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7 Student-Tested Study Hacks That Work

7 Student-Tested Study Hacks That Work
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Do you spend hours studying with less-than-fruitful results? Do you find it hard to memorize specific dates, names, and formulas? Fret not; keep reading to discover seven student-tested, grades-approved study hacks that work.

1. Unconventional Locations

Don’t limit yourself to the comforts of your desk or the silence of the library. Be creative. Some people actually work better in places where a little bit of ambient noise exists, such as a local cafe or the park. Studying outside (especially with flashcards) has also been shown by numerous studies to increase attention span and mood regulation, minimizing feelings of boredom or frustration. Other great places include the bus and waiting in line.

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2. Unconventional Times

Right after school? Just before going to sleep? It may be better to sleep earlier (say, at 10) and wake up earlier, so that the material will be fresh in your memory for the day. In addition to that, it is also a great idea to review notes right after taking them in a class. Revising half an hour into a lunch break is a very effective method — just enough to maximize memory formation, without the afternoon post-consumption grogginess.

3. Stop Highlighting

Highlighting actually hasn’t been shown to increase study rendition. Instead, it potentially creates too much focus upon specific, sometimes unnecessary details. The goal is to understand whole concepts, not simply specific points. A mind map can help a lot in this process, visualizing the connections in between notes. As an alternative, using the color-coding technique is popular — and for a good reason: one color for titles, another one for subtitles, so on and so forth.

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4. Study Actively

Stop reading the textbook. Yes, you read that right. It seems counter-intuitive, but this point is key — especially for memorization. Reading is passive — it does not cement learning. Get an erasable whiteboard and write down as many points that come to memory, such as years of events or mathematical formulas. The repetition of this procedure helps with both short-term and long-term memory; it’s a win-win situation for that information storage. Take notes by summarizing, speaking out the facts, and self-testing yourself — these are all valuable techniques.

5. Water, but Not Just Water

Instead of pure water, try drinking fruit water. Not only is it more aesthetically pleasing, it provides those extra vitamins to keep your brain alert and going throughout the course of the day. Remember: studying is not a sprint — it is a marathon. There are special water bottles with build-in infusers that allow the powerful flavors of the fruit to gradually diffuse, resulting in a refreshing, unique taste. This works best with ice-free, cold water.

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6. Consistency

Aim for quality over quantity, unless, of course, the subject requires a lot of practice with problem-solving (e.g. the sciences). More time spent does not positively correlate with the grade obtained or knowledge cemented into the long-term memory. Aim for routine, not necessarily at the same time chunks everyday, but make an effort to revise consistently — don’t skip a single day. Make sure your notes are legible and well-spaced for easy reading and understanding. Put a sticky note or sticker on parts of your notes that are confusing — it is important to clarify every issue as soon as possible.

7. Using Intuition (With Caution)

Think like a teacher. If certain pieces of information just happen to stand out and make themselves known to you, then there is a very likely chance that it will appear on the test or examination. Most textbooks have a summary section near the end of the chapter, which exist specifically for revision. Even if it is not assigned, doing the extra questions never hurts in the long run. Being over-prepared leads to confidence, but being under-prepared leads to anxiety.

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Now, take out those pens, books, and notebooks. It’s time to study smart — not hard.

Featured photo credit: Wallpapercave via wallpapercave.com

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Lily Yuan

Full-Time Student

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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