How to Achieve an Optimal Student Mindset

Sometimes, it’s hard to get into the mindset best-suited for optimum studying. With countless tutorials on the internet, with thousands of ways ‘guaranteed’ to shoot you to the top of your game, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what will work best for you. In the end, remember that it’s important to do what feels right for you when it comes to learning, and also, to figure out what gives you results.

Distractions like Instagram, Twitter, even the sound of cars passing under the window, can drag our attention away from the work we should be doing in order to be successful. For chronic procrastinators, these ample distractions are two-fold. It’s important to manage your time wisely, pay attention in class — it’s guaranteed to boost your confidence during exams — and do things like eating healthy, brain-oriented foods to combat fatigue and the distraction of a growling stomach.

Here are 6 steps to hopefully steer you in the right direction to set up an optimal mindset for studying and learning.

Step 1: Prepare

Success in any field is 90% preparation, 10% perspiration. That means most of what you do depends on preparing to do it. Why? Preparation affords you ease of access to the things you need to study. If you set everything up before you start the actual work, then you do not have to walk around looking for all the keys to your success.

If an artist is going to sit down and paint a masterpiece, or even do a finger painting, they gather the material they need, first, and then sit down to paint. How much time and energy is saved by the artist who collects the things they need in order to paint before they begin painting?

Preparation is a time saver and a confidence booster. Preparing to study, writing down what you need to do and then deciding in what order to accomplish your tasks, and then setting up your work space and gathering everything that you will need for this study session, will help you do the work you have set out to do.

Step 2: Eat Brain Foods

When it comes to studying, you can not overemphasize the importance of proper nutrition! Your brain is a part of your body, and like all parts of your body, it needs to be nourished and nurtured in order to perform at its peak. Thinking up solutions, solving problems, and absorbing lots of important information burns calories, creates ripples in your gray matter, and builds brain muscles just like push ups build your arms.

You must properly support your brain! Foods rich in good fats, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals help with focus, concentration, and boost your memory. Some of these foods include

  • avocados
  • beets
  • blueberries
  • bone broth
  • broccoli
  • celery
  • salmon
  • walnuts
  • egg yolks
  • coconut oil
  • green, leafy vegetables
  • dark chocolate (hooray!)

Here’s a more comprehensive list of the best brain foods around.

Step 3: Turn off Electronics!

Especially your phone! There is nothing more dangerous and detrimental to successful study sessions than social media, texts, or anything else that nifty little smartphone can do to keep your mind and hands occupied outside of what you should be concentrating on. Breathe, set your phone to the side, turn the television off. If you cannot simply ignore the notifications dinging on your phone, or you happen to be a compulsive scroller, you may just need to calmly shut your laptop and power your cell phone down, at least until you have applied yourself to your studies.

While social media may seem very important, it’s practically guaranteed that you won’t miss anything, at all. All of your updates on Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, and all of your friends will still be there when you power your phone back on and re-open your laptop to check on things. Let the television rest. Give your thumbs and brain a break.

Step 4: Take Good Notes

Remember what we said about preparation? Well, this is one of those really imperative parts of preparing to study whatever subject you’re sitting (or laying) down to concentrate on. When you’re in class, listening to a lecture, try to focus on what’s being said. Work at becoming an active listener. Don’t just mindlessly notate every word your teacher is saying, make sure you understand what you are writing. If you don’t understand it? Don’t be afraid to ask a question about it! Asking a question about what you are learning, then getting an answer to that question, is one of the most effective learning techniques there is! If your note-taking skills are rusty – here are some tips.

Step 5: Listen to Conducive Music

Some music is better than other music when it comes to focusing in certain areas. While you may enjoy hard rock or aggressive rap in your downtime, it’s probably not the best choice for your scheduled study time. Music is one very, very powerful tool totally at your disposal. Websites like YouTube or Vevo give you total access to all sorts of concentration playlists.

Lo Fi music has proven to be helpful if you are trying to concentrate, as Brenden Lutes ’18 talks about in his article, “Lo Fi Music: A Secret to Focusing During Study Sessions.”

If having YouTube or Vevo open is too much of a distraction for you, try putting in some Mozart or other instrumentals. Studies have shown that certain types of music definitely impact cognitive performance. For lower mental intensity or math or logic based studying, music with lyrics may be all right, but if you need to work with something that requires writing or reading when you have to use the language-processing parts of your brain, it’s best to stick with things that don’t barrage you with words. If neither of these seem to help, you might try a white noise generator, which activates the alpha waves in the brain, making your more receptive to absorbing information.

Step 6: Pump Yourself Up!

Motivate yourself! Listen to an inspirational speech such as a TedTalk. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are smart and successful, that you can do this. Eliminate negative brain chatter by taking a moment to breathe and tell yourself that you are fully capable of succeeding, that you are smart, that you work hard. Don’t drag yourself down!

Tell yourself you can and that you will! Keep track of improvements to look over to reward yourself for working hard and doing a good job, to show you where you started and where you’ve gotten to through study and hard work. Remind yourself that you can’t be stopped. Take a look at these positive thinking exercises if you need help.

Bonus – Study Smarter

Many students find that studying can be difficult – particularly when they’re plagued by procrastination. However, if you can get yourself into the right mindset to make progress with your academics, then you’ll be on the track to success in no time!