You can end up doing too much studying if you bunch your studying up close to an exam (in other words, if you cram) which can prevent you from getting the best results possible.
I think you’ll agree with me that sometimes we all study too much at times. And you’ll probably be able to relate to these points.
So, incorporate the actionable tips in this post into your study routine to stay fresh, prevent tiredness when studying, and aim for higher grades!
Ways you can do Too Much Studying
1. Your Study Sessions are too Long
Long study sessions can come in handy. They mean you can really dig deep and focus on your content intensely.
But you will reach a point where reward for effort gets too low.
When you’re fresh, more information is sinking in. That’s why there’s many people who recommend studying in the morning. In the morning, you’re more than likely able to sustain your attention span for longer than in afternoons.
But in general, you will start to burn out after 2 hours. That’s why we take strategic study breaks.
But a long study session will, overall, lose its effect over time. The things you try to learn at the end of the study session won’t skink in nearly as well. You’ll become fatigued.
So, long study sessions might mean you’re doing too much studying – or at least, too much studying all at once.
2. Your Study Sessions are Bunched Together
Studying on weekends only is very common for university students.
But studying is like exercising. It’s not so much about how hard you study as it is about how regularly you study.
That’s why you need to get into the habit of studying. In my article on motivating yourself to study, I highlight that studying needs to be a part of your routine. Studying daily or every second day is more effective than bunching all your studies into one day of the week.
And in fact, there’s evidence.
German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus tested himself studying to see whether bunching or spreading learning was more effective.
So, he studied in two different ways:
- He studied for 8 hours in 1 day
- He studied for 4 hours spaced over 3 days
Remarkably, the test results found he knew just as much in his second experiment – but studied less!
What does this mean?
It means spreading out your learning is far, far more effective. If you’re bunching all your studying together you’re in fact being unproductive. You’re doing too much studying and it’s harming your memory!
That’s why I recommend using flashcard apps to learn. You can return to your flashcards to learn daily.
Plus, most flashcard apps now use the spaced repetition technique to make sure the amount of time between study sessions is optimal to ensure you are re-introduced to information just as you’re about to forget.
This helps commit information to long-term memory.
Try out these flashcard apps and choose one that suits you:
3. You’re Cramming
We all do it – trust me, I know. I always get a whole lot of students emailing me the day before due date with inventive assignment extension excuses. The reality is that they usually just thought they could cram but left it all too late!
If you’ve left all your studying to the last few minutes, you’re going to study a lot and get very little reward.
This is for several reasons, which I’ll outline below:
First, your study session will be too long and – as I mentioned in Point 1 – you get diminishing returns during long study sessions.
Second, you won’t be able to use spaced repetition to reinforce information in your mind (See Point 3).
And thirdly, you won’t be studying in an optimal environment. Cramming will take place under duress. You’ll be:
- Stressed because you’re realizing you’ve run out of time to learn what you need to learn, and
- Tired because you realize you need to study – urgently – rather than sleep!
This clearly means not only will you not be studying in a relaxing, comfortable environment. You’ll also be going into your exam tomorrow or the next day stressed and tired.
4. You are Focusing on Too Many Things at Once
I’m guilty of this.
I start studying one topic then get bored so I move on to the next.
This creates some pretty big problems.
Rather than committing to work through hard problems, you’ll choose to move onto a new or easier task.
This means you never actually get any deep learning done. You bounce across the surface of all of the content. As soon as one thing gets boring, you move on to the next!
To understand this concept, you need to understand the difference between deep learning and surface learning:
- Surface learning is when you only ‘scrape the surface’ of the information. Instead of learning it in detail, you stop once it starts getting too hard.
- Deep learning is when you try to understand the details as much as possible. You dig deep into the information and learn all the little details you need to ace your exams!
Try to focus in on only one piece of content per study session and do a deep dive, rather than trying to jump from one idea to the next and cover it all at once!
5. You’re Studying with the Same Friends
There’s only so much you can learn from the one person. You can study too much with the same people.
If you’ve got just one friend who you study with all the time, they may have misconceptions that they’re teaching you.
But, if you study with many different people you’ll be able to pick up different perspectives and approaches to tackling a problem. It may be as simple as that new person having a different way of explaining things that makes more sense to you.
Similarly, other people who you study with will use different study styles and approaches that will make you see things from a new perspective.
So, what can you do?
If you have just one study buddy, I wouldn’t leave them high and dry without a study partner. I’d recommend looking with your buddy for some more friends to team up with. Turn your pair into a group of four for some fresh insights into your study topic.
6. You’re Skipping Meals
Are you studying so hard that you look up and realize that you missed a meal?
Another common problem is that students who are studying prefer to take small, unhealthy snacks throughout the day rather than eating a nutritious meal.
The result is creeping fatigue, poorer sleep and of course, less productive study sessions.
Make sure that you plan your meals in advance, including what the meal will be and when you will eat it. This will:
- Ensure that you have a healthy meal to eat and ready to go;
- Help make sure you eat at the right time, preventing headaches and fatigue;
- Save you time fretting about what to eat half way through the study session!
Wait … While I’ve got you!
Make sure your study snacks are healthy, too. This post from FastWeb recommends:
- Fruits like bananas, apples and oranges;
- Oatmeal / Porridge;
- Yoghurt; and
- Nuts, trail mix and roasted chickpeas;
Feel free to share your healthy study snack ideas below!
7. You’re missing Social Outings
If you’re studying so much that your social life is seriously suffering, you need to start re-thinking your study calendar.
Lack of social interactions among students can lead to poor mental health and may in the long run burn you out before you finish your degree.
Social interactions have many positive benefits. They not only help you clear your mind, but they give you social contacts who you can discuss your studying with!
In fact, this article cites studies that highlight social interaction:
- Releases cortisol which reduces stress; and
- Releases oxytocin which increases moods.
Cramming is bad for your Social Life
When I was a student, I would spread out my studying and make sure my essays were completed well before submission date. Many of my friends didn’t study, then had to cram some weeks. In the end, I was able to go out and socialize just about whenever I wanted.
My friends who didn’t study regularly went through periods of stress and cramming – which meant they had less options to socialize during these periods!
Conclusion: Are you Studying too Much?
That brings us to the end of our list of ways that you’re studying too much!
If there’s one key takeaway from this post, it’s this:
Plan your studying so it’s spread out and part of your routine. This will decrease stress and help you study smarter, not harder.
Let’s summarize the 7 key ways you can be doing too much studying:
- Your Study Sessions are too Long
- Your Study Sessions are Bunched Together
- You’re Cramming Late in the Semester
- You are Focussing on Too Many things at Once
- You’re Studying with the Same Friends Every Time
- You’re Skipping Meals
- You’re Missing Social Outings
If you have any other ways people study too much, please share them below!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.