Second, going to the library. That's what I did during college and law school. Another tip is to go to the library after each class and review the day's notes. Studies have shown that this helps with retention. I also did this through college and law school and can vouch for it's effectiveness.
The library is usually the best option. But for convenience, having a designated work space helps. I personally used a desk in the corner that I had all set up for studying. Papers, writing utensils, whatever books, reading lamp, so on. Another thing that helps me focus is a specific kind of music. For studying, I usually went with Mozart, or Beethoven. For just reading nowadays, I like to listen to ambient music (e.g. Bass Communion, Tim Hecker, so on).
I know what you mean about going and doing something else, especially since college is so different from high school in that you're constantly surrounded by people that can potentially distract you whereas in high school you were at home when you knew you needed to get some studying done.
I think a good way to get over this is evaluate your distractions. After you put off studying a few times, take a look and see what you did instead of studying. If it was something like playing pool in the lounge because someone was bored and invited you to join, or just goofing off online aimlessly for an hour [unless you're on AoM, or course] realize that you can do that kind of stuff whenever, and you're NOT MISSING OUT on anything by studying. If something more exclusive or important is what distracts you, then learn to accept it and enjoy yourself, but make sure you plan to study later.
The library advice is really good because it takes you out of that setting where you can get distracted, but even when you isolate yourself, you may be the type of person that gets that nagging feeling that there's something more fun that you could be doing. So look at the things that are distracting you and come to terms with the fact that it's not completely crucial that you sacrifice studying time for something that you could be doing whenever.
Try and find something in what you're studying for that you really think is interesting or important.
I did economics at college and bits of it were *really* dry and boring, especially the advanced maths and statistics. I knew that I had to understand them in order to understand do the interesting bits, so it made it a lot easier to knuckle down for the hard stuff. If you can make the abstract or academic concrete and see the point of it by looking at it from a real world application point of view then it makes it better.
A lot of the time the problem is just starting, then once you're making progress it's ok. So just force yourself to start then you'll find that it's not so bad after all (just like going running, I find :) )
Have regular breaks, but time yourself on breaks and working. I actually use this little program to time myself and do 10 minutes study then 2 mins break, repeating 5 times for an hours work. http://appsapps.info/instantboss.php.
Whatever the mood, you can always force yourself through 10 minutes, and after that you'll get into it and start skipping breaks voluntarily. If 10 minutes is too short you can alter your work/break time ratio.
It is good to remember that with studying quality is more important to quantity. The brain can only take so much info at one time, so it is good to break your studying into small blocks. Otherwise, you will find yourself going through the motions and not having much to show for it.
Break it up throughout the day. Get up two hours early. Have a leisurely breakfast and study for 45 minutes. Then, go about your business. Review for about 25 minutes at lunch. When you get home, get all of your business taken care of (dinner, laundry, fix-it jobs). Take a shower, get some olives or carrots, and study for a couple of hours. When you start getting bored, just take five minutes to walk around or do some push-ups.
Don't cram. Do a little bit every day. Make it a part of your daily routine.
While I would second many of the suggestions, different subjects require different study habits and styles. Math has to be studied differently than languages. History requires a different set of skills than the hard sciences.
All subjects are like that, and mathematics does require a fair amount of memorization as well. I have yet to take a decent class that didn't require some creative thought.
The dig on language learning being nothing but memorization got to me a bit, as I studied linguistics, and am currently in an intensive Chinese program. Language is far more than memorization, and cannot be reduced to simple memorization. I have a new variables and new formulas I learn every day- a sentence can be formed this way, "....". My job is to remember the variables that can be plugged into that formula. (I used to be an engineering major, so the mathematical approach to language works for me.)
Don't knock other people's choices simply because they aren't the same as yours. (FWIW, I was horribly guilty of this as an engineering major as well, but then I got out of there and started having to think and work hard.)
"Math" is, itself, a pretty diverse subject with many different approaches depending on the branch at hand. In most cases, I would suggest doing lots of practice exercises, such as solving for variables. I'm more of a hands-on learner myself, so actually working through practical math does me the most good.
I've always had horrible problems with keeping my attention focused in a lecture. Notes? Forget it. My notepads were always full of reproductions of the Mountain Dew logo and various never-to-be-realized band names/logos. I rarely if ever had study sessions beyond finishing homework, so I have no idea how I got such good grades. Viva la Mountain Dew!
"I wouldn't know about the connection between kneading bread by hand and stress relief as I make large batches and use a unique mixer designed primarily for kneading large-ish batches of dough. :) But the aroma of fresh-baked bread…"
"Good to see so many of you enjoy it, it's a great stress release, especially kneeding bread.
Not trying to make a point, simply asking if anyone enjoys baking. Shame my post caused a few people to think I was questioning their…"
"your kidding right ? i bake and cook and clean and i am even really good with a sewing machine . but i also repair cars , motorcycles. yard work and garden . make love to my wife ,make baby's and raise them ............so…"