You are in school to grow not just in skills and information but in strength of character-to acquire habits of sound judgement, a sense of responsibility, personal toughness (perseverance), and self–mastery (ability to say to yourself no or later). You are really out to improve in professional/personal powers of concentrating mind and will and getting along well with people.
Remember: your overall purpose is to develop powers of mind and will, not just to absorb information or parrot back answers or passively swim through “material.” An education is what you have left over once you’ve forgotten the material.
1. Plan to work an 8-hour or 9-hour per day
This is the material for a normal adult. There are exceptions, but this is a good rule. It’s also one that few students follow. Students who make the transition from high school (secondary school) to higher education (University) are often unaware that more is expected of them.
2. Study difficult (or boring) subjects first.
If your chemistry problem put you to sleep, get to them first, while you are fresh. Most of us tend to do what we like first, yet the courses we find most difficult often require the most creative energy. Save the subjects you enjoy for later. If you find yourself avoiding a particular subject, you might get up an hour early to study it before breakfast.
3. Be aware of your best time of the day.
Many successful business people begin their day at 5a.m. (or earlier!), while most of us sleep. Athletes and yogis use this time too. Some writers complete their best work before 9a.m.
Unless you grew up on a farm, the idea of being conscious at 4a.m. might seem ridiculous. Getting up that early is like jumping in an icy mountain lake. After the initial shock, your body comes alive.
Very early morning is a beautiful time. The world is quiet. Inner voices are less insistent. Spiritual leaders of all persuasions have recommended pre-dawn as a time for meditation and prayer. The mind is better able to focus before it is assaulted by the jangle of telephones, traffic, top forty tunes, radio programs, neighbors conversations and the likes.
4. Get everything you need
Your workplace should have all your tools readily at hand, if only to keep you from breaking concentration by fetching tools elsewhere. This place should have;
- Flat (or slightly tilted) surface free from distractions
- pile of scrap paper (very important), including blank flash-cards
- calculator (if neccessary)
- dictionary and thesaurus, list of commonly misspelled words
- writing instruments, including red pen for important notations
5. When you sit to work, remind yourself of the 80/20 rule
The first 15minutes are the hardest. As in physics, once you’ve overcome inertial, the rest of the task moves forward with relatively easy momentum. Form a habit of working like this in the university, and it will serve you well in your professional life.
6. Writing is also key
Don’t just stare at a page. Use your other senses as well. Jot down terms on scrap papers. Use scrap paper to “picture” problems (especially math word problems) and scribble important words and terms. Use smaller papers to make flash-cards for definitions, acronyms, summaries, vocabularies etc; this extra effort is an investment.
7. Plan your breaks
Plan to work 2-3 hours without a break, then take maximum 10-minutes break. Any longer than this tends to break concentration and momentum, and you have to “ramp up” again to get back into your work.
8. Notice how others misuse your time and learn to say no
Be aware of repeat offenders. Ask yourself if there are certain friends or relatives who consistently interrupt your study time. If avoiding the interrupter is impractical, send a clear message.
This is a valuable time saver for students and valuable life skill. Many people feel it is rude to refuse a request. Saying no can be done effectively and courteously.
9. Get off the phone!!
The telephone is a perfect interrupter. Don’t break concentration by taking phone calls, whatsapp, facebook, twitter messages etc, except one is expecting an important call or message. NB; this is not always the case but you could put the phone on silent mode to receive messages and missed calls, and then return the calls when you take a break. This is the standard operating procedure among busy professionals.
10. Stimulate your brain with questions
If you must read a chapter and then write answers to questions at the end, you should begin by reading the question first. This will;
- a. tell you what you don’t know, which is the beginning of any learning, and
- b. tip you off to important terms and concepts in the chapter so you’ll note them during your reading. Your job is to understand and think, not to move passively through a “read and write” exercise.
11. Grade yourself
At completion of written work, mentally make note of what grade or mark you think you’ve earned. This gives your work a kind of “quality control” review.