Beginning to study after you stepped away from your study books can be difficult. Research shows it doesn’t really matter if you stopped studying for the summer holidays (link), or if you left school for decades.
The short answer to how can I learn to study again is this. You learn to study again by studying. You get started, and you improve your study methods while you are studying. Don’t make it too complicated.
Studying improves while doing it. It becomes easier by repetition and your study skills improve by training yourself. Not reading fast enough? Start reading and your reading skills will improve again. The same applies to managing your time, taking better notes, and clearing your mind before a new study session.
Let’s have a more detailed look at how to start studying after a long time. Because “just get started” may seem practical at first, there are some things you can do to make the transition from non-student to student smoother.
How Do I Start Studying Again After A Long Time
When you did not study for a long time, the mere act of sitting down with a book and starting to read and take notes may be difficult.
That is why there are a couple of things you can start doing to make studying easier.
The first thing you should be doing is create a study habit. This can be as simple as dedicating 30 minutes every morning or evening to sit down with your book. Once you start doing that, you took a major hurdle already.
Many adult learners stop studying because of planning and organizational issues (link). The moment you create a habit to study, you can probably prevent dropping out and start to study without a lot of effort.
Here is how you can start your study habit.
In the beginning, you can focus on study time. You don’t need to focus on how well you studied. This is a matter of quantity over quality. When you created a daily habit of studying, you can start to focus on the study results.
It all starts with deciding when you like to do your daily studying.
I prefer to study during the morning. The reason for this is because in the morning, I am not distracted by my family. My head is also able to focus better. Perhaps you prefer the evening. It is just your personal preference. The main thing is… decide now.
Great! You decided when you will study.
Next point… how long will you study? Start by studying for 30 minutes. That’s right, one session of 30 minutes. If that is too long for you, start by doing a study session of 15 minutes. I wouldn’t go any shorter than that. After all, you want to study… so create time for studying.
Make sure you study daily at the time you decided upon. For me, this means that I study daily between 6 AM and 6.30 AM. I do this daily!
Now that you have your time and study session length, it is time to start doing the actual work. You will study during that time. There will be no exceptions, email, or other distractions. When you want to learn how to study again, you have to put in the work of creating a study routine with a study habit.
Here is a quick study routine you can use:
When you are studying, you may notice things aren’t all the way they were when you were in high school…
Did Learning Change A Lot Since Leaving High School?
The study materials changed immensely. Where 40 or more years ago colours and images in study books were not very common, they are these days! And don’t forget about online lectures, video instructions and zoom calls with professors!
The learning environment changed a lot! Fortunately how much the environment of learning changes, the basic study skills don’t really change. You still have to read, take notes and memorize.
Sure, these days you may read books on your iPad. You could take notes on a laptop or a tablet. And you memorize information using digital flashcards or via spreadsheets.
The biggest change is probably that these days it is becoming easier to learn new things. Simply take your topic and ask a question about it on Youtube. You will probably find many answers in various videos. (be cautious not to fall into the time/rabbit hole of wasting time watching video after video…)
When you, as an adult learner, combine your current knowledge, habits you have, and the new learning environment, you will be able to study a lot smarter and faster than before.
Of course, you have to get into the act of studying again. But that should not be too difficult. Studying is a skill. It can be taught. You can learn it and you can become really good at it.
With all the methods for improving your memory and reading smarter available these days, studying will become a very positive experience for you!
Let’s dive into the skills you have to invest some time in so you can master them.
Should I Learn New Study Skills To Learn To Study Again?
Definitely YES! You have to learn new study skills. New study skills help you to study smarter, with fewer distractions, and better results. Start by learning skills to read smarter, improve your memory, and take better notes.
These are the first skills you should develop. But there are other skills to learn that help you in studying as well.
Here is a short list of study skills PLUS what you can do to develop them right now that will make you a more successful student.
1. Learn To Master Your Time
When you learn to manage your time, create better and more productive goals, and create a planning, studying becomes easier.
Just the tiny change in knowing what you have to do before you start your study session is so helpful.
For example: take the number of pages you have to study. Then divide that number by the number of days you like to study. Most of the time, I want to finish a book in one month.
Doing the calculations would be something like 250 pages in my book, divided by 30 days is about 10 pages. Studying 10 pages per day gives me about a month to go through the book,. Plus, I have some additional time to repeat or dive in deeper if I want to.
Also, 10 pages is a number that can be done in about one hour of daily studying.
Will You Be Able To Do That Every Day?
It depends. Sometimes 10 pages is a lot of work and it might take a little longer. As I wrote before, you first build the habit of studying by aiming for a certain number of minutes. Later, you will study a number of pages and you won’t stop until you’ve hit that number.
That is what I do these days. I study until I reached these 10 pages. It usually takes about 60 minutes. My day isn’t finished before I reached my 10 pages.
Does This Include Doing Assignments?
You don’t have to do your assignments in this time. If you can, that’s wonderful. If you can’t, don’t worry. 10 pages of studying per hour is a nice round number. Doing 1 longer assignment or writing a few hundred word article can be doing outside of this time period.
2. Learn To Study Smarter
Skills to study smarter are about reading smarter, taking better notes, and memorizing information. Basically, they are the traditional study skills.
Once you decided when you study, you can start to improve your normal study skills.
You can do this while studying! Don’t create separate study skill drill sessions. You focus on reading smarter while reading through your materials.
You don’t need to focus on becoming a speed reader. There is no need for that. Studies have shown that reading faster makes you less accurate (link). It is much wiser to learn how to read with more focus. When you do that, you can improve accuracy and you save time.
Basically, the “secret” of smart studying is to use simple tactics and improve your focus on the task at hand. Doing that has a huge impact on the way you go through your study materials.
3. Learn To Take Your Time!
Yes, this is a skill that is often not discussed, but yet very important.
Be patient! You have to study for a long time, and you don’t want to burnout in the beginning. Remember that getting your degree takes a long time. Pace yourself and you will be able to keep going for a long time.
In planning, this means you do your 10 pages a day. When there is more time, you can do more. Just as long as you reach your base level. Everything else is nice.
Take your time to develop other study skills. You don’t need to be a speed reading (or better said focussed reader) today. Give it a few weeks before you feel more focused when reading.
The same applies to using mind maps for note-taking. It takes time to get used to mind mapping. Give yourself that time.
Be patient when things are not working out for you. For example when you don’t understand everything straight away.
You will get there. Again, it may take you a little bit of time.
It may even be that the clear answer you are looking for when studying is not yet available in the text when you are reading. Perhaps you “see the light” a few pages later. Perhaps you need to watch a YouTube video. Give yourself time. You will get there.
Conclusions On How To Learn To Study Again
We all have doubts when we go through books. Am I doing this correctly? Will I be able to understand all of this? Do I get the right information from my book?
When you are starting out with studying after a long period, this is even worse! That is why it is good to know that…
Feelings of doubt and insecurity when it comes to learning are normal. The good thing is that you can improve your study skills and study even better than ever before. All it takes is a little bit of time and determination.
Luckily, everybody can find time to study and build determination for doing this daily.
If you have questions about this, let me know so I can help you!