It wasn’t until recently that I even considered blogging as something I ‘should be doing’, mainly because I didn’t have any idea of what I would blog about. After all, virtually everything has been covered by at least one blog at one point or another. What original thing did I have to say?
I still don’t have the answer to that question. I do, however, have some ideas of what to blog about now. My plan is to write at least one of these ideas into a blog post on a regular, biweekly basis.
So for this post, I wanted to talk about how I study. My approach to academics has previously been a bit haphazard and scattershot. My plan would usually just be opening the textbook, selecting random problems, and doing them. I would then check how many of them I got right, and use that to gauge how well I knew the material. While this works, it definitely isn’t optimal, and I realized that when I would draw a blank occasionally on tests, usually when it involved vague concepts that I hadn’t tested myself on.
Another problem with my study methods was how I approached the actual ‘learning’ part. I would skim-read the textbook, flipping through the pages and scanning for formulae and bolded words. It was fast, and I prided myself on my efficient study methods. However, they were far from great; I would often miss vital concepts or keywords. A lot of a textbook is just fluff, but even missing a single concept can mess things up on test day, as I found out the hard way.
I’ve always been a lazy person: I have things that I want to do, so when I’m faced with something that I don’t want to do, I get it done as fast and as efficiently as possible, so I can get it past me. The problem with studying is that this approach just doesn’t cut it. I needed a better way.
Here’s the approach I’ve found that works. First, to study effectively it needs to be a habit. I would start by studying for just 10 minutes a day, and make sure I stuck to that every day. Over time, it just became part of my routine, and I gradually increased the amount of time I was studying per day.
The second part was mindful studying. I know that ‘mindful’ is a buzzword thrown around on virtually ever writing piece talking about how to get better at X ever, but it really does mean something here. In this context, ‘mindful’ means tracking what concepts and ideas you need to improve on, and deliberately studying them. I know this seems obvious, but I would often just take random stabs at problems in the book, thinking that it wasn’t important how I went about studying as long as my results were good. But it does matter; not only do you focus on what matters, tracking what concepts are in each lesson ensures there won’t be gaps in your knowledge.
Once I had these two parts mastered, I found that, paradoxically, I had more free time and not nearly as much anxiety in regards to testing. That’s the best kind of self-improvement; where you look back at your old methods and say “Why would I have ever done it that way?”.
Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.