10 Ways to Have Fun While You Study
Studying can be a trying experience. You can do everything right: buying yourself treats, planning your time carefully, making sure your room is well-ventilated and your chair properly adjusted for your back, and still feel like you’re counting down the days until the end of this study period, or until you leave school, or – quite possibly – until you retire. So here’s the challenge – how can you make studying not only tolerable, but actively fun? This is a skill many students only learn when they go to university and begin to study a subject they actively love. When you’re still studying subjects that you’re indifferent to, and some that you long never to have to study again, enjoying yourself has to be in spite of the subject, not because of it. One day you might come to like the subjects you loathe at the moment, but it’s not likely to happen when you’re cramming them ahead of exams. Here are our top tips for finding ways to have fun while studying – whatever the subject may be.
1. Listen to good music
This is a classic study tip for a reason – everything is more fun when it’s set to music you love. Some people have the gift of being able to concentrate even while listening to songs with tricky and compelling lyrics; some can even write an essay while singing along. Before you just go for your favourite songs, it’s probably worth considering whether you are one of those people. Beware – you might end up writing an essay that reads, “The importance of this soliloquy in Hamlet is that it shows how Ophelia has gone from the other side, I must have called a thousand times…” Even if you’re not conscious of being distracted by your choice of music, skipping a song that’s annoying you or spending ages trying to find the right playlist could cut into your study time more than you realise.
But if you can make this tip work, it does help a great deal. For most people, music without lyrics is a better option. That doesn’t necessarily mean Mozart – film soundtracks are fun and motivational, and you can pretend that you’re in a training montage while you’re studying. Plus a good soundtrack goes on for ages, reducing the amount of time you’ll have to spending finding just the right choice of song.
2. Turn it into a game for yourself
We’ve written about how to gamify your studies before, but it’s worth repeating because, done well, it really can help. The study aids of puzzles, quizzes and flashcards all tap into the fact that we often learn better with games, and are more motivated too. Have you ever spent time trying to get full marks on Sporcle when the work you’re supposed to be doing languishes unattended? Then you’ll know how breaking something down into an achievable and measurable goal makes it much more fun.
The sort of game you choose will depend on your interests and your subject – history lends itself better to creating a sprawling 4-hour board game than, say, statistics, where you might instead use the principles you’ve learned on real-world events, such as sports. The process of coming up with a game might take longer than playing the game itself, but so long as you’re engaging with your subject and going over what you need to learn as you do it, it’ll still be valuable.
3. Turn it into a game with others
Studying with friends is a bit of a minefield. It can be motivating and helpful, as you share ideas that you might not have thought of individually. Or you can end up having so much fun that not much studying actually happens.
All the same, if you can make it work (perhaps if there’s one very strict friend in the group who keeps you all on track), turning studying into a game with friends might just be the best way to combine studying with fun for the maximum amount of both. “Invent a game and play it with your friends” is a recipe for time-wasting much more than that kind of activity on your own, so be sure to keep it simple.
Quizzes and treasure hunts are one way to go (for instance, where you get the next clue once you’ve figured out the answer to an exam question). If you’re up for more of a challenge, you could try a study-themed truth or dare, in which your friends ask you suitably tricky questions for the ‘truth’, and if you can’t answer – or get the answer wrong – you have to do a dare. Just make sure that the dare doesn’t seem to be the easier option than trying to get the answer right. You could set study-themed dares; for instance, in English literature, if you can’t come up with a quote to support a particular point for the truth, you have to write two paragraphs themed around that point for the dare.
4. Use nice stationery
Are you a stationery person? You’ll know if you are: if browsing in Paperchase seems more interesting than browsing in Topshop; if the delight of
every August is buying fresh supplies for September; if you own more blank notebooks for use on some future special occasion than you own filled notebooks that weren’t quite special enough to save.
If you have a desk full of lovely pens, pencils, note-paper, notebooks, stickers and goodness knows what else, now is the time to use them, and delight in them. Write in fancy fountain pen if that sounds like something you’d enjoy; it’s a bad idea to use it in your exam, but being forced to slow down a little when taking notes as you’re studying might help the information sink in better. Cover your notes in stickers if it means you’re more likely to reread them. After all, if it’s not to be used when you have important studying to do, why bother hoarding lovely stationery in the first place?
5. Try roleplay
For any subject with stories and characters – Theatre Studies, English Literature and History are the obvious examples – one way to get your head around the topics is to pretend that you are one of the characters, and roleplay as them for a while. What would Henry VIII choose for lunch? How would Marianne from Sense and Sensibility choose to have your room arranged? If Othello were suddenly transported into your body, would he be pleased, or disappointed?
Thinking these things through might seem silly, but they can test your knowledge of the subject you’re studying in a way that just going over your notes might not, opening up new avenues that you could explore – for instance, might it matter how old Henry VIII was at the time? What does that tell you about how his outlook changed during his lifetime? If you’re studying with a friend, you could try to have a conversation in character. You might not have enjoyed this kind of activity in the classroom, but if you really know your stuff, it becomes more rewarding and enjoyable – when you’re not just saying “I want something delicious because I’m a king” but thinking about the foods Henry VIII enjoyed specifically, what religious restrictions there might have been on his food choices, and how open he was to other people influencing his decisions.
6. Study somewhere different
Studying often gets boring simply because you don’t get a change of scene, unless you count going from your room to the library and back. Studying outside in the summer is tricky – there’s sunburn, glare on laptop screens and ants to interrupt you – but if you can find a shady spot in a garden or park, it can make the whole process feel less stressful, as well as making you less jealous of the people who get to have fun outdoors.
If being outside isn’t an option, you could be somewhere else in your house. We don’t advise bringing your laptop into the bath but you could read a book or textbook there. Some people learn better by association, so you could assign different subjects to different rooms, and make sure you study each subject in the designated place. After all, the golden rule of studying is that nothing is silly if it helps you learn.
7. Challenge yourself
When you’re studying, as with when you’re at the gym, it’s sensible to pace yourself. Don’t demoralise yourself by taking on more than you can handle; instead, go slow and steady, with regular breaks, so that you can cope for the long haul.
Except that’s really boring, isn’t it?
It’s a bad idea to challenge yourself to ridiculous things at the gym, because you can cause yourself long-term injury. But you’re not going to break your brain because you tried to do something that was a bit too tricky. If you’re bored witless by going over the same notes and the same ideas – but that’s what you have to study, so you’re stuck with it – try to find motivation in making it a challenge. You might see how quickly you can write a two-page essay, or whether you can solve a Maths problem in three-quarters of the time you’re supposed to. Don’t make the challenge impossible, but making your studying hard enough that you need to engage your brain properly can be helpful in making it less dull.
8. Write comics, short stories or songs
There are endless songs written that could have been designed to help you study. Think about Tom Lehrer’s Elements song or Flanders and Swann’s First and Second Law. Putting something into rhyme or setting it to music helps a great deal in remembering it, not only through the end product but also through the process of composing your poem or song in the first place.
If songs don’t suit you, try a different creative activity, like drawing a comic or writing a story. This might be a comic that maps out a particular scenario in History, or it could be a story where the conclusion rests on a particular principle in Physics. Add in some puns and wordplay on difficult concepts to make them easier to remember and you’ll have created a useful study aid and enjoyed yourself doing it.
9. Intersperse studying with other activities
If despite all of the above, you’re really struggling to make studying fun, you can at least make some part of the day when you’re studying fun. Load up some episodes of your favourite TV show, see how you can break your favourite hobby into bite-size chunks, or arrange a quick catch-up with some friends to make sure your studying marathon doesn’t feel overwhelming.
Engaging with studying and doing your best to find a subject interesting is hard work even if it comes naturally to you, so do remember to take breaks in order to refresh yourself. Figure out what length of break works best for you: some people like to take half an hour, but for others, a longer study period and a full hour’s break is better. For others, even half an hour is too much, and means they find it hard to go back to focusing on studying. Assess what suits you, and don’t do something a particular way just because it seems to work for your friends.
10. Feel free to be ridiculous
There are very few perks to the high-pressure time of studying for exams. One of them should be that you have the freedom to be ridiculous. If you’re going around the house singing songs about Chemistry while pretending to be Henry VIII, you’re already looking pretty ridiculous, so let your embarrassment go. Ultimately, if it helps for you to instruct a sock puppet in the beliefs of major world religions, or you feel like eating nothing but Brie for lunch helps you focus better on the French language – then go for it, and make studying fun.
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