Wednesday, 29 June 2016

How to Start Winning at Your Studies

Dopamine - aaaah that sweet nectar that seems to be responsible for so many different things ranging from addiction, learning, success and varying destructive habits that almost certainly guarantee to keep us from our goal of success. It’s ironic that the role of dopamine is to help us learn new things and is almost definitely one of the key causes of procrastination.

When we experience a pleasurable sensation such as getting that Facebook or Instagram like, getting the heads up of what went down in the playground in the other day, having an epic killing spree in COD, watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones etc. (you get the general drift), the brain releases dopamine which reinforces this behaviour, making you want to do more of it. 

When you add that to the fact that we place more emphasis on rewards immediately available to us than rewards further in the future, this spells trouble for us in terms of getting essential revision done and staying on top of academic studies.

When you also factor in that a lot of us really don’t appreciate the need for that grade or the effect that it can have on our choices going forward in life, then not engaging with your studies is a logical response.

So that there is the challenge; what is the solution? How can we avoid the mind-numbing boredom and heavy sense of sleepiness that overcomes us every time we sit down to revise or start a piece of work?

Here are some things that can help: 

1. Take control of your destiny.

African parents love saying, “you think you are deceiving me, it's yourself you are deceiving - well done”. If you want to start winning at your studies you have to appreciate its relevance. While it is true that there are lots of options available to you if you don’t want to go down the academic route, there are a lot of options which become infinitely easier for you if you do.

Certain jobs require specific university degrees that ask for specific grades in certain subjects. If you want a career in one of these fields then doing well in those subjects is imperative.

At a more basic level it comes down to thinking about what it is you want to do. This can be quite scary and you may not come to a firm conclusion; that being said having solid academic grades gives you more options than if you don’t have good grades. The point to take home here is that no matter how young or old you are, at the end of the day regardless of the injustice of poor teachers and cruel circumstances, if you do well or not, you will have to live with it.

Sometimes just appreciating that by taking your studies by the scruff, you are taking control of your future and your destiny can make studying less of a repressive past-time.

2. Try and have fun.

Old Lady or Young Lady??

You may say that there is nothing fun about studying; sometimes life is all about perspective.

If you start to challenge yourself and your performance and compare it to how you have done in previous tests or compared to other people in your class. This can help add incentive to study sessions. Boxers often say they train hard to give them the confidence that they have trained harder than their opponent and so will be victorious. If you start with competing against your classmates you can then raise the level to try and be the best in your school, and if you achieve that, then the borough or even the country!

3.  Chunk it up

Smaller pieces of work add up
As we said at the beginning, we appreciate immediate victories over drawn-out affairs. So if we set ourselves smaller targets like finishing a particular topic or subsection of a full essay then we can reward ourselves just with the satisfaction of knowing that we have completed that stage of things. 

If you think of video games, they are never just one big stage or level, progressively getting through each stage is generally where the fun is at - so break it down into parts.

4. A little help from your friends

The tip I will finish with for now is to try and recruit your friends to your cause. Studying with your friends can make it feel less like hard work. This may not be actually sitting down to work together if that would be too much of a distraction but try and have performance leagues and compete against each other. Also help each other with explanations and motivation.

About the author:
Yusuf is one of the directors of South London Tutors, an organisation that provides affordable tuition to young people in the local community and offers services to help them with careers. Check out our website to for more information about what we do and the tutor services we offer.

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