Some of the strangest advice you’ll hear in life is the most powerful.
Any idiot can tell you to do the obvious.
Okay… Wow… thanks for that insightful advice that I’d already heard ten million times from just about everyone without any context on how to actually do it.
Really… what is the point of giving that advice? If it were so easy to follow then odds are, someone would have followed it by then already.
So… in classic Smart Student Secrets fashion, I’m going to offer study tips for college that are a little weirder.
They might sound completely crazy. (Maybe they are.) But the thing is:
1. This advice worked for me in college.
2. Thousands of students have already used this advice to improve their life and grades.
3. The academic research pretty much backs up all this advice (but they just say it in fancy words.)
Here is what you need to know:
1. Don’t study a second more than you have to
Studying isn’t grunt work. You can’t just keep banging away at the textbooks hoping to get somewhere.
It’s absolutely fundamental that you’re focusing on it. If you start losing focus then you stop learning anything. And when you study for long periods of time, you have no choice but to lose focus every once in a while.
It’s much smarter to study with an intense focus for a shorter period of time – that is – every single time you study.
That strategy gets and keeps your brain in it’s most focused possible state so you don’t fall into the deadly habit of losing focus and daydreaming when you’re supposed to be learning stuff.
Study less so you can learn more.
2. Never pull an all-nighter (even if you haven’t studied for a second yet)
Seriously… those desperate last-second all-nighters are killing your grade.
I don’t care if you forgot to study for the two weeks you had to prepare for the test. Do not pull an all-nighter even if it could improve your grade but…
First thing, all-nighters don’t always improve your grades. It’s more of a hit or miss situation. Sure… the extra 5-8 hours of studying might improve your grades a little bit but at the same time, you’re going to be 10 times as tired as you would have otherwise been and your stress levels are going to be bursting off the charts.
Second thing, even IF they improved your grades…
Your grade will never be as good as it would have been had you studied consistently for the two weeks before the actual test. It won’t even be close.
By pulling the all-nighter, you’re ruining your chance to change your behavior in the future. You’re going to be able to pretend you saved your own butt when it reality you just hung yourself out to dry.
Next time you have a test coming, having pulled an all-nighter last time, you’re probably going to do the same stupid thing next time and every time after that – you’re screwing your grade up and just pretending you’re saving it.
Cut your losses. Take a few lost points. Learn your lesson.
3. Don’t open that textbook unless you absolutely have to
Textbooks are almost always completely useless.
Teachers write tests to their lectures (not their textbooks.) Your notes from class will always be more valuable than your textbook.
The reality is: textbooks are miserable for learning stuff. They can be okay for looking things up later. They’re reference books. They’re almost never helpful for studying.
If you try to study out of your textbook then most of the time you’re just going to be draining your energy and motivation. They’re written precise, boring, and long. That won’t help you learn much.
Can you open it for some things? Sure… but be really careful because…
Too many students use opening the textbook and daydreaming as their “proof” that they work hard.
“I studied six hours last night.”
No… you put your headphones on. Rocked out to music while daydreaming with your textbook open in front of you…
Shut the textbook and study stuff that you’ll actually learn.
4. Skip study group
Study groups are usually just boring social clubs.
If you’re going to go out and have fun with friends then do that. Don’t pretend that you’re actually studying.
For the study groups that are a little more than a social club (the ones that actually study…)
They’re usually only productive for the leader and the lagger in the group. The leader of the group ends up teaching concepts to other students (and that helps the leader.) The “slow guy” in the group is taught the concepts. And most of the people in between just fall through the cracks and sit around glad that they haven’t looked dumb yet.
Have fun with friends but don’t pretend you’re there to learn something.
5. Limit your study time to 20 minutes a night.
The old Smart Student Secrets study strategy was called the 15 Minute Study Strategy.
In 95% of schools, studying for 15 minutes a night is enough to put you near the top of your class. That is, assuming you’re doing it right…
Most advice students get is crap. It’s not measurable. It’s not effective. It’s usually not even practically doable.
When you actually get into the powerful and effective study strategies, short study sessions work wonders.
But people only have so much energy. By limiting your study time you force yourself to use effective strategies and focus.
By stretching out your study time you encourage yourself to zone out, slack, and learn nothing while bragging to your friends about how long you studied.
6. Sleep late & early & often & even take naps if you’re up for it
Memory consolidation takes place while you sleep.
In fact, sleep recovers just about everything that you use up in your body.
Sleep is just plain awesome.
But it’s one of those things “super productive” people like to give up because it’s not immediately obvious how productive sleep actually is. They try to tell themselves that sleep is just some low productivity activity biology forces them to do every time.
In fact, it’s probably one of the most productive things you can do.
So… if you’re sleepy… indulge yourself.
7. Don’t do all of your assignments
You know that limited energy thing I was talking about earlier?
One of the best things you can do to improve your productivity is to stop doing low productivity tasks.
If you look at your syllabus then you might be able to pick out some of these low productivity tasks. (If you’ve got 100 homework assignments but homework is only 10% of your final grade then 1 homework assignment is only worth a tenth of a percent of your final grade.)
Save your energy for high value assignments.
Life is too short and there are way too many fun things you can be doing to recharge your batteries.
High grades are only useful if you can maintain them. Saving your energy is one of the best ways that you can keep those high scores coming through the whole semester (instead of burning out half way through and leaving your grade in a heap on the floor.)
Have you ever sabotaged your success doing this silly little thing?
You only procrastinate the stuff that sucks. You don’t say, “Ahhh… I’ll read that text from my crush later.” Nope. Now… Any pause is intentional and coordinated to respond better.
Here is the problem with academics:
You probably think most academic stuff sucks – at least a little. (Especially compared to other things you could be doing.)
And the thing is:
FORCING YOURSELF TO STUDY JUST MAKES IT WORSE!
You’re slowly hardening your association of school and being miserable.
You need to create positive associations with academics. You want your brain to be getting hyped up and positive when you’re thinking about studying and giving into this internal oligarchical instinct to force yourself to studying – ain’t helpin’.
Chill the internal dictator for a moment…
A big secret: You need to STOP forcing yourself to study so much.
But, if you’re not forcing yourself then how are you going to see those killer straight-a’s that you’re always dreaming about?
Get your copy of my book about How To Get Happier Straight A’s.
It only costs $4.99 (and if these strategies don’t work like magic like it has for thousands of other students then you can get a full refund.)