The best time to study
It’s important to schedule your study so that you’re most awake and energetic. Finding the best possible time of day will save you time, help you to learn better, and make your work a lot more fun.
That said, it’s impossible to give a rule that will work for everyone, although there are some techniques that everyone can and should implement to find the ideal time. With some proactive, results-based self-experimentation, you can find the best time of day to study if you keep these 3 main considerations in mind:
You are probably your own best judge as to when you perform best. However, it’s likely that you’re still wrong.
Most people do not proactively test what works for them. They study when they “feel like it”, but that’s not necessarily their most effective time. In order to know confidently what truly works best for you, it’s important to try something consistently for an extended length of time, then try something else, and afterwards compare the results.
Still, you should make an informed decision in choosing which times to test in the first place. Some considerations:
- Different qualities of memory and alertness seem to be generally better at different times of day (e.g. visual memory in the morning, critical thinking around noon)
- Whether innately or by conditioning, some people operate better in the early morning, whereas others work best in the evening.
- Most people suffer a “slump” in the early afternoon (between 1pm and 4pm)
In addition to daily patterns, some hormonal cycles of longer durations have an impact on alertness.
To dig into this, here’s a document from Cornell University with some great summary information on all these topics: Biological Rhythms
Even if you theoretically study best at 6pm, that doesn’t mean you should study then. Because if that’s when you eat dinner with your family, you probably shouldn’t study at the dinner table.
Unfortunately, distractions throw a wrench in the works. There are some distractions that we can usually control (like deciding not to go to a NYC subway station at 4pm on a Friday and study there), but sometimes we just can’t get away from what distracts us throughout the day. If you live in a busy household, unless you can get away in a quiet place, you’ll have to schedule your study time around those distractions to get the best results.
Take this one seriously. Distractions are detrimental to good study. If you have lots of people and noises around and can’t find a secluded place to study during the day, don’t try. Wait until night, or get up early, and work while nobody can distract you.
In selecting a time, make sure it’s something you can stick to consistently… preferable at least a few days a week. I get up every morning at 5:00, and 6 days a week I spend the first 2 hours pretty much the same way: Read, exercise, shower, write. This consistent routine has simply become a part of my life pattern.
Consistency doesn’t just help to make sure you do your work every day. Consistency improves the quality of your work. If you study at the same time every day, your mind and body will quickly adapt. With a little practice, you’ll be in your best frame of mind for study, with your best focus, during that time. The body likes to know what to expect.