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Monday, May 26, 2014

7 Ways To Know Whether You're Studying Just Or Staring At A Page

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Boy, if I had a turkey for every student that spends hours staring at a page instead of studying then everyday would be another thanksgiving. (Yea. That one was pretty far out there but I like it.)

Staring at a textbook page is not studying. Sure, you might remember the occasional fact but you might as well be digging a ditch by pacing back and forth a few million times. You're not getting any efficiency in your studying when you're just looking. You need to actively make yourself remember information.

Studying is not supposed to be boring. At the very least, it should be painful. (At the very best, it should be entertaining.) Your brain is able to remember things easily but you need to practice your ability to access that information while you're studying. If you're not giving your study time the attention it deserves then you're grades will suffer.

Here are 7 things that you need to watch out for when you pick up your textbook to study. They can help you verify you're not just practicing your mindless stare, you're actually studying to get some results.

1. Test Your Recall

Testing your recall is the only way you can know whether or not you're really studying effectively. Looking at your textbook and trying to remember something is significantly different from looking at a blank test trying to remember it. The book can give you cues to the answer. A blank test, typically wont.

That means, you need to stop looking at the textbook, close your eyes, and try to remember the information that you learned. One of the easiest ways to test recall is through flashcards. There is no “kinda' right answer” when you're using flashcards. You either know the answer or you don't. That's how you need to treat your recall training.

If you're not verifying that you can remember the information you're learning then you could spend hours staring at a page without even realizing it.

2. Stop Studying

One of the quickest ways to notice whether you were actively studying or not is to take a break from studying. Give up the (potential) illusion that you were actually studying, and let your mind wander to whatever it wants to think about. Don't do anything though. Just settle down where you were studying and let yourself dream about whatever you want.

Where does your mind go? If you have a little trouble stopping your thoughts about the study material then that's a good sign. Your brain is actually interested in the material. So, you were probably, at least a little, engulfed in the material. If, within seconds, you're thinking about biking or corn mazes or some other random something or another then you might not have been studying.

Quickly stopping your thoughts about studying isn't necessarily saying that you weren't studying but being able to hold onto them is a clear sign that you were.

3. Look Around You

Look up from your textbook while you're studying every once in a while. You need to look at the things going on around you. The number one problem that you need to look for is controllable distractions. If you look up and see your phone that you've been using to text people then you're not really studying. Distractions kill good studying. The same goes for a television or even music.

There are less obvious distractions that come up too though. I remember trying to study in the library one time when looking up, I realized I was sitting close to a girl I had a thing for. Naturally, every time my head looked down at my textbook, instead of thinking about interesting class stuff, I was busy thinking, “What's something cool I could say....” Yea. I'm a nerd. That being said, there are less obvious distractions that you should look out for.

4. Give-A-Crap-O-Meter

Ask yourself if you actually care about what you're studying. If you don't. Then I can virtually guarantee you're not really studying. Sorry... as much as I wish people could study things they aren't motivated to study, it's just not true to any reasonable extent. The more you care, the better you'll study. The less you care, the worse you're going to study.

What if you don't care? Find a reason to care. Or accept that you don't care and don't do it. Either answer could be appropriate for different situations.

5. Time Check

Look at the clock and estimate how long you've been studying. If you've been studying for more than an hour without a break then you're probably not studying anymore. The average person learns a whole boatload of information during the first 15 minutes of studying. Past that first 15 minutes, the amount they learn decreases significantly and continuously. Within 2 hours of studying, most people, won't be learning anything new.

The mind is not magic. You can only shove so much information into it at a time. When you try and binge on information, you force yourself into a study hangover. The next time you have to pick up the textbook you think, “I hate this. I don't want to do this anymore.” It's better to study in moderation. The results are better and it keeps your brain in check.

6. Result Tracking

If you're not paying attention to the changes in your test scores then you're not going to be able to know for sure whether or not your studying is working. Pay attention to how much you study and the grades you end up getting for that study time.

When you start tracking your study results, you learn which methods of studying are the most effective for you personally. Keep the word personally in mind. No study strategy is perfectly efficient for everyone. Everyone has their own quirks. Without tracking, you'll never find your own.

7. Exhaustion

If you're exhausted within the first two minutes of studying then you're probably just staring at the page. That's a sure sign that there is some problem in your current study routine. If you're exhausted after 15-20 minutes of studying then you're probably studying right.

If you're testing your recall and trying to load your brain with information efficiently then you will tire yourself out over time. Many people do feel physically or mentally exhausted after a good study session. That usually means you're doing it right.

When that exhaustion does kick in, it's probably time to put away the books and be happy.

Studying is not as simple as teachers make it sound. It's an active process that requires a real focus to matter. (If you're not focusing, you might as well not study at all.) Using these 7 strategies you can help figure out when you're actually doing the dirty deed and when you're kinda just sorta looking at a book hoping that something sticks.

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