Homework can be easy and even fun if you do it right.
By fun, I’m not saying you’ll throw out your computer and beg your teacher for just a few more assignments.
I mean fun enough that you’ll feel good to get it out instead of procrastinating. (When something is fun, it kills procrastination.)
Teachers usually recommend students use the bang-your-head against it approach to homework advice. They’ll tell you all the wrong ways to do your homework. They’ll say:
- Take your time
- Try to really “get it”
- Work hard!
Sure… they might have good intentions but most of these strategies are counter-productive. For all the good you get out of them, you sacrifice something much more important.
The most important thing isn’t that you always get an impossibly high score.
For a perfect score, there is no amount of time you shouldn’t be studying. You might as well study all day for perfect because, odds are, you’re still going to mess up once in a while. It’s the perfectionism nightmare they’re encouraging.
The key is finding the right balance for your life.
You can do your homework is less time than you think. There are only a few things that you should know…
Go Irresponsibly Fast
Never slow down during your homework.
From the second you tell yourself, “I need to do my homework,” you shouldn’t stop. Get up immediately. Walk to your stuff. Grab what you need. Throw all the crap on your desk on the floor. Sit down. Answer the questions.
Don’t sit and think about the questions a second longer than you have to.
If you think you know the answer then write it down. Write it down fast enough that it’s a little sloppy. Write it fast enough that you can’t think about anything except that writing.
Then immediately start the next question.
As soon as you pause, you’re allowing yourself to get distracted. The faster you move, the less opportunity you have to be distracted.
Distraction is responsible for the complete destruction of any semblance of productivity in almost every case.
If you don’t allow yourself to stay 100% focused then you’re setting yourself up for more of a challenge.
Pausing is an invitation for distractions.
What if you have to pause to answer a question?
That’s okay once in a while. This is going to be common at first.
If you genuinely don’t know the answer then skip it and come back to it later.
After you answer everything you can go back and try again.
Before you go back to answer the questions, take a look at the time.
Track Time Or Lose It
Start tracking how long each assignment takes you. There are two times I recommend watching carefully.
- The time to answer all the questions you know
- The time to finish the assignment completely
(Doing those “hard” questions can often take longer than every other question on the test. When you’re tight on time, it’s worth considering skipping the tough ones completely.)
If you think you know the answer but can’t immediately think of it then either:
- Throw your best guess
- Close your eyes and take a breather
BUT I GOT DISTRACTED!?
That’s okay too. It happens to everyone. Just pause. Re-asses your goal of moving as quickly as possible. Then get moving!
Does this seem completely impossible?
I’ll explain how it’s possible a little later.
Steal Your Teachers Shoes
After you finish answering all the questions, you want to remember the old joke:
Before you judge someone, you want to walk a mile in their shoes. (That way you’re a mile away and have their shoes.)
The real meaning: how would you feel if you were them?
When you rush through your assignments, there are consequences.
You will be messier than usual. You might make more silly mistakes.
That could cost you points if you don’t steal your teachers shoes and walk a mile in them before class. (That’s a metaphor… Don’t blame me for your shoe sniping.)
Before you hand in your assignment, always check every single question.
Reread the questions and your answers and make sure they still make sense to you.
Read them like you’re a teacher trying to deduct points from your own paper. Be a judgmental teacher that you would hate to actually have. As you’re going through it, correct every silly mistake you made and neaten up anything that’s particularly disruptive.
You’ll notice this process is a whole lot easier than going through the test slowly because the hard part is done.
You’ve separated the two separate forms of thinking about the assignment.
You know that voice you normally hear in the back of your head telling you that you’re doing it wrong?
It’s that judgmental perfectionist voice that makes it so hard to answer the questions.
After practicing this style of homework a few times, you’ll notice that perfectionist voice goes away while you’re rushing through the assignment because you don’t even have time to think about it.
Then, when you get to the judgement phase, that voice is used productively instead of ruining your ability to finish the assignment.
There is one more important part to this strategy that’s absolutely essential to your success.
Give Yourself A Massive Head Start
The honest to goodness truth is a bit of a bummer.
If you’re behind in class then homework is going to be way slower.
If you’re kicking-ass in class then you could probably bust your homework out in five minutes after class.
If doing your homework doesn’t feel like you’re just filling out forms then you’re not as prepared as you could be for class. (Math can be a typical exception.)
Most homework should be as easy as filling out a personal survey. You shouldn’t need to look stuff up often. You shouldn’t need to sit down and think hard about much. It should be automatic because you know the answers that well.
That’s just a sign you’ve been indoctrinated with the wrong strategies for learning.
This is a complicated subject but learning for class is easy when you’re using the right strategies. That’s what this blog is all about. That’s what we write books about.
Doing good in class is more about forgetting the bad stuff you’ve been taught than learning anything knew.
After you forget those poor strategies, you can almost just trust your natural instincts to get ahead but it’s absolutely essential you remove the indoctrination before you try to trust your instincts.
Good studying feels natural.
It’s easier than not learning.
That’s what we can show you how to do…
Let me tell you (an inappropriate) true story…
It was high school Spanish class…
I was a Senior in a class of Sophomores. There was one other Senior in the class. Best of all –
She was smokin’ (as the old folk say.) She was gorgeous. 10 out of 10. Tight jeans. And she always sat right in front of me in class (gulp.)
We were the only Seniors in the class. By default… that made me the coolest guy there… And trust me… I’m never the coolest guy there.
But we’d talk. Sometimes in class she’d lean over. I’d continue to pretend me importa la espanol stuff pero… Seriousamente… 😛
Sure… I’d show up to class. But my brain rarely stuck around for the lecture. And that’s why you might not be surprised I was getting a C- in class.
It’s funny how that stuff that distracted me in highschool wasn’t so problematic in college where I took a double course load and still scored near the top of my class…
You don’t need to be perfect to score near perfect.
You just need to know how…