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Monday, October 20, 2014

You Don't Know How To Study

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Yes. I'm talking to you.

You have no idea how to study most effectively. Don't worry regular blog read readers. I don't either.
Wait... That's somehow not comforting... Can you imagine, a guy constantly giving advice about studying saying that he doesn't know the way to study most effectively? Well... I guess you don't have to imagine because I'm humbling myself to that level.

What's my point?

When you run a study blog (or when you just frequent them,) one thing becomes abundantly clear. Everyone knows the “best” way to study, and unfortunately, the “best” way to study is rarely said to be the same thing. Virtually no one can agree on the best study strategies available.

(Wild tangent: So I was listening to this professor that studies studying. (Yea... you read that right.) It was almost like listening to a stuffy version of my blog. Many of the studies agreeing with my strategy are studies that I'd never even heard of. I guess my years of working on this stuff paid off. While I usually don't take much pride from agreeing with professors but this guy seemed smart. That or I just like stroking my own ego. Now please forgive me as I turn the tangential train around and bring it back into the station. CHOO CHOO!)

With all this disagreement on study strategies, this becomes blatantly obvious.

Simple Answers Don't Exist

Most people don't waste their time arguing about gravity. Why is that?

I know this sounds a little ridiculous but play along. Planes are flying in the sky above us. I can lift objects off the ground. Sometimes it can seem like dust is floating forever. Scientists have even created crafts that hover. Certainly, there must be someone willing to argue with the fundamental premises of gravity. Maybe one person somewhere? Well... I've never met that person and I have a theory why I haven't.

People don't argue about things that are measurable, relatively consistent, and objective. People can measure gravity. People can prove gravity. Gravity appears not to have changed in any significant way since it's discovery.

Study habits are not that simple.

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You cannot measure studying in any really objective environment. Sure, good experiments are possible but the definitive experiment is still way beyond what we're capable of. There are technological limitations that prevent equal people from learning the same thing in two different ways without the two things interfering with each other. All experiments require multiple people that are wildly different in hundreds of thousands of ways.

Study habits sure can't be considered consistent either. For most of history, studying was a niche activity for the super rich of their time. The only studying the average person would do would be practicing in a trade. “School” is a relatively recent concept. Schools started with children of all ages in a single room learning with each other. For the last 100 years it looks pretty consistent but remember, this is 100 years out of thousands total. Even now computers are changing everything. This is definitely too early to call it consistent.

Just like I mentioned before, there is no grand conclusive study experiment and we still don't even have the technology to try it. That means anything about studying is limited in it's objectivity.

Studying is a complicated subject because it has to be. Don't take my word or anyone else's as final.

You Don't Have To Be Lost

All this talk about studying being impossible to measure could easily make you feel a little lost in the wilderness. You don't have to feel that way though. Not having all of the information doesn't means that you don't have enough information to use. In fact, recent history has given us more information and more opportunity than at any time in history. (That might seem like a given but the fall of the roman empire suggests it's not. Wait... This is another tangent... Choo Choo!)

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You may not have the final objective answer to the studying problem but even a grade school education gives you all the tools you need to find your personal answer. No two people being the same makes study experiments impossible to make objective on a major scale but on a personal scale it's ideal.

Think about it this way. When map makers from Europe went to North America. They had no idea what they were stepping into. The process had to be completely objective for their own sake. No one had maps so it was uncharted wilderness.

What about the natives already living on the land? Did they have maps? Did they need maps? Of course not. They LIVED THERE. They could get the map and it would be a virtually useless sheet of paper for them. They've seen the landmarks. They know the area. It's the same thing with your brain.

Scientists can't yet explore your brain but you've lived in it your whole life. You know more about the best way to study for you better than anyone else. Not only that though, you're probably lucky enough to be familiar with the tool that can help you know your brain even better.

The Scientific Method

If there is one thing that you learn from my piles and piles of articles loaded onto this site it should be this. Your life is worth experimenting with. Using the scientific method, you can discover the most efficient ways for you to study.

Sure, no scientist is going to take your results as objective but who cares? If you put the slightest bit of rigor into your methodology they're going to be mostly true for you. Yes. You. That is the key difference between all the pointless study experiments and your personal study experiments. You are wildly different than other people. Who cares if someone else studies better hanging upside-down while humming Waltzing Matilda? Unless it works for you too, it means nothing. Personal experiments mean everything.

Given no personal experience, take advice but never lose sight of what's really important. You know what's best for yourself.

I give pages of advice on this blog. I've developed this advice from my own personal experiments but don't take them as more true than your own personal experiments.

Do you want to know how to study faster than your teachers leaving on a Friday night? (Maybe you never noticed because you leave so fast.) Well... Be sure to look at some of the articles in this blog. Also, please share this article to help spread the message.

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