How Gen Z Students Can Study “Smarter, Not Harder”

Overcoming burnout is the worst step, but also the easiest.

Burnout is often a result of work-induced stress, and for Gen. Z students, this fact is constantly applicable. Although work is a huge factor of burnout for adults over the age of twenty-four, teens and young adults often find that their source of burnout stems from school. Oftentimes, students are forced to prioritize homework, classes, and Zoom calls over their mental health. To provide mental clarity, one should always prioritize mental health above any assigned work. 

The word “productivity” is a culprit of much guilt that Gen. Z students can experience. This is completely common. However, understanding that your worth is not equivalent to your productivity is crucial. There are more effective methods to exceptionally succeed in school than simply studying longer, staying awake longer, and postponing your forms of self-care. Remember, taking care of yourself is productive too. Your music playlist, timeline of studying, methods of memorization, and self-care habits in between will optimize your school-success best–without the additional stress.

It’s all in the music!

Starting your study sessions is the most difficult obstacle to overcome. There is so much anticipation, as self-inflicted perfectionism and high-standards set by schools are added weights on students’ shoulders. However, identifying your mood, and more importantly, what music will increase your best work results, is key.

Here are some Spotify playlists to get you started:

For a classic, simple, and elegant study session, try piano and orchestral soundtracks. (For the graphic designer – I am not sure how best to display the Spotify links on each slide, but each playlist is available by name in the Spotify “search menu” as well, so playlist names displayed only would probably be just fine too 🙂 )

Peaceful Piano –

Piano in the Background – 

Not Quite Classical – 

Mozart Study – 

~Chill~ R&B and Low-Fi beats are great options to get in the flow.

Chill Low-Fi – 

Chilled Cow – Low-Fi Study Beats

Chilled R&B – 

Of course, TikTok music, broadway musicals, movie soundtracks, and your favorite artist will always be perfectly acceptable study music options as well!

Note-Taking is not one-size fits all. 

Taking physical notes of the textbooks you are reading is part of the memorization process, however; finding the right format for note-taking and planning your assignments is a fundamental step in feeling more organized. Taking generic two-column notes can be rewarding, but there are other options that cater towards your personal note taking style. It also takes some time off your hands if you find a method that blends your creativity with your allocated study times.

Digital and online application notebooks are a great option to save your notes and bring them anywhere. There are a variety of apps that allow you to create functional and/or beautiful notes.

  • Notion
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Simplenote

If you love the idea of bullet journaling, try to carry the aesthetic into your school notes! Do not spend too much time on each page, but instead, focus on using different colors and fonts to help you memorize the important points in the text. Aesthetic note taking is a popular solution for Gen. Z students, where the memorization of school information can blend with the artistry of the individual. 

(An example for graphic reference if you need :))

Set “study-timers” and allot yourself free-time.

The Pomodoro Technique is a widely-practiced approach to successful studying. In order to apply this practice to your study session, pick one task or project that you plan to work on. Next, set a timer for an interval amount of time that you expect to perform this task. For example, if you are working on a math assignment that can be completed in an hour, but you have 15 minutes to spare in between, set three interval timers for 20 minutes, each followed by a five-minute rest. If you have a larger project that needs to be completed within a specific length of time, set longer periods of study time (30-50 minutes) with a relative amount of break time (5-10 minutes). Using this exceptional time-management method will keep you on track to finish your activity in due time.

Although occasionally distracting, social media can have incredible perks when it comes to getting your studying done. Gen. Z, a generation exceedingly familiar with the realm of YouTube, can benefit significantly from content called “Study With Me” videos. 

“Study With Me” videos are a great resource for maintaining your motivation while working. Generally, this content is posted on a YouTuber’s channel that specializes in filming at a desk (with the user “studying” right beside you). The concept of “Study With Me” videos has become more glamorous in 2020, with many families having to work at home without the inspiration of their workplace and coworkers. In some “Study With Me” videos, YouTubers film at their house, overlooking their primary office space. Multiple YouTuber’s channels will film at a library, coffee shop, or cafe. “Study With Me” videos generally play assorted study music tracks and background noises to help you stay focused. Pomodoro timers are also set to keep you informed of your work intervals and break times. 

Here are a few examples of excellent “Study With Me” channels:

  •  MDprospect
  • The Sherry Formula
  • Merve
  • Tan Yi (“Study With Me” videos as well as other vlogs and content)
  • TheStrive Studies (note: TheStrive is one word)

Meditate a few nights before the big test.

Unfortunately, feelings of burnout and procrastination can result from test anxiety. Test anxiety can be a combination of anxious emotions in the time leading up to a test to the time actually performing the test. Test anxiety may cause individuals to struggle with studying, to develop fears of failure, and to cause negative mindsets, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

In spite of the disturbance that test anxiety can bring, acts of mindfulness may help ease similar strong emotions. Meditating is proven to reduce stress, soothe anxiety, and improve self-awareness. Try a short meditation practice each day leading up to a test. Your test preparation could consist of two weeks or even two days of meditation practices leading up to the big event. Making the smart choice to meditate before a test can enhance your ability to perform by instructing how to relax and hearten your state of mind.

Give these meditation apps a try:

  • Smiling Mind
  • Insight Timer
  • Headspace
  • Oak

Here are some meditation YouTube channels if you would like even more exercises:

  • Goodful
  • Lavendaire (also has journaling content)
  • Yoga With Adriene

All aside, are you still putting yourself through too much?

Being productive at a fast rate in the most minimal amount of time is a fantastic goal for students to have. Sometimes, however; Gen. Z’s piled schoolwork and extracurriculars can obstruct quality time for other passions, side hobbies, and acts of preparing for college. After utilizing hacks like listening to the right music, setting timers, finding your favorite note taking technique, and meditating, students may still find themselves overworked and burned out–whilst recurrently accompanied by a tight schedule. 

If this sounds like you, perhaps it is time to sit with yourself and ponder what you truly do not need in your schedule. Although it is difficult to make decisions about cutting back on activities in your schedule, it is part of the learning process of becoming an adult. If you are frequently exposed to high levels of burnout and stress after practicing useful methods of studying, it is likely you are in need of reflection. Make sure that you do have plenty of things in your calendar to enjoy, and not just to stress about. If you are still burnt out and overworked, it is finally time for a schedule change!


Burnout | Psychology Today

Bullet Journal Spreads Everyone Needs In Their Bujo for 2020  –

Test Anxiety | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA 

Benefits of Meditation: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation  –

Molly Kate Sullivan

This is Molly Kate Sullivan, but you can call her MK! Living in a small town, MK is always striving to bring awareness to folks on issues facing the globe. MK is a passionate advocate and ally for BLM and women’s rights, and she plays volleyball on both a high school and club team in the hopes of playing collegiate level one day. MK is all about personal growth and body positivity, as well as spreading all the good vibes!

Published by Molly Kate Sullivan

Molly Kate Sullivan, or MK, is an aspiring medical professional who is involved in HOSA, BPA, and SKC STEM Academy, which is a science research program developed for high school juniors and seniors to participate in their own lab research and complete college courses. MK hopes to someday have a career that blends her public health and activism passions with medicine. In her free time, MK plays volleyball for her high school varsity team and a traveling team, in which she earned a spot on the number one 16's team in 2019 for the latter.

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