The Science Behind Your Most Productive Study Hours

Carolina Jacobs

Sep 23, 2022

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People like to talk about whether they’re an early bird or a night owl. While everyone has higher or lower energy levels throughout the day, their productivity varies for more reasons than one. Check out the science behind your most productive study hours to learn how to manage your time more effectively.

What the Latest Research Shows

Consider how you define productivity. Does it mean reading enough chapters in your textbook, completing a project in a day, or memorizing a handful of flashcards? There are many ways to define productivity, but they all come down to your energy level.

A team of researchers with the IZA Institute of Labor Economics found that students are most productive around 1:30 p.m., based on research that evaluated over half a million college exams taken throughout the day. The results identified each student’s circadian rhythm as a primary influencer in productivity or in how they were able to focus and recall information.

Tips to Become More Productive

You can’t take every class or test at 1:30 p.m. daily, so what can you learn from the study’s results? These tips can help you hone your energy levels by developing skills you’ll use during your most productive study hours.

1. Write, Recite and Repeat

After pinpointing your peak energy levels during the day or using the IZA study timing as a guide, prepare your materials for that moment. When the clock shifts to your more energetic hours, write notes, recite them out loud, and repeat the process until you’ve memorized them.

Writing material and repeating it aloud helps commit facts to memory so you can do better on tests or during presentations. Optimizing your time using this technique while you’re most productive will ensure you memorize the material while your brain is ready to absorb it.

2. Give Yourself Breaks

Waiting until the last minute to work on an assignment might give you the motivation to finish it, but you will feel stress and anxiety. The brain produces hormones that make memory retention more difficult because it’s trying to help you survive the stressful moment.

Give yourself at least one to two breaks each hour during your most productive periods to prevent stress from backpedaling your efforts.

3. Reflect on Your Successes

Imagine that you study at a new time during the day or night. The test goes well and you get a perfect score. Reflecting on the successes that made your good grade possible is crucial. One of those factors will be when you study. Note it for next time to see if it was a one-time success or the best time to absorb information.

Factors That Influence Productivity

Figuring out your brain’s preferred study hours is essential, but you should also pay attention to other factors that will affect how productive you can be on any given day.

1. Your Mental Health

Your mind won’t recall information if you’re overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, or depression. Sometimes people improve their mental wellness with self-care activities like a calming walk, while other times they vent in a journal or talk with a therapist.

When it comes to your work, use a planner to prioritize your most significant deadlines and adjust your routine around the most pressing responsibilities. You’ll find more time for self-care by improving how you manage your productivity goals.

2. Your Diet

Eating a meal or snack with processed ingredients will cause a blood sugar crash during your most productive study hours. Try eating a healthier diet to maintain your energy when it’s time to focus.

You can prepare healthy options like overnight oats, salads, and stir-fry recipes to gain more free time during the week. Make snack baggies before leaving home, so occasional hunger doesn’t drive you to unhealthy options that result in afternoon naps or sluggish studying.

3. Your Sunlight Exposure

Studying in the sunshine may improve your mood, but it will definitely help your productivity. A study found that workplaces with more natural lighting help employees improve their cognitive performance and even reduce eyestrain. Try studying on a campus bench or underneath a sunny window to retain more information.

Find Your Most Productive Study Hours

Anyone can use the latest scientific discovery from IZA to pinpoint their most productive study hours and optimize their time. Figuring out when your circadian rhythm generates the most natural energy and honing your routine will result in better grades and less time wasted during your weekly routine.

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