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Monday, June 15, 2015

Busy VS Productive Studying

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This is a concept that’s been noted time and time again through the business world but it’s rarely brought up in a studying context. Even though it’s hardly ever brought up, it’s one of the most common problems that students struggle with. By learning the difference between busy studying and productive studying, you can dramatically reduce the studying time required to get the same grades. It can also be used to seriously increase your grades with little to no extra time investment.

The average student is well trained in busy studying. It’s the kind of studying that most teachers recommend. Busy studying is studying that requires your full attention but doesn’t necessarily give you any good results. One common style of studying that fits this category is reading the textbook. Some students spend hours reading their textbook hoping that the information will stick, usually, hardly any of the information sticks. That just means they have to read the textbook more and more. That’s busy studying.

Productive studying usually requires your full attention but it actually provides you with significant results. It’s not just wasting your time repeating yourself in hopes to get something to stick, it’s actually using a sticky method to go over the information in the first place. This is the kind of studying that most students should do but unfortunately, most students don’t do.

Why Not Study Better

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From a young age, children are encouraged to study like an idiot. Studying isn’t an easy concept for a young child to get their head around. Honestly, scientists have spent careers trying to learn how people can study well. It’s a complicated subject. So… instead of trying to teach young children a complicated study session,  teachers and parents usually just teach children the good old repetition study strategies at first.

The good old repetition study strategy is one of the worst culprits of busy studying. It’s hard to memorize something. You need to be focused. You need to have motivation to learn it. You need to understand it to some extent. These all are complicated study requirements to understand at a young age. That being said, with a repetition study strategy, eventually, you will stumble into the right position to learn information. It will just take a little extra time. (Young children tend to have plenty of that time to invest.)

Good studying doesn’t require short term repetition if you’re doing it right. If you’re trained with a good study strategy, you shouldn’t need to go over the same information more than once (at least most of the information you’re studying.)

Eventually, most students are taught some effective study strategies. They’re taught things like flash cards and mnemonics. Some may be crazy enough to work with mind maps. That being said, they never learn the intimate details that actually make them effective. (Things like focus aren’t treated seriously.) That tends to make students fall back on their old repetitive study strategies.

Why Don’t Students Stay Productive

Productive studying is painful.

Yes… I used the word painful. It requires a large investment of energy. You need to invest focus, motivation, and planning into making productive studying work. It will save you a ton of time but it is not something that comes naturally for school work.

I use flash card examples a lot throughout this blog but I feel like it’s one of the few study strategies that everyone is already familiar with. That means I don’t have to re-explain simple details to make my point.

Flash cards are difficult to use correctly. If you’re working really hard with a set of flash cards, you’ll become completely exhausted mentally. By the 30 or 40th flashcard you’re going to be a little bit stressed out. That’s understandable. That’s to be expected. That’s why most students using productive study strategies quit and decide to use a more simple study strategy like repetition.

Is Productive Studying Worth It?

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Many students decide that productive studying isn’t worth the cost in energy but from my experience, I think the energy is well worth it.

You only have so much time to spend studying. Since you’re limited on the amount of time you can study, you are also limited in the grades you can get using repetitive study strategies. Since they’re so inefficient, you may not even be able to get your grades up to the level you want.

Using productive studying, you can easily reduce your required study time investment by 50%. I’ve personally been able to cut my study time by 80-90% (depending on how you wanted to calculate it.) Since it requires less time investment, your grades aren’t as limited by the time you can invest.

More important than those two point though: You have only so much time in your life. Sure, studying can be good for you but I imagine there are much more enjoyable things you could be doing with your time. For every hour you save on studying, you get to spend an hour doing things that you actually care about.

Productive Studying In A Busy World

Sadly, one of the most common reasons students avoid productive studying is family and teacher pressures. Teachers and parents will assume you’re not studying well if you only spend 20 minutes studying every night. That means, they often pressure students (or downright force them) to study longer.

Considering how painful productive studying can be, it’s hard to blame anyone for not using it if they aren’t allowed to benefit from the extra time. That being said, I don’t think giving up is the right solution here.

There are plenty of other ways you can work with productive study strategies. With a little creativity, all restrictions can provide wonderful loopholes to enjoy. Perhaps if you’re in a really tough situation you can look up some studies done on studying and show the evidence to people restricting you. (The longer someone is studying, the less efficient they get at studying.) Of course, having to beg permission to study effectively is one of the biggest problems with education these days.

Get creative and solve your study problems. It’s difficult at first but it’s well worth it in the long run.

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