10 Study Hacks for Busy College School Students

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I get it, sometimes the last thing you want to do is study, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. In fact, there are numerous hacks to help you become a better–and faster–learner during your college years.

Take these 10 study hacks and use them to help increase your retention and to limit unproductive study time. What can I say? We’re looking out for you.

1. Pray for wisdom, discernment and understanding.

Do not neglect the power of God’s truth! James 1:5 plainly states that if you lack wisdom, you should ask it of God who gives freely and without reproach. Solomon was asked what he wanted and God blessed him for being smart enough to request wisdom and understanding. Read Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 as well. God holds all knowledge and wisdom—He should be the first stop on your quest for academic success.

2. Get rid of TV.

You do not need to know who is on American Idol this year; you should not care what the latest popular TV show is. You have a singular goal in view, and the best approach is to remove distractions. TV is a black hole that sucks up time. Even the Oompa Loompas recognized what TV does: “What do you get from a glut of TV? A pain in the neck and an IQ of three!” This is not news; it only requires a little self-discipline and an ability to say “no, thanks” to television.

3. Do fewer things, do them better and know why you are doing them.

A popular author compiled these steps into a study hack guide (com/blog). The idea is that instead of over-complicating tasks, we should seek to simplify them, become the expert in completing them and understand why they are important.

4. Obsess about simplicity.

The follow-up to #3 is to always seek simplicity. Instead of adding complexity, always seek the lowest technology. For example, a notebook and pen is more reliable than a PDA (and your data won’t corrupt or become unavailable due to a network outage).

5. Understand the big picture and keep it in focus.

It may be frightening to consider the whole picture, but this is where your goals will come into focus. To help with this, listen to the married students in your classes (not the young punks straight from University)—they will offer the more complete insight into life beyond the campus (which is where you want to be eventually). There is a wealth of non-academic knowledge that will keep your drive properly focused.

6. Control your schedule.

This may be as simple as setting a fixed daily time schedule. Beyond reducing complex tasks into smaller, easy-to-complete steps, organize your daily routine for maximum effectiveness. Discipline yields results—do new work first thing in the morning when you are fresh before you open your email (emails can lead to ‘fire-fighting’ and hijack your time, attention and energy). Turn OFF your instant messenger (if they want to get in touch with you, they will call—IM is convenience contact only). Schedule time to decompress and relax your mind. One adage says to “divert daily; withdraw weekly; away annually” to prevent the unnecessary build-up of stress.

7. Plan, plan, plan.

On the heels of controlling your schedule is the necessity for proper, effective planning. Strategically plan your week, month, semester to capture the ebb and flow of the time. You will do well to understand the rhythm of the week/month in order to leverage your efforts accordingly.

8. Learn from your wins and losses.

Successes along the way are great—but more learning takes place after a loss. Vulnerabilities are revealed, weakness identified and corrective measures can be employed to prevent future setbacks. Pay attention and learn from your experience!

9. Set big goals, write them down and post them where they will be in view daily.

This isn’t some ‘self-help magic potion’—this is simple psychology. If you keep your stated (and lofty) goals in front of you, you will focus more attention on them. Post them where you will see them every day (on the bathroom mirror; next to your phone, etc.). It has been said that a goal is a dream with a date attached—so when you write your goals, set a target date for completion. You will be surprised how motivating that can be!

10. A new approach to note taking.

Too often, students become scribes attempting to record every word spoken by a professor or lecturer. This can only lead to frustration and actually prevent learning. Instead, employ active listening and note-taking. Don’t write each word down; write the question raised and the answer given. Write the conclusion reached with supporting data. As you listen, process the information and record it in the form of questions, answers and conclusions. Not only will you learn the subject matter more completely, when you review your notes, you will spend less time re-processing the information and more time/effort cementing the knowledge into your brain.

This is by no means exhaustive, and these ideas may not be news to you. Often, reminders and refreshers can spur positive changes in our habits, allowing us to remove obstacles to our success. You have plenty to occupy your attention without being your own source of distraction! Try some (or all) of these recommendations and achieve your (stated, lofty and dated) goals!

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