Finding your GMAT zen how to get in the right mindset to study
We have all had those days. You get up early for a morning study session and you don’t even need the coffee to keep yourself going. Practice tests fly by and you are able to get through your study materials with reckless abandon and still stay on top of your game. We have all also had days when we felt the study hours drag on endlessly and focus was illusive. Do you know what was different about these two days? Your mind was in two entirely different places.
Your mental state is just as important to your study and testing performance as is any other element to your prep program. Oddly, this is often overlooked by most testers and a lot of prep writers. That said, I am a big believer in getting in the right place mentally before you start your day. Here are a few tips to get you on the right track.
View Studying Differently
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about tomorrow’s study materials? Is it dread, apprehension, frustration, or panic? If so, you are thinking about this all wrong. Studying can be a chore, but rather than viewing your prep work as another obstacle that stands in your way, think of studying in terms of how it will help you accomplish your future goals. The GMAT is a gateway to these dreams and studying for the test helps you move closer to the future that you want.
Additionally, how you conceptualize your successes and failures plays a major role in your mental state. View problems that you get wrong as challenges rather than failures.
Find the Right Atmosphere
Most people I know study at home. This works, but it is not the only option. If you have loud or distracting roommates your home could be the last place you want to be. Seek out somewhere quiet with limited distractions. This does not mean that you need to lock yourself in a dungeon. It is also important to find a place that you legitimately enjoy being. Where on the map is your happy place? For me, I do a lot of my studying outdoors in state parks and on nature trails. I personally enjoy hiking and the hike clears my head for the day of studying before me.
Find a schedule that works for you
Everyone has a unique threshold for how much information they can take in at once. Find yours and respect it. Cramming does not work. A better approach is to study in blocks of time that work for you and your own capabilities. Doing this will help fight off mental fatigue and will allow you to actually retain more of what you learn.
Turn the phone off
Distractions will kill your productivity and these days there is no greater culprit than your smart phone. Study time is study time and I am not an advocate of multitasking between prep work and your personal life. Shut the phone down and put it somewhere out of reach.
Close your browser tabs
While on the topic of eliminating distractions, be sure to close the other tabs on your browser unless they are also open to study materials. There will be plenty of time to check Facebook and update your Instagram account once you finish today’s work. For now, the GMAT demands your full attention.
Mix things up
Books and quizzes are great, but they can get old after a while. Try to find new ways to challenge yourself. Varying your study methods will not only keep you from getting bored, but the different styles will also help to keep your mind sharp. Would you like to hear one of my favorite study methods? At the end of your study day have a friend come over to quiz you using your flash cards (you are using flash cards right?). If you do not get at least 90% of them right lunch, or the first round of drinks, is on you!
Take breaks and give yourself a reward
Studying is hard work and you need time to let off steam. Be sure to work in small rewards throughout your day and give yourself a break after you finish. You would be surprised how much better you perform when you are well rested and motivated.
The GMAT is as much about your mental state as it is about your ability to answer questions. How do you get yourself in the right mindset? Let us know in the comments!