Today’s discussion is centred on study habits. Before I begin, however, I should probably put a disclaimer out there that this article is not going to teach you how to learn. It is only meant to improve your already existing learning habits and draw your attention to certain issues that are quite easy to resolve.
The first thing I must clarify is that, everybody has their own rhythm! Eight times out of ten I have encountered people who follow a particular learning pattern because as they say, ‘everyone else is doing it.’ This should not be misconstrued to mean that you cannot take inspiration from people who study in a particular way that yields tangible results. I really do believe that iron sharpens iron just as the habits of a studious person will rub off on you if you are constantly around them. However, you should not feel pressured to study the same way they do or at the same time. That might just not be your style. Imagine that someone studies for four solid hours every single day, from Monday to Friday and rests on the weekends. That is 20 hours of study time a week. On the surface that may seem quite intimidating. But guess what I may prefer to do from Monday to Friday? Party. I’d rather attend parties from Monday-Friday while someone else studies. Nevertheless, on weekends I lock myself away, switch off my phone and study for 15 hours on each day, and on Monday, I resume my partying. You realize that I put in 10 more hours of study time than someone who studies every day of the week. Just find what works for you. Please this is not an incentive to party every day, it’s just a scenario.
There is also the issue of flashcards. Using flashcards is a highly effective study technique for a large number of people. An article by Brainscope Academy proved that flashcards are highly effective for quite a number of reasons. Among them is that they allow you to engage in active recall which is basically to remember things from scratch rather than staring at them from a passage in a textbook. This active recall practice leads to 150% better retention than passive studying. That being said, it comes to a point where having over 150 flashcards for every course becomes an issue because you may begin to feel like it’s making a mess or you could lose some cards in the deck that you arranged chronologically. To remedy this, consider downloading the app called SmartCards+. This is not just an app that allows you to make virtual flashcards, it also aesthetically pleasing because it allows you to colour coordinate your deck of cards according to courses. You are also at liberty to add more cards to the deck at any time. The most important thing about SmartCards+ is that the active recall technique we spoke about is incorporated into it. It uses a spaced repetition algorithm to schedule reviews at the optimal time so your recall rate is higher. It prepares a suggested review every day to ensure that you don’t review too soon and waste time on something you already know because it is still fresh in your memory or review too late when you have forgotten absolutely everything.
In addition, the level of focus during your study period matters. I am sure that you have been in a situation where you spent hours behind a book only to realize that you had learnt absolutely nothing. It is quite normal for a person’s mind to drift if it is concentrated on a specific task for too long. This happens even when you have removed all possible distractions from sight. I would therefore talk to you about the Pomodoro technique. I’m sure a large number of people are familiar with it even if they do not know its actual name. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato and this technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo. I’ll spare you the details. But what this technique does is to basically use a timer to break down work into intervals. The idea behind this technique is that it instils a sense of urgency. Rather than feeling like you have an endless amount of time to do something, the traditionally 25 minute timer ensures that you make as much progress as possible within the stipulated 25 minutes after which you take a 5 minute break and continue with another Pomodoro. I can attest to the fact that the sense of urgency you feel when you know you are being timed helps you get things done more efficiently and quickly without squandering your time on distractions. An App that helped me with this technique is Tick. It is programmed to time your Pomodoro for 25 minutes after which is also times your five minute break. Depending on whether or not you switch between Apps, it will award you with points and trophies. At the end of multiple sessions, it also gives you a total of the number of minutes you spent doing something. If this seems silly or too playful to you, however, you can just use a regular phone timer and set it to beep at 25 minutes. I can assure you would be very surprised how much better your focus level is when you try this technique with positivity. You should read the origin of the technique for further details or out of curiosity so you can tweak it to suit your personal taste.
Closely linked to the above point is that the duration of your study affects your overall study habits. I will first try to draw a clear difference between the previous point and this one so you don’t get side lined. The previous point focused on the level of focus during your study period which brought up the Pomodoro technique that concentrates focus through urgency whereas this point will speak on the total duration of your study. Now that we have cleared that up, let’s proceed. Parkinson’s Law states that ‘Work expands to fill the time allocated for its completion.’ This basically means that the more time you allocate to a particular task, the longer you’ll take to finish it. Remember your first Constitutional Law class in level 100? You were either given Marbury v. Madison, Tuffuor v. Attorney General or Ex parte Allotey to brief and submit within a day or three, depending on which year group you were in. For my year group, we were tasked to read and brief Tuffuor v. Attorney General, to be submitted the next day. Over 90% of the class completed that assignment. Yet when K.K.K. or Dr. Baasit gave us the same case or a similar one and allocated a week for its completion, on the day of submission some students had still not finished. The same task that was completed in less than 24 hours was not completed after 7 days! That brings us back to the point of the urgency that the Pomodoro technique creates to help us be more efficient. The point here is, allocate less time to tasks. Instead of allocating 2 hours (4 Pomodori) to finishing perhaps an article, make it 1hour (2 Pomodori) and give the task on hand your undivided attention. That way you will be able to do twice as much in a shorter period of time.
Notwithstanding everything I have said, your main focus should be researching to find the style and frequency that suits you and gives the most efficiency to your study life.
Have a Merry Christmas.