Evaluating Instagram Study Techniques
Since discovering the #studygram community back in March 2020, I’ve seen my fair share of study tips and tricks promoted by students of various ages and levels of study. Research and exam revision can all get a bit tedious, and as someone that struggled to self-motivate throughout my dissertation, I gave a lot of these methods a go. Below, I’ll be evaluating how they’ve worked for me, especially from the perspective of an MA history student. I will say though, some of the methods that I tried I haven’t included, as they simply aren’t designed to assist with heavy research, and are more aimed towards exam revision which I didn’t have to do, as my entire course was based on essays and written assignments.
What it is: The Pomodoro method was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo and uses a timer to break up longer study sessions into shorter intervals. A typical example is studying for 25 minutes, taking a five-minute break, and then repeating several more times before taking a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
The aim: This method is meant to separate longer chunks of study time into shorter periods, to allow you to assign tasks and complete them without having the freedom to procrastinate. Many people set a timer on their clock, phone or laptop and have it in front of them to remind them of the time remaining in an interval.
My rating: 3/5
My verdict: I used the Pomodoro method when I was writing up my dissertation, and I’d say that it was successful after I’d tweaked the timing of the study intervals. For me, 25 minutes was simply too short, as by the time I had made a point and begun to flesh it out with evidence, the timer would ring, and I’d be disrupted. I’d recommend a period of 40-45 minutes with a 10-minute break, repeated 4 times, then with an hour break at the end. I found that gave me enough time to write a good draft section without disrupting my flow. I liked the concept of intervals, as I would plan what I would want to achieve in each one which was useful in the early stages of writing when I felt overwhelmed with the volume of words I needed to write. However, unless you can guarantee that you won’t be disturbed throughout the entire 2+ hours, it’s not super effective, as I would often lose my flow when I was summoned for dinner or had to complete housework.
‘Forest’ and Timer Apps
What it is: Forest is an app that allows you to set a timer, in which you aren’t allowed to access any functions on your phone without killing your trees. It’s also available as a browser extension.
The aim: Forest and similar apps aim to boost productivity by stopping you getting distracted by social media and other apps on your phone. They are also meant to add a pleasing, aesthetic element to encourage you to study.
My rating: 4.5/5
My verdict: I’ve been using Forest since 2017, and it’s one of my tried and true methods of boosting productivity. Putting my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ just doesn’t have the same feel as growing a pretty tree! All jokes aside though, I use this alongside the (adapted) Pomodoro method to time my intervals and minimise distractions. I wouldn’t say that I look at my phone an awful lot while I’m working, but if I’m having a hard day, anything helps in getting me focused. I’d say the only downside is that it does tend to drain my phone’s battery a bit.
What it is: Brain-dumping is a way of emptying your brain of anything that is on your mind before a study session by writing it down either in a journal, on scrap paper or as a mind-map.
The aim: Writing down your thoughts helps to collect yourself before you try to focus, especially if they’re related to your work. It can help you remember things you have to get done, or points you have to make in the work you’re about to do.
My rating: 5/5
My verdict: I can’t recommend this method enough, especially if you’re writing long-form essays and dissertations. Even if you’ve written a detailed plan, writing down any points that you’re thinking about can really help the flow of your work. Some of my best arguments came from brain-dumping, and if you’re researching countless books and articles, you’re bound to think up new arguments on the fly. Before every study session, spend 5 minutes writing out everything in your head, and tick points off alongside your plan as your write and edit. I’d imagine this method would also be useful for exam revision, as a way of reaffirming what you already know.
What it is: Bullet Journaling or 'bujo', is a freeform diary, usually completed in an empty notebook instead of using a pre-printed planner
The aim: They’re used to track habits and productivity but can come in all shapes and forms depending on the user. People often construct ‘weekly spreads’ that follow the flow of a diary, complemented by doodles and illustrations along a chosen theme.
My rating: 1/5
My verdict: I’ve tried and failed to bujo, most recently in February 2021. Now, the bujo community is intertwined with study habits, but does exist in its own right, although many students journal for productivity and accountability. Maybe I’m not artistic enough but drawing out weekly spreads and thinking up new themes just took too much time, and seemed more like a chore than a joy. I went back to my paper planner pretty quickly, after spending simply too much time trying to create an aesthetic I was happy with. If you enjoy drawing, you might have a bit of an easier time than I did, but it’s not the most time-effective method.
What it is: Notion is a freeform, online digital workspace that is completely customisable to your needs. It’s free to use, and there are a wide variety of templates available online to download.
The aim: The website can be used to store to-do lists, notes and ideas in a format that can be accessed anywhere. It can be tailored to your needs depending on your course.
My rating: 3/5
My verdict: I’ve sunk about 4 hours into my notion page so far, and I’m nowhere near finished! It’s time consuming to set up, and I’ve watched lots of YouTube tutorials to try and get everything how I like it. The customisation is incredible, and you could use it to organise your hobbies and study, all in the same space. I’d advise collecting images on google or Pinterest of your desired theme or aesthetic before you begin, as that has saved me time. I’d definitely like to play around with Notion more in the future, as it’s a platform which has a lot of potential and has soared in popularity on Instagram in the past year. The main downside for me is that it does take a considerable amount of time to set up, and it’s not always clear how to best format the pages.
Overall, there are many upsides to trying out new study methods and techniques, especially if you’re in a slump and struggling to self-motivate. This year has seen many of us sat in front of screens and learning in a completely virtual environment, and it’s necessitated new ways of learning and progressing. I feel like alternating between study methods helped to stop the monotony of writing and editing through multiple lockdowns, so I’d encourage you to give some of the above methods a try.
If you want to check out the #studygram community, I post daily over on @tibbotttalks_study. I'll see you there!