This article is my response to a recent question I received from a student struggling to introduce a more reasonably timed study routine. He’s in the unfortunate habit of studying for hours every few nights (when he can force himself to do it.) He’s a subscriber here and as I was writing his response I began to realize this might be useful for more than just him.
You can score high grades and study less than you imagine. Your mistakes in the past are just consequences of all the usual bad advice you’ve been given. You are in control of your grades.
Here is the big important point that I’m going to hide for everyone except subscribers for marketing purposes: 😛
You can’t expect instant results.
I know… that doesn’t look all that dramatic but it’s huge. It’s one of the most important points you’re going to have to accept to succeed.
The 15MSS isn’t a weight loss pill or shady infomercial. There are no instant results. It’s a long term investment in your future. You need to think long term (one month absolute minimum,) with any studying changes. Results can take a long time to start showing through. There is something more important than that though:
You’re going to feel like a failure before the results even come in!
Success or failure, there is a very good chance you’re not going to feel good after your first few short studying routines. This is a combination of a number of different problems:
1. You’re not good at it.
When you’re in the habit of studying for long periods of time, you’ve habituated your brain to mediocrity when it comes to focus.
It’s like you’re a marathon runner suddenly switching to the 100 meter dash. Sure, you may be fast. You may be strong. But you’re playing a different game.
Marathon studying requires pacing. You only have so much energy. You can’t get stressed out too fast or you’ll end up torturing yourself the whole study session.
Short study routines allow you to push yourself a whole lot harder because it’s going to be over sooner. You can’t pace yourself too much but, then again, you can’t completely blow all your energy in the first five minutes. If so, you’ll end up stressing out for the rest of the session feeling terrible.
2. Work Harder Guilt
This is one of the most challenging problems I hear from students.
They introduce the 15MSS (or some personalized variation.) There results are mind-blowing. They’re happy BUT they still feel like they’re doing something wrong.
They feel guilty because they’re not studying as much as they “should.” They tell me things like, “I could be getting A+’s if I tried harder,” when they’re scoring an A average. (Check out the article the Perfect Test Score Problem for more info on this.)
Students don’t want to tell their parents or teachers about their success because parents and teachers will still give them guilt trips about how much closer to perfect they could be getting if they just “tried harder.”
Here is the truth: studying more isn’t trying harder. It’s trying less. It’s settling for (at best) a linear improvement in your studying. For most students, it ends up just creating mediocre marathon studiers. They can waste a day and learn only a couple important points.
3. Full Responsibility
Improving your study routine comes with you being solely responsible for your failure and everyone will remind you this.
If you fail a test but tell your teacher that you studied for 10,20, or 40 hours then your teacher (if they believe you) will let you off easy. They’ll tell you to work harder. Or they’ll tell you to come to office hours. They’ll advise you politely.
If you fail a test but tell your teacher you only studied 15 minutes a night or less, your teacher isn’t going to respond as politely. They will probably offer advice like, “don’t be dumb. Study more.” Okay… they might not call you dumb but you’ll feel it in their voice.
The reality is: you probably won’t fail any tests (that you would have passed with a traditional study routine.)
The world will put full responsibility on you for your results and that can feel bad but it is a good thing. Short term… yeah it sucks. Long term… this is the kind of stuff that pushes you to succeed next time.
Don’t Proceed Boldly Without A Strong Stomach
Results are not instantaneous.
In the short term, they may be negative.
In my experience, you will probably have to overcome some feelings of guilt over the transition period. My best advice to deal with that: enjoy life too much to care. Use the time you would have spent studying doing something fun.
Do your study routine with 100% of your focus. Then do something else that you enjoy enough to distract you from that feeling that you need to keep studying.
You can’t study better without taking risks.
Watch your results carefully (ignore your gut) and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Improvement doesn’t come from doing the same thing over and over again. It comes from trying new things and watching the results.
Small distinctions create amazing lifelong results. Don’t miss out because you’re scared of a few disappointing moments.
Aaron Richardson took his grades from fighting F’s to Easy A’s. In the process, he read over 300 books on personal development. Today he’s founded 2 blogs on studying including Smart Student Secrets. He’s written 3 books on the subject. His work has been featured on some of the biggest news, psychology, and student sites on the internet.