Do “study with me” videos help with productivity?
Last updated on: March 1, 2023
For those studying at home, whether after classes, or being limited to online schooling, focus can be a tough thing to obtain. Especially when there’s a computer at your work desk. The temptation to watch YouTube, play video games, draw, or listen to music is just too great. And for these situations, “study with me” videos have become the perfect medicine.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what these YouTube videos are, why they have millions of viewers and billions of views, and how they aim to help students get better grades. Are they really the cure to procrastination, or are they just another distraction?
Table of Contents
What are “study with me” videos?
In short, these are pre-recorded or live YouTube videos where students film themselves studying. This kind of content aims to help others like them gain more focus, work on their productivity, avoid distractions, and find motivation. Generally, there are two types:
- Live streams of individuals studying (good for forming a daily habit and if you like the community), and
- Pre-recorded videos (good if you aren’t following the individual necessarily, just need the background noise)
Even though they have existed for several years, it wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic that “study with me” videos and live streams have gained mainstream popularity. With strict lockdown measures going for months on end, students suddenly moved from classrooms to their lonely four walls.
For some, this wasn’t an issue – the quiet solitude proved to be an even better motivator. But for others, the isolation lead to almost depressing demotivation. Hence the sudden uptick in the popularity of “study with me” videos.
The appealing elements of study with me videos
If you are unsure whether these videos will provide good motivation material for you, let’s briefly take a look at what draws so many students to them.
The video creators come from everywhere
While it’s speculated that these videos originate from South Korea, nowadays, their creators come from all over the globe, and study various things.
Law school and engineering students, and residents in medicine are just some of the interesting individuals in this area of content creation. And while their subject of study doesn’t really impact the video itself, it’s one of the ways to stand out from other “study with me” creators. It attracts viewers of similar background who are in need of a like-minded study community.
Aesthetic and functional elements increase immersion
To really give these videos a personal stamp, “study with me” YouTubers also decide to decorate their rooms and videos in a specific way to appeal to the viewers. Usually, a “study with me” video will have one or more (or even all!) of the following:
- decorated room or desk to fit a certain aesthetic (pastel colors, or dimmed rooms, LED lights, posters, post-its, minimalism, etc);
- an on-screen Pomodoro timer to track sessions;
- sounds of rain, coffee shop ambiance, or traffic outside;
- relaxing music, or only the sound of papers, pens and keyboard, and
- a studying app or extension you can use alongside the person studying
Let’s see what it looks like on an actual video:
Source: Abao in Tokyo
All of this is done to make the viewer’s studying session more pleasant, and foster a sense of familiarity. Even the shot is made to look like you’re sitting across from the person, as you study together. So, spending about 30 minutes browsing youtube is surely going to help you find one video creator whose aesthetics and elements suit you the most.
Almost every video features a pomodoro timer that shows how far off the creator is with their studying. This is an additional helpful element that makes sure both the viewer and the creator do the work at the same time.
However, if timing yourself is something you don’t really like, or struggle with, following the timer of a study YouTuber can solve all of that heavy lifting for you.
How “study with me” videos help you be more productive
But, while some people may be motivated by visuals, or find these videos a better alternative to “chill music to study to”, what else do they have to offer?
Let’s see how watching these YouTubers can help you not just study more, but become a more well-rounded, more organized student. Especially if you’re struggling with isolation and demotivation.
They improve your time tracking
As we’ve mentioned, Pomodoro timers are an important element in these videos. They’ve almost become essential. Every content creator features a timer that shows which study block they’re on, and when is their next break, to give their study time some structure.
If you especially struggle with tracking time and staying consistent with it, then this could be of great help. Studying along these videos for a few days could give you an idea of how Pomodoro works, and what ratio of study time vs breaks you’re most comfortable with.
Here’s one example from study YouTuber James Scholz:
You can see two counters on the bottom left:
- The number of study blocks he plans to do in his 12-hour session (top), and
- The countdown timer for the current study block (bottom).
Taking note of your progress this way gives a greater sense of control over your time, and makes progress more tangible. Odds are that, after some time, you’ll be able to track time on your own. You won’t need someone else providing you with the structure.
They make it easier to focus
One of the biggest struggles students face is the distractions. Whether you’re looking for the perfect Spotify playlist (or skipping songs you don’t like), getting sidetracked by an Instagram notification, or you want to wind down with a video between tasks, distractions come aplenty nowadays.
The internet was designed to make us multitask and waste time when we can, so first of all – don’t feel bad if you can’t concentrate when you’re trying to study on your computer, laptop, or tablet.
Jamie, a study YouTuber who has a channel called StriveToFit, mentions how “study with me” videos can help people get distracted less:
“…because every time they’re tempted to do something on their phone or go somewhere on their website, they kinda look up and see that I’m still studying on the screen, so it kind of motivates them to keep studying and stay focused on what they’re supposed to be doing.”
While these videos can certainly help a little with procrastination, they can’t completely solve it. Try to identify why you procrastinate, and the fix will be a little clearer.
They help with time management
By structuring their time into study blocks and breaks, these YouTubers teach hundreds of thousands of students how to divide anywhere between 2 and 12 hours of work a day.
Their videos follow a simple formula that usually consists of:
45/50 minute study time + 15/10 minute breaks
Time management plays a big part in how productive you are throughout the day. So, having the right model to learn from can vastly improve how you manage your own workload. Maybe you decide to have one block of study time devoted to homework, while the next one is for revision of another subject.
Another study YouTuber called 공부하는지호 Ziho keeps their schedule and times posted on the left side of the screen.
That way, viewers know when the live streams will occur and can tune in accordingly. In a way, you can work out a study plan around the content creator, and find some time management support in that way.
They combat lack of motivation and isolation
While these kinds of videos have been around for a while as a way to help students with focusing issues, the 2020 lockdowns introduced an even bigger boogeyman – isolation. It was a whole new beast to tackle. While being out of classrooms seemed liberating at first, the schoolwork soon began to feel mind-numbing, and the energy for any kind of studying ran dry.
While schools were struggling to catch up and seemingly failed to create engaging digital communities… These YouTubers have done it effortlessly.
So, what is their secret? Can they really help you feel less alone? Well, according to Tatjana Mali Ergelasev, a psychologist and therapist, they certainly can:
“Earlier, students would choose college or uni libraries to study, because of its work atmosphere. And, while some of that atmosphere came from the optimal studying conditions, such as desks, silence, and space, a lot of it actually came from the feeling that everyone there had the same “problem”. They were going through the same struggles, putting in as much work… The generations of 2000 and onward already have a heightened sense of loneliness, estrangement, and being misunderstood. If you ask me, this “study with me” phenomenon is a very creative way to overcome the obstacles of loneliness and physical distance. It satisfies the need for belonging and social contact.”
And here’s what these young creators do to make the study experience more social, even if it’s over a computer.
Motivation through personal experiences
James Scholz has a video titled Why I work so Hard, detailing his personal reasons for wanting to spend 12 hours a day studying, how his family life affected this decision, and his future.
Some of the creators are willing to share bits of their lives and experiences, enhancing the idea of an “online friendship” or camaraderie also known as the parasocial relationship. And by getting to know them and their methods, students can connect with them better, and feel like they have an actual study buddy.
Maybe their college struggles and learning progress can help you find that one motivator that will push you towards achieving better grades or getting a degree.
Most creators nurture a hard-working community
Most of the popular “study with me” YouTubers have built entire communities around their studying process. You know what their major is, and you’re probably in the same field, just like a lot of their other viewers – so there’s already some familiarity there. They also invest time in:
- Discord servers – where viewers can chat with one another and even do video calls in a group;
- Focus apps – Forest seems to be the most popular one. Viewers can join the YouTuber’s group inside the app, and track their time together;
- Giveaways – like The Man Sitting Next to Me, one of South Korea’s most famous study YouTubers, who invests the money earned through these videos into rewarding 20 of his viewers every month with online coupons for textbooks and the like.
And when there are hundreds of people in the comments, chats, and apps, working together, the feeling of isolation dampens. And while it doesn’t completely cure loneliness, it definitely helps to see a community of people like yourself, gathered to study together.
Accountability through emotions
While these YouTubers can’t communicate with you directly and make sure you’re doing your work, there is something called emotional contagion. It’s a process where one person’s behavior affects the behavior of people in their close vicinity. For example, friends going to the gym together to ensure they don’t give up, or when an actor makes you laugh during a movie scene.
Emotional contagion can be even stronger in virtual spaces, so it’s safe to assume that, by seeing a study YouTuber live stream their studying every day at a set time does create some sense of accountability in their viewers.
Because if they can do it, why can’t you, right?
Why you should be careful with these videos
Hustle culture and the risk of burning out
While the videos are harmless in nature and come from good intentions, it’s easy to get lost in the YouTubers’ habit of studying up to 12 hours a day.
It’s important to know your limitations and pace yourself. Combining your studying with healthy brain-boosting foods, a functioning sleeping schedule, and some downtime for hobbies and fun will help you make great changes in your productivity.
So, the videos alone can’t help you, as there are more factors to productivity than just motivation.
💡Some further reading on this topic:
Burning out can cause you to tire easily, start having lapses in memory, and even lead to sickness. Be mindful, listen to your body, and find the best stress relievers for yourself.
Overindulging in the aesthetics instead of the matter
There are talks within the community of the “study YouTube” that certain creators and as a result, their youtubers, begin to focus more on the aesthetics of the videos, rather than their purpose. People will focus too much on getting the perfect stationery, the best apps, the prettiest desk space, or the most expensive tablets/laptops, instead of zoning in on the whole point of these videos – the studies.
So, while you should find inspiration in the creator’s own workspace, it should never derail you from studying. Clean desks and neat work tools are a great way to give some life and color to the whole process. Just try not to make it the only reason why you sit down to study but get no studying done.
“Study with me” videos are an extremely helpful focusing and productivity tool. The scheduled live streams can help bring some structure to your study time, the timers on screen improve time tracking and time management, and the personal, quiet atmosphere gives you the impression of studying with a friend. Some of the creators of these videos even have communities built around becoming better students. So, if you’re looking for a way to make your studies more engaging, and fight the tension and boredom that comes with learning on your own, these videos will be perfect for you.
✉️Do you have a favorite “study with me” video or YouTuber? If not, what types of videos help you the most – whether it’s music, white noise, or sounds of nature? Write to us at email@example.com and we could feature you in one of our future articles!