Before having to memorize contents off a book, analyze a poem, run a math drill, write essays and chase deadlines, the real challenge of being a student is learning how it is exactly to absorb information. Determining different techniques and learning styles and developing habits suited to the type of knowledge being acquired–these are the first few most fundamental steps to learning. Yet, they are the very steps we tend to forget.
Learning how to learn.
There are also more general trains and habits we must develop to optimize our learning capabilities. Keeping organized and managing one’s time is fundamental for a successful learning experience. You don’t have to be a natural born genius to top a class. You just have to be a good student. Most of the time, it’s the right attitude towards learning that gets you to the top.
Keep a planner.
A planner makes sure you keep your life in-check. With a universal notebook that holds all the key information of your life, it ascertains that you stay on top of things. On a daily basis, write down what you have to do. For every class on every day, make an update on what lesson was tackled, what goals were accomplished and what activities were done alone with the scores. Note down the things you have to do, things you must prepare for and the things you’ve already done. The moment an announcement is given or a plan is proposed, jot it down and mark the date.
Wear a watch. Have a sense of urgency
Don’t give me that “cell phone clocks are sufficient” excuse. Your cell phone is not sufficient. Having to pull a phone from a bag or a pocket to check the time is never enough.
Thirty minutes ahead is never too early. Come to class before the start of the period, and use that time to go over your notes. Clarify with your classmates. Make sure that you have all your requirements prepared. Ask questions. Make sure you’ve mastered the previous lesson before you move on to the next.
Keep in mind that a lot has to be done—homework, projects, that paper you have to write, those math drills you have to practice, that classmate you have to tutor, that boyfriend you have to maintain, that blog you have to update—and there are other things you still want to do (read books, play video games, listen to music, talk to friends, party—the extra things that make you human). And on top of all that, you need to get some sleep too. So when you have something to do, do it. Quit dawdling. You can’t wait for inspiration unless it’s an art class or a creative writing project that you have to work on.
Learn to take a break. (But don’t stretch your luck.)
Never do it in the middle of a task. Once you’re done with one thing, take a breather before you do the next. You can grab a bite, talk to a friend, check your messages, stretch a bit, update your tweets, or play a videogame even. Or update your blog. Whatever floats your boat. Just make sure you can snap right back into reality and continue working.
Claim your sanctuary.
Find your space and own it. Working and studying for hours on end will imply flattening your ass on one seat. Have a desk or a standard study area. Make sure it holds everything you need, and all your materials are just a bend and a reach away. Keep a jar of cookies, if you want. Have a pull-out calendar and a stack of post-its. Make sure that everything is just how you like it. Lighting. Music. Position. Cup of Coffee Fundamental to Your Existence. Your call.
Remember the rule of thirds. (Three is to one.)
Three hours of study outside the classroom for every hour spent in class—my professor never gets tired of reminding us. Although this may seem a little exaggerated. It doesn’t apply to all classes, just all the hard ones. Just make sure to maintain a one-to-one ratio for the lower priority subjects. The 1:3 Rule doesn’t mean you have to sit down and read for three hours straight. “Study” includes comparing notes, asking questions and talking it over with friends.
Have companions. (You can’t do it alone.)
“You are to be held accountable for the performance of your friends.” Sir Tristan Reyes said today. You need someone to ask help from, to clarify with. But you also need someone to teach, someone who depends on you. Being entrusted the responsibility for someone else’s performance is highly motivational. It helps you not to slack off. “I have to understand this, so I can teach it later.” Ask plenty of questions. The things you learn may prove to be beneficial for someone else.
And also, the thought of someone actually trusting you to help them out makes you feel smart already. Feeling smart = acting smart. And when you act smartly, you actually do the things that will make you smart. End result? Being smart.
It isn’t really allowing yourself to be used. And it’s definitely not using your friends as practice subjects. It’s about giving your studies an immediate purpose, more so than graduating and getting your dream job, dream house and whatnot. All of that is still intangible. This is something actual, something immediate: learning, and learning for the sake of others—so you could all ace the next quiz, together.
And lastly, feel like a student.
Enjoy the pressure. Use your books. Take down notes. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Live a little. Sneak a couple shots in the middle of a school week. Party.