Nursing school is known for being rigorous, with long hours and a packed course schedule. Although everyone understands the importance of studying, fewer really grasp the importance of spending study time productively. If you have a haphazard system, cannot rely on others or are chronically low-energy, even the time you do spend studying could be wasted.

Develop a System Early

Self-knowledge is one of the most powerful tools for nursing school, so develop a studying system that aligns with your habits as soon as you can. Plan to study during hours where your brain is active and you feel awake and formulate self-testing and knowledge retention strategies that work for you. Examples include making flashcards, pretending to “teach” the material to yourself or others, reading the chapter before the class that covers it and outlining material.

Get a Community

Nursing programs tend to be organized around cohorts, which means that you move through the same set of classes and clinical courses as a set group of peers. Since you will get to know these people fairly well over several years, form study groups with people who have similar values and methods. Exchange notes, quiz each other and make sure you know who you’ll get information and assignments from should you have to miss a class.

Take Advantage of Professors

Use your professors as a resource and get in touch with them whenever you need help. If you’re having trouble in a class, don’t wait until the problems have affected your grade to speak to your professor: Talk to him early and get his advice on how you could study better. Ask when you aren’t sure about a procedure in clinicals rather than trying to figure it out yourself. Whenever a professor offers lecture notes, download them, reread them after the lecture, highlight them and add them to your own notes. If possible, get the lecture notes before class and write directly on them.

Take Care of Yourself

It might seem obvious, but the best way to study productively is to make sure you’re always well-rested, well-fed and in high spirits. Shoot for eight hours of sleep a night, especially before tests or big projects. Don’t forget to eat, even during a long, busy day, and make sure to focus on the foods you know are good for you. Exercise regularly and drink plenty of water. When studying, don’t take it to extremes: less ground covered regularly is much better than trying to learn a course’s worth of material in an evening.