Back to School with These Study Essentials

Study table (PHOTO: Stock Image)

The term break was good as long as it lasted.

Study table (PHOTO: Stock Image)

The term break was good as long as it lasted. For those of you who might have relaxed a little too much, Felicity Oh shares some tips on how you can jump start your engine and greet the new semester looking refreshed and recharged!

1. Aroma Diffusers

(PHOTO: Iuiga)
(PHOTO: Pristine Aroma)

When it comes to essential oils and aromatherapy, there are a plethora of scents that you can choose from. Some help to unwind, while others help to improve focus. There are many types of diffusers, from reeds to nebulisers and ultrasonic diffusers, so do a little sleuthing and pick the one that suits your needs best.

Next, pick the scent that you want to set the mood with. For relaxation, go with lavender or Ylang-Ylang. If you want something to help you feel less tired and more focused during your cramming, then peppermint or rosemary is the way to go.

You can pick up an ultrasonic diffuser online for under $20 on Shopee, and even though quality essential oils are a little costly, they are certainly worth it when it comes to creating a cosy atmosphere by your desk.

2. Note-Taking Instruments

(PHOTO: @september.studies on Instagram)
(PHOTO: Felicity Oh)

We may use our laptops for everything school-related, but that does not mean you should disregard handwritten notes. According to a blog post from the Pennsylvania State University, research has shown that they help to build muscle memory, and the physical process of writing can help you recall information better.

Physical notes are cost-effective and customisable. There are many different types of papers — grid, dot, ruled, yellow, black, white — and you can pick out pens with the best grip and flow.

However, one disadvantage of physical notes is its accessibility. It is more difficult to keep physical notes with you at all times than typed. However, there is a way to combine the muscle training from hand-writing notes with the accessibility of typed notes, and it manifests in the form of digital written notes. 

With a tablet and stylus, you can create handwritten notes that you can access from any device with cloud-syncing or accounts. One example of a note-taking app is GoodNotes 5. You can choose your paper, create pen and highlighter colours, and even search for keywords with the search tool (basically a Control+F for handwritten notes!). However, this comes at a price, and a hefty one at that. The app itself costs $10.98 on the App Store, and you would need a tablet or touch monitor to do digital written notes, which can be expensive.

3. Rest

(PHOTO: HuffPost)

Yes, make time to sleep. It might sound ironic to spend one-third of your day in bed, but studies have shown that having enough sleep helps you to focus better in the day.. Moreover, the hippocampus, a part of your brain’s temporal lobe, helps you consolidate the information you have learnt and build them into memory when you sleep.

According to articles from Learning and Memory, and Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, sleep deprivation affects hippocampal synaptic plasticity, and all of this essentially means that if you are sleep-deprived, you might not be able to grasp the information as well, as they may not turn into long-term memories.

So, to retain the notes you have painstakingly created, you should turn in earlier for a more efficient and effective study routine.

4. Laptop stands

(PHOTO: The New York Times)

A laptop stand is a useful device to improve the ergonomic settings of your workspace. It elevates your laptop to eye level, and this can help to reduce neck pain from staring down at your screen for an extended period. They are relatively affordable, and they come in different shapes and elevation angles, so you can customise your set-up based on what is most comfortable for your neck and back. This listing on Shopee provides options for laptop stands, and prices start at $9.90 (at the time of writing).

However, since your whole laptop is raised at an angle, the typing experience can get a little awkward, but it is nothing an external keyboard cannot fix. A laptop stand can heighten (pun intended) your viewing experience, and hopefully relieve some tension from the hours of staring at your screen.

5. Motivational content

(PHOTO: @AliAbdaal on YouTube)
(PHOTO: @Studyquill on YouTube)

Although motivation comes from actions, it can get a little demoralising after hours of lectures, teamwork, and Reflection Journals, when you reach that stage of doubt (ie. asking yourself if what you are doing is actually working and will it really get you that daily A?). One way to give yourself that little boost would be to watch some motivational content on YouTube. Ali Abdaal and Studyquill are two content creators that focus on the pursuit of productivity, amongst many other useful topics for students.

By watching meaningful content during your study breaks, you will be able to pick up some tips that you can apply when you study, and that makes your study period more effective and productive as a whole. Just make sure that you do not fall into a spiral of YouTube videos, and end up getting distracted from your work. Set a timer.

These five study essentials are just the tip of the iceberg, and they might not work for everyone, but you can consider working a few into your routine. The key point is to  make sure that whatever you adopt is sustainable, and can benefit you in the long term. Best of luck for the new semester!