Testing Popular Study Techniques To See if They Help My Productivity

Over the past few months, I've found that constantly working on university essays and assignments can become repetitive, especially when you're stuck in the middle of a lockdown where working alongside other people isn't possible. These last few months have felt like an endless slog of studying and essay writing for me - thankfully I've now completed my undergraduate degree but it certainly wasn't easy! In the process, I thought I'd add some variety to my monotonous study days by testing out some popular techniques that promise more productive study sessions. While finding new revision strategies and study tips online can be useful, I thought I'd put them to the test to see if they actually work or aren't worth using. Whether you're still studying before the summer holidays commence or you simply want to know what techniques are worth trying, keep reading for my verdict!

Technique #1 - Using Notion to organise revision

How it works:

The best way that I can describe Notion is that it's a digital planner, allowing you to track everything needed for an organised life. There's no determined structure so it can be formatted in whatever way allows you to be productive, whether that's through to-do lists, calendars, databases or many more options. The theory behind this study technique is that you'll no longer have documents scattered across your laptop and notes scrawled in random spaces, as they're streamlined and merged into one easy-to-access platform. Obviously, this isn't exclusive to revision - many people use Notion for their job or even to keep track of hobbies - but I thought I'd put it to the test for study purposes to see if it helped my productivity.

My verdict:

I created a Notion account in January while bored out of my mind with Covid, and I've used it religiously ever since. In fact, not a single day goes by where I don't check it, even if I'm not studying. I use it mainly for my daily to-do lists, but it's also handy for keeping track of readings, assignments, grades and many more things. Plus, I use it a lot for my journalism projects - if you'd like to see my Notion setup in-depth I can definitely do a blog post on it! I've always been a to-do list person so this is an ideal system for me, plus I've found that I'm a lot more productive when all of my readings and important documents are in one place, rather than spending ages scrolling through my laptop.

While I absolutely love Notion, I'd recommend being careful not to rely on it too much! Remember that it's an online website that can experience technical difficulties or your Internet connection could unexpectedly fail, which would be extremely frustrating right before an exam or while taking notes during a lecture!

Testing Popular Study Techniques To See if They Help My Productivity

Technique #2 - Using apps to block phone usage

How it works:

In an age of technology, it can be incredibly easy to get distracted by buzzing notifications on your phone or the burning desire to mindlessly scroll through social media. With online learning, this struggle has become even more prevalent as technology is essential for working and can't be avoided easily. Many apps exist to block the use of your phone for a chosen length of time, allowing you to focus and stay productive without impulsively staring at your screen. I personally tested the Flora app since I like the cute addition of growing your own forest with every period of time spent focusing, and you can even link it to your bank account for the added incentive of not breaking it.

My verdict:

I've never considered my phone to be a massive distraction when I'm working, yet I found this app incredibly helpful! I definitely don't use it every day, but instead rely on it when I'm feeling particularly unmotivated or find myself getting distracted. I honestly didn't realise how often I subconsciously checked my phone until I was unable to, but Flora definitely helped me to stay more focused by preventing this. The only thing I'd keep in mind is that sometimes your phone can be useful for work purposes, whether that's due to a to-do list in your notes app or a photo of some important information, so remember this before setting the focus timer!

Technique #3 - Splitting time by Pomodoros 

How it works:

The Pomodoro technique splits time into intervals that are typically 25 minutes long, with a shorter 5-minute break in between and a longer 15-minute break after four of these Pomodoros have passed. The theory is that you decide on the task that needs to be done and then allocate how many Pomodoros it'll take, making your workload more manageable and easier to undertake. It's supposed to target anxiety generated by the 'ticking clock' that causes procrastination, as this technique instead makes time a valuable ally. There are various apps to implement the Pomodoro technique; I personally used this website but there are many alternatives out there to try.

My verdict:

I tried this technique a few times, but I realised that it isn't the one for me. If you have a short attention span or struggle to get started with a task and want to split it into more manageable chunks, then this is an ideal method to try. Personally, I've always found that I work better in much larger sections, perhaps 2 or 3 hours at a time before taking a more substantial break. With the Pomodoro technique, I found that as soon as I was in the flow of working, it was time to take a break and my thinking was interrupted. Plus, the larger number of breaks meant that there were countless more opportunities to procrastinate and I sometimes struggled to start working again. Since I was working on my final essays, I also found it harder to split these into tiny 25-minute chunks, but I can imagine this technique being more useful if you're working through a series of short questions or tasks. It definitely has its pros, but it's ultimately not the method for me.

Testing Popular Study Techniques To See if They Help My Productivity

Technique #4 - Listen to ambient music

How it works:

While a lot of people strongly advise against listening to music while studying, there's evidence that lo-fi sounds with no lyrics or distinguishable melodies can actually be helpful. Sometimes, the silence can become overwhelming or cause us to listen out for the tiniest noises, whereas having a subtle wash of music in the background drowns out these sounds and supposedly helps to maintain focus. Obviously, it isn't the same as listening to your karaoke playlist when singing along is inevitable; the idea is to use sounds that aren't catchy or distinguishable such as coffee shop chatter, crackling fires or waves on a shore.

My verdict:

Some people always work while listening to music but I've never had that impulse; I'll often instinctively choose to work in silence and frequently find myself in the no-speaking areas of the library. However, I started listening to some ambient music while working just to create variety in my monotonous study days, and I actually really enjoyed it! I spent the entire month of May working on various assignments, which also coincided with the gloomy weather, so I immersed myself in some jungle rain sounds from this Spotify playlist. For me, it was the nice middle ground of having some background noise that wasn't distracting, and I'd definitely use this again for future assignments!

Technique #5 - Vary your environment while working

How it works:

Many people believe that staying in one location can cause you to get bored or feel sluggish while working, so adding some variety to your revision locations can maintain your focus and productivity. This supposedly helps with gaining a renewed sense of motivation, as well as familiarising yourself with working in new environments that'll be useful when it comes to sitting in an exam hall. For many people, moving to a new location also acts as a break while revising, allowing them to start again with renewed engagement and a fresh head.

My verdict:

Believe it or not, I actually prefer working in the same space. Earlier in the semester, I travelled to university quite often to work in the library, but I soon stopped as I realised it was making me less productive. The stress of booking a library slot and finding a seat, plus the excessive time spent commuting and packing up my stuff, meant that it really didn't feel worth it. It started to feel like I was spending most of my day travelling and preparing to work, rather than actually delving into it, plus I'd always return home feeling drained. I've always been surprisingly productive whilst working at home, so unless I desperately needed a change of scenery or wanted a book from the library, I decided not to implement this technique. However, this is just my personal preference - I know a lot of people who really value a change in scenery while working!

As a whole, I found that a lot of these study techniques were incredibly useful, and while some weren't my personal favourites I could definitely appreciate how other people might find them helpful. I'd love to know what your favourite study methods are or whether you've tried any of the above tips, so make sure you leave a comment to let me know!

For years, I always swore that I'd never be converted to audiobooks. "I love reading, it's just not the same. Listening just feels lazy and I know that I won't pay attention." Well let me tell you, I was very wrong. While podcasts are a long-term love of mine, this current lockdown has converted me to audiobooks and there's seriously no looking back. 

Although I still pick up physical books every single day (I'm in the final term of my English literature degree so reading takes up a large portion of my life), the effortless ability to immerse yourself in an audiobook is my new favourite method of relaxing. So my new evening ritual, after an intense day of university, is to pop on an audiobook and unwind. 

Since the Audible account that I share with my mum recently amassed quite a few credits, I gained her permission to go crazy and stock up on audiobooks for my evening relaxation sessions. Was this haul almost entirely influenced by my friend and fellow blogger, Erin? Yes. Am I secretly pleased about that since she has a great taste in books? Yes.

Since this seemingly never-ending lockdown period is the perfect time to delve into a new book (or five - I couldn't resist), I thought I'd share the ones that I downloaded and hopefully inspire you to give this relaxing method of reading a try.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

32-year-old Nina Dean is a successful food writer with a loyal online following, but a life that is falling apart. When she uses dating apps for the first time, she becomes a victim of ghosting, and by the most beguiling of men. Her beloved dad is vanishing in slow motion into dementia, and she's starting to think about ageing and the gendered double-standard of the biological clock. On top of this, she has to deal with her mother's desire for a mid-life makeover and the fact that all her friends seem to be slipping away from her...

I was obsessed with Dolly Alderton's debut, Everything I Know About Love, after it was published a few years ago. When I recently heard about Ghosts, this time fiction rather than memoirs, I was instantly sold. As an author, she is incredible at creating relatable storylines filled with emotion, whether they've got you reaching for tissues or laughing uncontrollably. I'm sure that this book will be just as eye-opening as her last, and I'm eager to start reading it soon.

Us Three by Ruth Jones

Meet Lana, Judith and Catrin. Best friends since primary school when they swore an oath on a Curly Wurly wrapper that they would always be there for each other, come what may. After the trip of a lifetime, the three girls are closer than ever. But an unexpected turn of events shakes the foundation of their friendship to its core, leaving their future in doubt – there’s simply too much to forgive, let alone forget. An innocent childhood promise they once made now seems impossible to keep ...

Maybe it's the loneliness of lockdown talking but a novel about friendships is exactly what I need right now. Ruth Jones is another author whose work I've previously enjoyed, and the summary of her newest novel instantly drew me in. From what I've heard in reviews, you're bound to feel like you've known these characters for your whole life when reading this novel, so I'm definitely excited to get stuck into it.

Women Don't Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

Florence's debut book will explore all progressive corners of the feminist conversation; from insecurity projection and refusing to find comfort in other women's flaws, to deciding whether to date or dump them, all the way through to unpacking the male gaze and how it shapes our identity.

While feminism is something that I'm definitely aware of and align myself with, I want to engage in these discussions more and develop my understanding of feminist thinking this year. When doing some research, this book seemed like the perfect place to start. Not only is it accessible for someone like me who identifies as a feminist yet admittedly doesn't have tons of knowledge about it, but it also seems to prompt some important and critical discussions that I'm eager to delve into.

How to Fail by Elizabeth Day

This is a book for anyone who has ever failed. Which means it's a book for everyone. If I have learned one thing from this shockingly beautiful venture called life, it is this: failure has taught me lessons I would never otherwise have understood. I have evolved more as a result of things going wrong than when everything seemed to be going right. Out of crisis has come clarity, and sometimes even catharsis.

I haven't read many self-help books, simply because I've never been able to find one that fits me perfectly. That was until I heard countless reviews of this book and instantly knew that I'd find it helpful. It's no secret that I'm a perfectionist and put immense amounts of pressure on myself to succeed in everything I do, so failure is something that honestly terrifies me. Hopefully, with the assistance of this book, I'll be able to realise that making mistakes isn't entirely a bad thing, and I'm looking forward to developing as a person and changing my sometimes toxic view of 'failure'.

Clothes... and Other Things That Matter by Alexandra Shulman

In Clothes... and other things that matter, Alexandra Shulman delves into her own life to look at the emotions, ambitions, expectations and meanings behind the way we dress. From the bra to the bikini, the trench coat to trainers, the slip dress to the suit, she explores their meaning in women's lives and how our wardrobes intersect with the larger world - the career ladder, motherhood, romance, sexual identity, ambition, failure, body image and celebrity.

As an aspiring journalist who currently writes a lot of fashion content, reading a novel like this feels like a rite of passage as well as important research. This memoir is from the ex-Editor of British Vogue and I'm confident that it'll provide some interesting insights into the fashion industry and how clothing determines our life. I'm definitely excited to start reading (or should I say listening) to this one, and I'm sure it'll help to increase my already existing passion for fashion.

Have you been converted to audiobooks yet? I'd love to hear your recommendations and any titles that you think I'd enjoy!

Hello everyone and happy belated new year! You may have noticed that I have been inactive on my blog lately - in all honesty, life just completely took over and I didn't have time to upload. But don't worry because I'm back and as excited as ever to create some content for you guys! Before I do so, I thought it was only right to give you a little life update of everything that has happened over the past couple of months, as well as my goals and vision for By Daisy Bradbury in 2021. Without further ado, let's get into it!

I was incredibly fortunate that my home was in tier 2 during December, meaning I was able to have a bit more leniency in going out for a meal or visiting the shops. Although I only did this a couple of times, it made a massive difference to my mental health after the November lockdown and intense university term. To add to the lovely build-up to Christmas, my parents also got married on 22nd December, which was an incredibly special and memorable day. Despite having a pandemic wedding, we seriously made it the best day just as a family!

Fast forward to January, and a few days after moving back to Manchester for university, I tested positive for coronavirus! After being known as the cautious one in my friendship group and really trying hard to avoid it, this wasn't the result that I wanted. Although I'm incredibly grateful that it was a mild case and none of my family back home got it, it was still an exhausting and generally low period. This was also right before my university's exam season started, so you can imagine how stressed I was! Thankfully, I made a speedy recovery and I managed to meet all of my deadlines, although the two-week isolation and essay writing stress definitely weren't enjoyable.

The other major thing that has happened since my last blog post is that I celebrated my 21st birthday! Due to my essay deadlines and my boyfriend's exams, I extended the celebrations throughout the week, which I'm really not complaining about! I honestly had the best time and felt incredibly special, even if a lockdown birthday wasn't how I envisioned my 21st. My housemates and I spent the weekend playing drinking games, battling it out on the Nintendo Switch and having a few too many takeaways, and I honestly enjoyed it so much!

Fast forward to now and I'm in a kind of strange, in-between state - my deadlines and birthday celebrations are over but I have another week until the university term begins. I was also supposed to be in Windemere with my family right now but that was obviously cancelled. If I'm completely honest, the lockdown blues have started to hit knowing that I don't really have anything upcoming to look forward to and that my time at university is coming to a close without fully being able to experience it. This term is my final one before graduation, yet it has been almost a year since online teaching started and I feel a bit robbed of my university experience. That aside, right now I'm just taking each day as it comes with lots of reading, Youtube and working my way through Super Mario Odyssey.

Despite these lockdown apprehensions, one major benefit is that I have a lot more time to create blog and Instagram content. I'm really excited to keep blogging this year (in fact, it'll be my 7th blog anniversary in a few weeks - how crazy!) and I have lots of ideas that I can't wait to create! As my love of journalism has blossomed, I'm definitely eager to create more article-style content for here as well as my personal, chatty blog posts, so make sure you stay tuned for that! I don't want to set an upload schedule as I know that my final term of university will be intense and I don't want to add extra pressures, but you can definitely expect to see a lot more from me on here!

I hope you are all coping during this difficult winter lockdown and hopefully, my upcoming blog posts will be able to inject a bit of entertainment or enjoyment into your day!