How to study effectively when you’re tired: 9 ways to 37x your learning

It is difficult to focus when you have so much going on. We want to study smarter. But how to study effectively? Here’s 9 foolproof study methods.

studying effectively is possible

Table of Content

We are humans! Not robots!

tired boy frowning and unable to study

Here’s someone you might know.


She’s a dedicated member of a band and a Sec 2 student. With classes starting at 8am and ending at 3pm, her schedule is already packed. But her dedication to the band requires her to practice 3 times a week, a total of 12 hours – and that’s not counting the extra hours during performances and competitions.


She drags her tired body home and finally reaches around 7pm. Homework, revisions, and tests await her and eat into her precious few hours of rest. And by the time she goes to bed, it’s often past midnight or 1am. The next day, she wakes up at 5.45am and starts the cycle all over again.


How can anyone expect a person to wake up at 6am, come home at 7pm to 8pm and still be effective in doing homework, and revise for tests? Here’s some learning strategies.

1. Think big but start small (and here’s how to study)

How to study effectively? 🎯

Never study for 4-6 hours straight and that’s because attention cannot be sustained for so long. There’s a reason why school classes are at most 1.5 hours long.

study more effectively 1% everyday

If you get 1% better each day, you will be 37x better by the end of the year

To start small, you need to

a. Do the easiest and most enjoyable thing first. 

This will create a quick sense of accomplishment to move yourself forward. Note: this tip is only applicable for students who cannot get started.


b. Give yourself permission to stop after 15 min of study time. 

And when you really do stop, remind yourself you completed what you wanted to (and don’t feel guilty). Remember even small progress is still progress.


c. Set an end time, not a start time. 

You can arrange something that cannot be missed at the end of your study time eg family dinner or friends’ gathering.


Set yourself up for success with the right study habits.

2. Hack your brain into focus mode

a. Actively summarise every sub-concept to study more effectively

How to study effectively? 🎯

Write down the summary and the key ideas you missed out in 2 different colored pens for more effective retention. Note down any special keywords in your summary too.

When you have something in mind you need to do, you engage with the content more intensely. I call this conclusion-driven studying.


In practice, you would read through the section and summarise the key ideas in your own words and mind.


Revisit the book and play spot-the-difference to check which key ideas you missed out. This is one step higher than the popular Blurting method.


Studying this way would help you concentrate better!

annoyed brain does not want to study effectively

b. Read the pictures and chapter summary first

How to study effectively? 🎯

Google for online chapter summary or on Tiktok/Youtube. If you are close friends with your school seniors, you can ask if they have any notes to share  

A picture alone can provide multiple takeaways and key ideas. If you don’t believe me, try describing a photo to someone and see if the person can draw it out in the same details as your picture.


Similarly, chapter summary provides a lot more info in one page. You probably won’t understand 80% of the summary and that’s ok.

  • Have a high level idea of what the chapter is about. And say back to yourself the summary in your own words.
  • Note down the questions you have about what’s confusing or what you don’t understand – it can be keywords or concepts. Then look out for the answers as you read through the main text of the chapter.


Note-taking while you read the pictures and summaries will 2x your studying effectiveness

c. Sleep (because there’s no point staring into your book when you are all burned out)

You are at 0% effectiveness and prolonging your pain.

Set a realistic schedule that works for you by trial & error. I have tried

  • Studying after napping for 3 hours after school and waking up to study at 8pm (personal favourite)
  • Studying at 5am right before school
  • Studying after 15min power nap – something I personally hate but it works for my friends

Research has shown that naps improve your memory. You feel happier which motivates you to study more effectively. So nap proudly!

3. Useful study tools you wished you knew

useful study tools for effective studying

The right tools make all the difference

a. Use a mix of memory techniques

Memorisation technique 1: Slope man shows the rules for the slope of a line. It is an image of a face with one positive slope eyebrow, one negative slope eyebrow, an undefined slope nose, and a zero slope mouth.

Memorisation technique 2: To remember 2 x 4 = 8, try imagining 2 lions eating 4 sentences. The number eight and the word ate would help you recall more easily

Memorisation technique 3: Take the first letter of each word and form either a new word, real or made-up, or an entire sentence


– brackets


division and multiplication,

– addition and subtraction

Memorisation technique 4: Use a word to make a connection to a concept. For example, the greater than > and less than < signs can be better remembered by imagining a greedy alligator: the alligator mouth is open towards an elephant that is larger than itself

The weirder the scene, the more likely you will remember it

Memorisation technique 5: Break down information larger than 7 items into smaller chunks.

For example to memorise T127784I, break it down into T12 – 77 – 84I

Memorisation technique 6:

1. Imagine a place you are familiar with (typically, this would be your house)
2. Imagine whatever you want to remember interacting with a part of your house in a chronological manner
3. The weirder the interaction, the more likely you will remember it

For example,
– Imagine arriving at your house and seeing a fat-legged auntie kicking your front door (Toa Cah Soh trigo rules which roughly translates to fat-legged auntie in Hokkien)
– As you entered your house, you see your parents acting out in a drama (for ACTS – to remember which trigo function is positive in which quadrant)

b. Create a conducive environment

The best environment for you might be different from your best friend’s. Some people like studying in a quiet library while others concentrate better in a cafe. Some listen to lofi beats on Spotify while others need pop music on Youtube.


Critical aspects you must choose carefully

  • Location (makes you more distracted or focused)
  • Lighting (makes you less sleepy with brighter lights)
  • People around or not (some find it harder to concentrate while others find it easier to start)
  • Phone or not (put away or enter do-not-disturb mode)


Even with less self-discipline, you can study more effectively in the right environment. So, trial & error to learn more about yourself!

c. To study with friends or not?

Study with secondary school friends

How to study effectively? 🎯

Choose the friends you study with and note that these people might not be your best friends and that’s ok!

✅ Studying with friends can be effective for certain situations. Here’s a few

  • Clarifying about confusing concepts learnt earlier in the day
  • Practising math questions
  • Discussing tricky questions from past years
  • Testing each other

Bonus tip: 

Friends with different expertise supercharge your learning as they share the tips and tricks that work for them



❎ Studying with friends might not be effective in situations you need deep focus eg to memorise or reading through the content for the first time

You are similar to the oceans in the world

inspire studying - motivational glorious sunset by the beach

Like the seawaves, your motivation ebbs and flows. Don’t pressure yourself. Be kind to yourself because you have you for the rest of your life. Everyone goes through periods of low energy and downs. Let’s try our best together to study more effectively 😊

Scroll to Top