Archive for February, 2013

brainIf you are studying for an exam, there is one simple technique that can boost the speed at which you learn, as well as boost comprehension.  What is it?  Talk. Not just a whisper, but stand up and talk and discuss the material, lecture, and explain.

There are several reasons why this works. First of all, have you ever noticed that when you try to explain something to someone, it often reveals whether you really know what you are talking about or not? If you make yourself verbally explain something, it helps you discover the gaps in your knowledge or reasoning. It also helps you maintain your focus, to develop memory traces that will help to get material into your long-term memory, and increases your level of concentration.

So,  do something for me, even if it feels extremely goofy. Stand up and pretend you’re in front of a class and have to explain whatever it is you are trying to learn. You will probably be surprised with just how much it shortens the path to figuring out what you know and don’t know. You do want to figure that out before you are sitting in class with an exam in front of you, don’t you?!

Trust me… it helps.

William Penn once said, “Time is what we want most,but what we use worst.” I have found that many of my students identify poor use of their time as a major cause of their poor academic performance. Even though they know this, most of them do not know how to fix it.Image

At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, I have a simple solution. Get a timer. Using a timer is an excellent strategy for dealing with time management and procrastination issues, and it is something I regularly recommend to students. Time and time again, students have returned to tell me how much this simple strategy transformed their study time.

Here are some helpful guidelines:

To-do lists are a great place to start. Once you have a to-do list, rank the items in order of importance. Then, allot a realistic amount of time to spend on each task. Tasks that will take more than an hour should be broken into 50 minute chunks. This will help you to manage your projects and designate hourly breaks help to keep you fresh.

Set a timer when you begin a project or assignment, and when the timer goes off, take a short break. Here is the most important thing about this part of the process: Time your breaks! If you are working on statistics, and you hate statistics, it is way too easy to walk away and never come back. A timer will remind you to return to the task at hand and it also limits your breaks to a specific amount of time. Typically, I recommend that students take a 5-15 minute break every 50-60 minutes. During the break, get up and do something else, even if it is something as simple as getting a drink.

Invest in a digital timer. They can be found in the kitchen supply section at many stores. You can also use the timer on your cell phone. However, if you find your cell phone is a constant distraction to you, you probably need to put it away and buy an old-fashioned timer.

I challenge you to begin using a timer today and see just how much you begin to accomplish. If you do, I guarantee your productivity will improve and your to-do list will shrink!