“you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool”
If only students studied half as much as they thought they were studying, virtually no students would struggle to achieve high grades. (Actually with an accompanying grade deflation they probably would but that’s beyond the scope of this train of thought. Choo Choo Bang! Anyone that can put that sentence together deserves a pat on the back.)
Good grades are not as hard as most students think they are. It has nothing to do with studying for hours at a time. In fact, studying for hours at a time is usually a sign that you’re doing something wrong. It’s a sign that you may not be studying quite as much as you think you are. And if you are, you may be defining studying wrong.
Students all around you are scoring in the top of their class without ever putting long hours into studying. And no, they’re not all gifted students. They’re just average people that have figured out the formula for studying. What is that formula? Well… First, let’s look at what most students think that formula is:
Time = Results
Most students think that investing a ton of time into “studying” is all they need to do to get good grades. That’s totally wrong though! I’ve talked to hundreds of students that study hours every school night just to get subpar results.
I’ve also talked to some of the most study averse students in the world and found grades (often while in top notch schools) that top their class.
Here is the biggest problem though. Even when students say they’re “studying” most are not just studying. Instead they’re studying and texting friends or studying and watching a movie or studying AND…
The Real Study Time
This is what I hear from too many students: “I do this while studying because it encourages me to study. I enjoy studying more…”
No… you do this while studying because it lets you enjoy it in between the time you’re studying. You can’t text your friends and study (unless it’s literally a study group testing or something.) You can’t watch a movie and study. You can intermittently stop studying to text your friends. You can intermittently stop watching the movie to study. That’s because studying requires focus. It’s the next piece of the study formula that too many students overlook.
Focus * Time = Results
Now the formula is getting more complete. The important part about your study routine is not only your study time. It’s also your study focus. If you’re only 50% focused on studying then it cuts the value of your study time into, at most, 50%. For most students it’s even worse though.
Focus is hard to switch between multiple tasks that require intense focus. Sure, you may be able to listen to music and study with minimal loss of efficiency but you can’t bounce from a deep conversation with a friend and back into studying within seconds.
Your brain is going to get caught up in whatever it wants to do more. (Of course, most students prefer just about anything to studying. In that case, you shouldn’t ever make studying compete for focus versus anything it will lose against.) Instead of studying you’ll just get caught up thinking about whatever else you’re doing.
Using this formula, most students can produce great results but there is another piece that, if not accounted for could stunt a student’s ability to produce great results.
Methodology * Focus * Time = Results
Studying isn’t as simple as taking information and putting it in your brain.
The human brain isn’t designed to study in the way that most people wish they could study. Students regularly sit and stare at their study material hoping that staring at the information for a certain amount of time would implant the information somewhere in their brain. It just doesn’t work that way though.
The human brain has evolved to only memorize information that it considers essential to survival. Things like physical landmarks stick into a person’s brain automatically.
I just noticed that happen to me just the other day. I was driving someplace that I’d thought I’d never been before but out of nowhere I saw a little ice cream shop that triggered a memory from almost two decades ago when my parents took me to eat their a single time in my life. The brain remembers that easily. Remembering the year Lincoln got assassinated won’t give you calories directly implanted into your stomach. That means it’s significantly harder to remember than that ice cream shop.
Since you can’t just read the information and expect it to stick, you need to look for better methodologies to convince your brain that the information you’re trying to learn is unbelievably important for your long term survival.
One of the most simple methods of convincing your brain that remembering information is important is to expose yourself to the information repeatedly. This is used for the traditional “read your textbook until it sticks,” study methods. The problem with this method is that it takes a ton of time to remember information consistently (if it ever actually sticks.)
A much more powerful way of convincing your brain the information you’re learning is important is by making your brain remember it (repeatedly). So… instead of reading your textbook and reading it again, you might read your textbook and then but then put it down and try to write the information you read.
After a single instance of pushing to remember information, it’s given a dramatically higher priority to your brain and you have a significantly higher chance of remembering it when you need it. For more ideas on getting information to stick you might want to read 6 Memory Strategies You Need In Your Study Toolbox.
Of course, there are tons of tweaks to these methodologies. Focus and time are dramatically less complicated factors to figure out. There are millions of methodologies that can be used. There are tons of studies that say how well different methodologies work. The options are countless. That being said, you don’t need a perfectly effective methodology if you invest the required time and focus into the equation.
For the average student, it may be better to worry about this factor as a potential handicap instead of factor to improve. I may have spent years of my life trying to experiment my way into a perfect study methodology but that isn’t required to reap the benefits.
To this day, even after all the time I invested, the effectiveness difference between my personal experiments versus some major studies on the subject are sometimes less than 10%. I
t’s worth thinking about if you’re using a bad study methodology but if you’re retaining a reasonable percentage of the information you’re learning then you’ll be fine.
In fact, if you want to get all the benefits of my years of experimentation then you can find it right on this blog. Is this the whole formula? Hell no. The formula is significantly more complicated than that but never mistake the formula for “Time=Results” and using resources like this one, you can enjoy life dramatically more.
This isn’t the only aspect of school most students don’t understand. You might want to read 101 School Hacks For Better Grades & A Better 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.
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