Friday, October 21, 2011

Effective Study Habits

We all wish we could develop any easy way of studying for that important exam or college exercise. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do it, which I am sure we all suspected anyway. However we can develop effective study habits that make it ‘easier’ to achieve our goals.
According to our friend Wikipedia habit is: "An acquired pattern of behaviour that often occurs automatically"
This is exactly what we need to learn even for our studies, just like riding a bike back in the days.
Let’s see how we do this. We can break it down to habits outside and inside the class room or lecture hall.
Outside factors
  • Establish a routine covering time and place you associate with study.
    This will get you in the correct state of mind quickly. Jumping on a bus, tram or train and pulling out your text will not work. A routine means control, so you should stay ahead and not slip behind.
  • Ensure you are aware well ahead when work needs to be completed and submitted.
    Use your designated study time for these tasks.
  • Be prepared, study ahead. It there was one thing I could change from my college days it is that I had done this. To study ahead means you are prepared with foreknowledge however small. You feel immediately involved and, believe me, it stays with you a lot easier.
  • Sleep. (Regular) Sleep helps the body recover and build up. Some people need more, some less. A good target is 6-8 hours a night.
If you can adjust to this ’external’ habits, you are halfway there and you will see results quickly.
The 'inside' factors
  • Take notes. Quite obviously, times have changed and most lecturers do hand out their notes these days. This means you don’t need to write down everything but that you can focus on the key points. The effect of this is that you watch and listen more carefully and through that you will achieve the higher levels of comprehension. Taking notes cements the information further in your brain and by referring to key notes later will remember more easily and the notes will actually take you back to the time and place you assimilated the knowledge.
  • Interact. Leaving questions till later leaves you worrying about the answer and distracts you from the other content of a lecture. Ask at the time. If the lecturer wants you to ask questions at the end of his or her leture, write your question down and follow up. Don’t let it distract you. On the courses I conduct from time to time to fellow professionals I will actually ask if there are any questions before I start and what do the participants want to get from the session. This sets up interaction.
  • Recap. From my delivery point of view I like to
    • ‘Tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em’ (Intro)
    • ‘Tell ‘em (Content)
    • ‘Tell ‘em what you told ‘em’ (Summary or Recap)
  • If this is not forthcoming from you lecturer, work it from your side.
    It probably entails a thought process of
    • What did he set out to do?
    • What did he do?
    • What did I learn?
These are just a few tips from my experience. Hopefully, I introduced the topic, covered it and gave you an acquired pattern of behaviour to be used in your studies. Try to apply it as much as possible, until it feels natural, and infact becomes a good habit.
Hope your studies became a habit and every success with you professional future.


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