The Productive Art Of Study Rituals

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

I have been listening to the same album for almost every single study session for the past two years. I know this sounds boring but hear me out. I am the kind of person who struggles to transition from the outer world where life happens, and where shiny things distract me, into the inner mental world where productive studying happens. It took me almost 18 years of education to realize this, but when I finally did, my study life was revolutionized.

Here’s what it looks like:

Noise-canceling headphones

I prefer over-ear ones because, for whatever reason, having my ears covered distances me from the outer world in a kind of perplexing way. I prefer headphones, but if I don’t have them, a hoodie sometimes does the trick. (Is this weird? Anyone else like this?)

Music

My go-to study music for a very long while has been Sleeping At Last’s Atlas: Space Deluxe, the second half of which is all instrumental.

Recently though, I have branched out a little bit and started listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s Six Evolutions – Bach: Cello Suites.

And, this one is a little weird, but it has been working for me: The Monks of the Abbey of Notre Dame Gregorian Chants. I have no idea how I started with these, but they make everything feel a little magical.

Organize work surface

I lose focus pretty easily when I am studying, especially if I am tired. If I get distracted for something even as simple as finding a pen, it sometimes takes me 20 minutes to get back into focus mode. So, I lay out writing utensils, my book, and my clipboard with fresh notepaper on the table and cross my fingers that I didn’t forget anything that I might have to go hunting for later.

Set Tree

After everything is laid out and my Gregorian Chants are playing, I set a tree. (Check out this post if you have no idea what I’m talking about)!

Scents to study by

Scents

Gregorian chants are weird, but the olfactory/memory connection is definitely weirder. I have a tiny roller of essential oils that are supposedly meant to help you with focus, but really I just think they smell nice and I have been using the same one for so long that every time I smell it, I get a boost of study-adrenaline. Before that, I would chew spearmint gum a spearmint mint, which had the same effect.

Obviously this gangly, kind of unwieldy ritual isn’t always possible, but I try to implement as much of it as possible, as frequently as possible if I need to get deep work done. I’m pretty sure I listened to Atlas: Space two hundred and fifty times while I was finalizing my memo draft.

Do you have any unique study rituals? I’d love to hear about them. Reach out at @the1lLife on Twitter and Instagram!