You’re not really studying.
That’s one of the most important points the average student needs to learn to see their grades skyrocket.
It’s one of the fundamental reasons this blog exists.
Sitting down with your textbook and reading isn’t studying. Texting a friend and going over your notes is not studying. Sitting down and dreaming about unicorns and wondering whether or not their manure smells like candy canes (I choose to believe it does,) is not studying. Randomly learning facts from your class is still not even studying.
Sure… all of these activities look an awful lot like studying in practice. They have school material that, to some extent, is being learned but they should not be put in the category of studying.
Whenever I hear a student say something like “I study 2 hours a night,” I can almost guarantee they’re categorizing, “kind of studying” with studying. They might sit with their notes a couple hours a night but their brain is pretty much always invested in something else.
This might seem like a minor problem but it turns into a huge one. These “kind of” studying routines drag students in. They’re ineffective and inefficient. An hour of studying while distracted could usually be replaced with a mere 5 minutes of deeply focused studying. But students drag themselves through hour long masochistic study schedules that just make them less interested in learning the material.
If you’re in one of these situations then quit pretending you’re studying:
Studying is not something that can be multitasked. It requires your brain to be intensely focused on the material. The more senses you can involve in studying, the faster you’re going to learn the material that you need to learn. Minor distractions like music in the background are slowing your study routine down. There are much worse distractions to watch out for though.
Intermittent distractions like texting back and forth with another person is a huge distraction. Every time you stop focusing on the study material, you’re not studying. More importantly, you’re taking your brain off of studying completely. When your brain reads a text from a friend, it needs to get coerced into looking back at your study material. It needs to do this while it consistently gets pulled away from that studying.
Most students that are really studying instantly notice this difference. You will suffer immensely if you try to text while you’re actually studying. Actual studying is brain intensive. Leaving the subject and coming back to it is difficult. Not only should you not study while having a conversation but when you’re studying properly, it’s unlikely you would even want to have a conversation with someone unrelated to the study material. I give myself a headache just thinking about it.
You’re Not Recalling
Studying needs to be focused heavily on remembering information. No… it can’t be focused on reading information. It can’t be focused on listening to information. It can’t be focused on feeling the information by holding the textbook to the sky and using your psychic energy to induce a lighting bolt to strike the information into your brain. Information needs to be recalled.
Studying needs some basic review of information but the more of it that’s focused on recalling the information you reviewed, the better that study routine is going to work. Many students try to get away with study routines that have absolutely no focus on recall. They read through their textbook (while regularly distracting themselves with more interesting stuff,) and they expect that their recall will work come test time.
Recall is the most important part of studying because it’s ensuring that the studying you actually are doing is working. Without it you cannot be sure you’re prepared for a test on the material. For more advice on using recall you should read 9 Reasons Your Memory Sucks.
You’re Studying Because You “Have To”
One of the biggest causes of “kind of” studying is this.
Students regularly end up studying because they “have to” study or at least feel like they have to study. Students are taught that long periods of studying are required to be good students. They’re taught that those long study session will ensure they do better in life. They’re taught those long study sessions make them into smart people. One of the strangest things I’ve learned in life is that some of the smartest people I know tend to study the least in a traditional sense.
When you “have to” sit down and study for a full hour long session, I can’t blame you for bringing a phone to text friends. I understand not using recall. Using the traditional study narrative, it’s virtually impossible to stay focused all session long. Even if you did succeed, you’re going to be damn exhausted after doing it.
Most students sitting down to study because they “have to” are just going through the motions. (It’s like they choose to move into a trailer because they want to be an actor. It doesn’t work quite like that.) By sitting down and pretending to study they can alleviate this have to but it doesn’t help with the underlying goals.
Studying is a tool to get where you want to go. It’s not the destination.
You Don’t Have Priorities
You can’t study everything that you’re exposed to for school. 95% of what you are taught in a class is never going to be found on a test.
If you knew exactly what questions were on the test then you’d have to spend virtually no time studying to get a killer grade. If you have no clues to what is going to end up on the test then you would likely struggle. In the typical class it would be impossible to get a high score consistently.
In reality, most classes give countless clues to what information is going to end up on the test. Teachers virtually give away their tests in advance with the information they provide.
Some teachers give handouts that say what to study. Other teachers emphasize important points excessively. Some teachers give similar less important tests in advance. Some teachers get stuck in patterns of asking the same questions. In virtually every situation, you can rule out 75% of the potential study information.
When you eliminate unnecessary study material, you dramatically increase the value of your study time. Instead of having to spread your energy throughout thousands of key points you can focus on the absolute must know information. That must know information will have significantly more time invested in learning it and will make recall much more natural.
In another way of saying it: one time a student told me they were studying for a class they were taking during the next semester. I asked how they knew what they needed to study. The student couldn’t answer and eventually admitted they were winging it. Now… that student was definitely studying but that student was definitely not studying for that class.
Studying requires priorities because otherwise, anything you do could be defined as studying. Learning useless information is not studying. When it comes to priorities you should also consider: Priority One: Pleasing Yourself.
Don’t get caught up in this pretend studying. If you’re not fully studying then don’t waste your time trying to convince yourself that you are. Study time should be exclusive. Non-study time shouldn’t be wasted pretending to study. When you can draw a clear line between study time and everything else, school gets dramatically easier.
I used to score mediocre to low grades studying around an hour a night. It wasn’t until I actually studied hard for less than 20 minutes a night that my grades started to skyrocket. This was mostly because I gave up the illusion that acting like I’m studying is the same thing as studying. Going through the motions may make your parents happy you’re working hard but it won’t improve your grades and it certainly won’t improve your life.
Do you want to know how to study in less than 15 minutes a night? That’s what this blog is all about. Be sure to follow and check out the archives for all the details. Be sure to check out the ebooks in the sidebar if that’s your thing too!
We Just Threw Out A Few Hundred Members Because They Couldn’t Cut It – You Want To Try?
I’ve gotten a lot of flack for my tendency to throw-out hundreds of people on a whim but it’s only because they’re not even trying anymore. Honestly… this community isn’t for everyone.
Smart Student Secrets is a community dedicated to students developing their own superpowers like:
Memorize hundreds of terms in less time than it takes you to brush your teeth
Spend more time enjoying yourself with the fun stuff in your life while STILL improving your scores
Learn complex concepts using “dirty mental tricks” that would make you blush if someone found out.
We’ve got plenty of room for you in the community.
Want to give it a shot?