with your focus, even if you do not realize it.
For the period that you need to study for long hours, avoiding oily junk food or outside food is also a good idea. Homemade food is not only more nutritious and hygienic but also has a more calming effect on the mind. I have always found that too much food and outside food causes anxiety and sleep disorder for me.
Fitness is another crucial aspect you need to direct your thoughts to. Studying for 13-14 hours a day means you get to mainly eat and sit. Many people put on weight during these months, which is okay. But there are a few things you can do to maintain a level of physical fitness. Take walks or go for a short run. Or do a little yoga or exercises. It is however important that you do not exhaust yourself physically at this time by overdoing your gymming or running. If you run for 30 mins, you will take another hour to recuperate.
So, it is better that there be consistent level of physical activity to keep you alert, but not so much that will immensely tire you.
7. Short Intermittent breaks
These will help you get through the day. Take intermittent breaks every 2.5-3 hrs of not more than 15-20 mins. Any more than that could make you lose your mode, at least initially. And in those breaks, try to do something relaxing. A student of mine used to watch any F.R.I.E.N.D.S clip for 5 mins. Another one would quickly play some cricket and come back. You can also try taking a walk. Being stuck on the chair with your ass sticking to the bottom for 15 hrs is also not possible. Have meaningful bathroom breaks!
However, it is imperative that your single sitting session is for a minimum of 3 hours. There is a strong logic behind it. The LOGIC is that most exams are of 3 hrs. So, if your mind, brain, body and ass are used to sitting for 3 hours and concentrate fully; then on the exam day it will like another day feeling. You should not feel like ‘on a debut’ on the exam day i.e. sat for the first time for 3 hours on your final exam day 🙂
8. Do not use the Internet to Entertain Yourself
Unless your study requires internet, it is best to shut those off- both on the phone and laptop. It is quite possible, if you give it a try. How much you succeed in this effort will be a function of how you progressively remove distractions. Do definitely try to be off social media till your exams are over. You might think a quick scroll of your FB and Insta feed is relaxing but it is not. It’s like a social media blackhole you will keep falling into.
9. Sleeping Habits
It is also advisable that you keep away from your phone as much as you can while you take your beauty nap. Try sleeping with your phone switched off. It will also give you a more restful sleep; very important to live the next day with equal or more vigour. Sleep deprived people always have trouble concentrating because the mind is not at rest. Sleep, right click and refresh.
If you can avoid naps, please do so; unless you are good at power naps. Sleeping at a stretch for 5-6 hours is a better approach as that’s more restful than constant naps. And with no blue screens to distract you, the quality will automatically improve. Not touching your mobile phone within the first 90 mins of your waking up is a very good idea. It has been working for me for years now. Try it out.
10. Plan your study smartly
A lot of students do blunders by working hard but not smart. Taking complete test papers (writing full papers) before exams will help you time your test. A logical approach to studying will also boost your confidence that maybe you are doing this right – which in turn will help you focus with more heart in putting in those long study hours.
It is also important that you plan your syllabus and revisions. First revisions are more comprehensive and need more time and detailing. Second and third would be quicker. You can schedule everything this way (and try to stick to it too).
While you put in these long hours, it is also important that you acclimatize your body to the routine you will be following in your exam. Don’t be sleeping at 10 in the morning if your exam starts at 10 too. Take practice test papers also during the same time as the exams will be held. It is an excellent way to time yourself. Just plan. Don’t be random with your 15 hours of daily labour, if you want deserving results.
11. Don’t socialize too much
Not every family function, not every hangout needs to be attended. These are mostly same and won’t add any incremental value to your current goal. I know it can get lonely but your friends will understand your home arrest, provided you yourself do too.
And ‘har ek friend zaroori nahi hota hai, especially in these days. A lot of times we create anxiety for ourselves by fixating on who is putting in more hours, who has covered more syllabus etc. It is better to talk to a few trusted friends who will not make it out to be a competition but will genuinely help you improve your quality of studying. And for Life’s sake, do not fall in love during your preparation time. Love is a damn full time job. Flirting too is fun but is very risky. You might just get committed a few months before your main exam. Blast!
Some of the above tips might sound difficult but they are all very much doable. Having rhythm and discipline is important. Instead of aiming to sit for 12 hours the very first day, aim for consistently increasing the number. Sir for 4-5 hours a day. 6-8 the next week and so on. And don’t beat yourself about it because getting into that habit of sitting for longer hours takes time. Plus, the mind also needs to be trained (like an Olympian trains himself daily and consistently for his lifetime Event). So, take it slow but be consistent; not like doing it all for 3 days and ‘phussss’ on the 4th day of habit building.
Lastly, the tips for studying for long hours that I have mentioned in this blog post are not all pervasive. This is what works with majority people. But you might have different requirements. For e.g. I would always prefer mornings for the best study but many prefer to study in the silence of the night. So, find what suits you and take help from some of these. And while you are at it, read this highly upvoted QUORA answer about how a boy built the habit of studying 17 hours a day.
Putting in 14-15 hrs or even 10-12 is not an easy task. But then what you are aiming for at the end of it will come only to those who go through such a routine for many many months. Go, Phod do! One Life! Rise & Shine!