Whether it’s been one year since you graduated from college or 20 years, having been “outside the zone” can make it challenging to re-enter. The study tips and habits that worked for you in the past may no longer work.

Back then, you probably didn’t have a demanding full-time job, kids, partner, or other adult responsibilities to get in your way. Does this mean you’re doomed? Not necessarily.

Whether you’re gearing up for Microsoft certification or have taken up a foreign language and are facing a quiz next week, studying smart is the key. Different approaches work for different people, so you should give all the tricks a try and find your groove.

Here are the best study tips for non-students, especially if you’re a full-grown adult.

1. Claim your space

As an adult, you might have more room (literally) to delegate. Designate a study space, make it as quiet and non-distracting as possible, and make sure everyone knows that in this space you mustn’t be disturbed.

Don’t tempt yourself by allowing your smartphone, tablet, or a television into this area. Even if it’s “just” a desk in the bedroom, this is your study space.

2. Timing is everything

People are creatures of habit, and this can work in your favor. Carve out some time each and every day to dedicate to studying. Some days this might just be 30 minutes squeezed in between picking up the kids and your handball date at the gym. On days with more breathing room, hunker down for longer.

3. Use brain food

You probably can’t make this work on pizza and beer the way it was back in the day. Stay hydrated (but not too hydrated, to avoid non-stop bathroom breaks) and alert.

Try consuming walnuts, garlic, and fish oil to keep your brain sharp, or other favorites that work. A little pick-me-up, whether it’s an Americano or a cup of green tea, can take you far. Just don’t overdo it.

4. Stay comfortably aligned

Good ergonomics in both furniture design and posture can work wonders. It might be tempting to sit on the couch and study, but it’s too easy for a nap to swoop in and ruin your plans.

Employ good lighting — natural when possible — and good posture in a chair designed for comfort.

5. Write down your goals

It’s easy to give up when you don’t “have” to do something. Write down your goals: why you want this certification, and the positive changes it will bring.

Post these notes in your study area to keep yourself motivated when things get tough.



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