Working Smarter, Not Harder

Work smarter, not harder with these key study strategies.

So there’s this book that covers the best study strategies.

I read it for fun since it was in my local library and it looked pretty interesting so I decided to go ahead and share the key points.

I originally made this list February 21, 2014.

When there are so many time-consuming distractions out there, it’s much more effective to know how to correctly manage all your precious mili-seconds.

So most top colleges have this central message that the book seems to hold as its main idea as well

If you wanna play hard, you gotta work hard.

You know, something along those lines…

So anyhow, the book starts off with study basics…

  1. Start off the day using 5 minutes to manage your time
    • Jot down to-dos and deadlines on a physical/electronic list whenever they arise (I use Evernote)
    • Transfer to-dos and deadlines to a calendar (physical/electronic) in morning (I use iCal)
    • Plan day with realistic time frames
    • Move what you don’t have time for to a different date
  2. Defeat Procrastination
    • Keep note of progress with work through small notebook/task list (:idea: Evernote’s work great for this)
    • Record if tasks were successfully accomplished and if not, note why not
    • When working, eat healthy snacks to maximize energy
    • Transform boring study tasks into a big deal to have max starting energy
    • Build work routines to make steady progress, not all out bursts
    • Choose your hard working days to minimize stress impact
  3. The When, Where, How
    • Try to fit in as many mini tasks as possible between classes
    • Study in isolation without distraction
    • Take a small break every hour
    • Morning and afternoon are ideal times for work, not the evening

Then the book looks at different ways to tackle weekly or daily quizzes and exams…

  1. Take Smart Notes
    • Always go to class and try to take the best notes possible
    • Quality over Quantity
    • For nontechnical courses (humanities) focus on capturing big ideas by taking notes in a sort of question/evidence/conclusion format
    • For technical courses (STEM) focus on recording as many sample problems and answers as possible
  2. Demote Assignments
    • Work a little bit each day on your assignments
    • Avoid suffering from day-before syndrome! It’s dangerous.
    • Read only the favored reading sources on the syllabus in more detail
    • To decide how much time to spend on supplemental sources, follow this guideline
      • readings that make an argument are more important than
      • readings that describe an event or person, which are more important than
      • readings that only provide context (speech transcripts, press clippings)
    • Take reading notes in the question/evidence/conclusion format
  3. Utilize your resources
    • Figure out exactly what the test will cover (either through the teacher, syllabus, etc.)
    • For nontechnical courses, make sure to cluster your notes in an organized manner
    • For technical courses, build mega-problem sets to practice with and make sure they mock what the exam would look like
  4. Conquer Material
    • Embrace quiz-and-recall method – very efficient (:idea: Quizlet helped me a ton with this sort of thing)
    • Spread out memorization over several days
  5. Invest in “Academic Disaster Insurance”
    • Eliminate the question marks for topics covered in class or from the reading that you don’t understand
    • In other words, if you don’t understand something, figure it out using other resources, or start focusing more on the other topics so you at least have more leverage
  6. Provide “A+” Answers
    • Look over the whole test first
    • If you get stuck on a problem and still can’t think of anything after 10 seconds, SKIP IT, and move on
    • Figure out how much time you have to spend on each question, making sure that you focus on the most valuable questions first
    • Leave time at the end of the test to check and recheck your work
    • Answer the questions in order of increasing difficulty
    • Write out a mini-outline before tackling an essay question

SO BASICALLY focus on the easiest, most valuable questions that you understand first and then go in increasing difficulty to the rest of the problems…baddabing baddaboom

Finally the book focused on how to effectively write essays and papers…

  1. Target a Titillating Topic
    • Start looking for an interesting topic early
  2. Conduct a Thesis-Hunting Expedition
    • Start with general sources and then follow references to find more targeted sources where good thesis ideas often hide
  3. Seek a Second Opinion
    • A thesis is not a thesis until the professor has approved it
  4. Research like a Machine
    • Find sources
    • Make personal copies of all sources
    • Annotate the material
  5. Craft a Powerful Story
    • There is no shortcut to developing a well-balanced and easy-to-follow argument
    • Dedicate a good deal of thought over time to getting it right
    • Describe your argument in a topic-level outline
    • Type supporting quotes from sources directly into your outline
  6. Consult Your Expert Panel
    • Before starting to write, get some opinions on the essay from friends and family who are familiar with the material
    • The more important the paper, the more people who should review it
  7. Write Without the Agony
    • Follow your outline and articulate your points clearly
    • Try not to write no more than 3- 5 pages per weekday or 5 – 8 days per weekend day
  8. Fix, Don’t Fixate
    • Read paper carefully on your laptop to make sure your argument is clear, fix obvious errors, and rewrite where the flow needs improvement
    • Use built-in or online error-finding applications or software to make sure you don’t miss anything
    • Carefully read out loud a printed copy of your paper, marking any awkward passages or unclear explanations
    • A final pass over a printed version of the paper to check the overall flow and to root out any remaining errors

If you don’t recall any of this stuff, try to remember that no student should have to study and work all day, sleep for 3 hours, and go through the amount of stereotyped head ache and stress society assigns to the typical college student.

Also, if you feel anything you’re doing could be completed automatically, either by an intelligent algorithm currently online or a cyborg/intelligent algorithm in the NEAR future, try to avoid doing more of that, or you’re probably not gonna have a job later. 😐

**It is VERY possible to complete all the necessary school work while getting all the sleep you need and managing extracurriculars, family, and friends. **

You just have to be a little bit clever.

Work hard, play hard. 😁

Credits for the study strategies go to author of the book, Mr. Newport.

Last updated on May 12th, 2020