I’m going to say something crazy.
This goes against everything I would have believed 5 or 6 years ago.
I thought I had it all figured out as I was controlling every variable in my personal study experiments. That was, of course, until the days I didn’t.
(It all went great until the day it didn’t. This is the way I learned many important lessons.)
If you want to run a good personal study experiment then I suggest you learn this lesson it took me years to figure out:
Don’t worry about controlling every variable.
This probably sounds terrible to most people as committed to the scientific method as I am. It might sound like downright stupidity but I think this is one of the most powerful things you can learn about running a successful personal study experiment.
Controlling every variable is impossible. You don’t have the resources to even come close to that. Attempting to do too much can lead to more stress than the results can justify.
In the past I ran study experiments by creating objectively similar sets of flashcards and testing myself using different strategies to learn the information. This was an awesome way to learn about studying but it took a serious investments of time.
Since I was spending so much time learning about how to study better, I was using up a large amount of my motivation just to learn more about my results. I would waste hours every few nights running an experiment like this and, honestly, I’d just get worn out.
It was type a. It was obsessive. It was powerful but damn was it costly.
Your goal shouldn’t be to run the perfectly controlled experiment.
The reality is that just by being you you’re controlling for many variables. You’re controlling enough variables to learn what you need to learn. Most people keep a relatively constant schedule. That schedule is what can help you control a huge number of variables without even trying to. Take advantage of that.
To control all your variables reasonably well (for personal inquiry, not for verifiable peer reviewed science journal submissions,) you don’t need that much planning.
Instead of thinking about creating perfect little experiments, think about larger chunks for your experimentation.
Don’t do an individual experiment using flash cards to try and measure how much you can improve your recall. Well… you can but don’t rely on this being your consistent strategy. Consider it as a bonus.
Instead, do a long term experiment testing using flash cards instead of your traditional study strategy to learn school material. Don’t just test your recall. Watch your grade for a few weeks and see what happens.
Watching your grade ensure you’re paying attention to what your real goal is.
Grades are a hard to control variable. You don’t know when your teacher is going to be giving you easy work and when they’re going to be giving you hard work. That means this can be a little hard to trust in the long term.
Is your grade going up because you have a better strategy or because you have easier work to complete?
You can try to fix this problem by controlling more variables but you’re really just adding stress to a situation that doesn’t have to be so hard.
All you have to do to ensure your results are valid is this:
Never stop your testing process. If you still see better grades 6 months from now and you’ve only made one change then you can virtually guarantee you produced a successful improvement. Over time the variability of classwork difficulty is no longer a relevant factor. Time evens it out and reveals the true nature of your results.
Most importantly, this should never stop and you shouldn’t even want to stop it.
If your experimentation strategy isn’t something you could do for the rest of your life then it’s probably not going to produce extraordinary results for you. Extraordinary results are tough in short bursts of experimentation. They’re easy through a constant commitment to getting better.
Keep getting better over the long term by making small changes and in no time you’ll be pushing ahead of most other students.
Life is an experiment. Treat it as such and you can learn to produce the results you want. Treat experimentation like a cyclical way of getting better and your results show it.
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This is an absolutely essential read for anyone on this blog.
I’m about 4 hours away from something big.
The story began a decade ago when I first started to share my study strategies with other students.
I had figured out the Holy Grail of academic optimization strategies – and every intermediate step to get to it. Using this strategy, I pulled a nearly 4.0 GPA while running a double course load in college – and once I started sharing it.
Droves of them.
And then teachers noticed.
Most of the teachers that were looking out for their student’s best interest got what I was saying and supported the cause. Others… well… not everyone has the student’s best interest at heart.
Early on (even before Smart Student Secrets,) I started writing for average students.
I knew… I was NEVER one of the “smart kids”. I was mediocre at best. And I knew, if these strategies worked for me then they could work for just about anybody. And that’s who I wanted to connect with.
But… There was a problem…
I built an audience giving these strategies away. Sure…
And I’d get messages from them. And we’d talk. And I’d hear their stories.
I’d hear from A+ students that cut their study time by 90%.
I’d hear from B students that took their grades up to A’s.
I’d hear from teachers that were sharing my strategies with their students.
I’d hear from older students how these strategies changed their life.
I love it. I love introducing these strategies that changed my life to other people.
But there was always this… but…
What about the C students?
What about the D students?
What about the students that are currently failing?
Sure… Some would reach out.. but…
They never followed through… They’d take a small step. They’d sign up. They’d learn some killer strategies. Seeing right there how powerful they were going to be…
And then… life kicks in. They lose sight of their goals.
And it’s gone.
Student’s came to this site to improve their life. They see the possibilities. But then… they move on.
In about 4 hours, I’m going to be introducing something – an email subscriber exclusive – that can help change that.
It’s going to make more Smart Students than at any other time in this site’s history.
If you’re ready to take your academic game to the next level – if you want to see it for yourself.
Write your email in the box. Check the confirmation you want emails. Confirm your email. And see for yourself.