Get Creative about Studying

By John D. Cross


Did you ever wonder why some people who are very smart don’t do well in school? Or how about people or kids who aren’t all that smart, but seem to get ahead and do better in school and in life, while smarter people don’t! One answer to this mystery is that the smart people may be people who don’t know how to study. Another is that those who seemed to be less smart knew how to study!

I have known several remarkable people in my life who didn’t get ahead in life, didn’t do the things they wanted to, couldn’t be all that they could be and didn’t work up to their full potential, because, unfortunately, they did not know how to study. For one thing, they may never have been taught. To all those people who feel that way about themselves, to those to whom not knowing how to study has somehow cheated them of all that should be theirs – this article, these ten tips, are dedicated.

Embrace the enemy – Most people associate study with boredom. They approach it unhappily or, at least, as if they know it is going to be boring and tedious, dull, and miserable. So right from the start you will have an edge if you embrace your old enemy – studying - and say, “I’m going to have as much fun studying as possible. “

This will start the juices flowing and you’ll be thinking positive and headed in the right direction. Ideas about how to study will come to you. You’ll amaze yourself at the broadened horizons, the new methods you never would have thought of to help yourself learn, if you simply have a better attitude about studying in the first place!

Think you’ll never get excited about studying? Fake it till you make it. Obviously, you may not be as excited about studying as seeing a movie or going on a shopping spree, but couldn’t you work in shopping for things to help you study as part of the spree? Takes on a whole different light, doesn’t it? Is now the time for that new recording device? New notebook? Get rid of your hatred and boredom – get psyched for boring topics and you’ll breeze through easy ones, make more money in the long run and earn self-respect and the respect of others because you have conquered the material. It no longer looms large in front of you like Mt. Everest. You’ve made it to the top!

Immersion is the key – You have lots of free time but may not realize it. Every time you are standing in line at the registry of motor vehicles to renew your license, you have free time to study. Every time you are driving in a car with a CD or cassette deck, you have time to study. Every time you go to the bathroom, you have time to study! Can you think of other times when you thought you didn’t have time, but with a little imagination you can work studying in? You could study an astounding four to ten times as much in the same amount of time you used to! Can’t find a cassette or CD on the topic for the car? Make your own! Read from the textbook if you must. Or read class notes into a tape recorder.

Skimming each assignment or important materials prior to reading – If you skim each reading assignment before you read it, you will see and retain far more than you think you would. You can then read for a better comprehension at a more relaxed pace. Isn’t it better to go into the in-depth style of reading with some of the stuff out of the way first?

Posting things you forget or key things to remember – That’s how you study in the bathroom as mentioned in the immersion tip – Post a few three by five or larger sized cards around the bathroom or tv room with some info you find hard to understand or remember. You know you will be going to the bathroom at least once or twice a day, so you will have worked in a few more minutes of study time. If you stare at that thing just that much extra time you may be able to visualize it in your mind when it comes time to take a test!

Don’t start at the beginning if you already have a middle or end in mind – Can’t get that composition flowing because you don’t know where to begin? You have to ask yourself – do you already know where to end? Then write the ending first! You can work backwards. With your new mindset toward studying, you are now thinking out of the box and aren’t held back by old methods or ”serial” thinking. Start at the beginning, middle or end – whichever strikes you fancy. A middle means you’ve probably got a handle on how to begin or end coming up shortly into mind. An end means you have to tell how you arrived at it. A beginning suggests a follow-up. That would be a middle. Two follow-ups after a beginning is usually an end! So don’t get hung up on how to get started! Start anywhere! The rest will come.

Flash cards work – Rote works! One older method of study that has its merits, despite the repetitious nature of it and the distinct possibility you may not retain the information as well – is learning things by rote! You may not retain the material as long, although some people do, but you will retain it long enough to finish the course. Flashcards work for times when you must remember a lot of facts in a short amount of time. For example, when you need to memorize 100 new words in French for a test. If you know the concept of how to change from present tense to past tense, that is one type of learning, but it won’t do you much good when its time to tell the teacher how to say “Pierre was driving down the boulevard last Thursday.” Get the idea? Good.

Really listen or just take notes in class – Did you ever see people as you look around a classroom who are busily taking notes industriously in a notebook? Do you think they retain all that information? Probably not! Of course, not. You aren’t in class to scribble! Sometimes you can’t even read those scribblings later. Whereas if you listen and then take down what you might forget or what seems important you are that much better off. So listen carefully. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write things down. In fact, you still do need to take notes, but it’s just that that shouldn’t be the focus of classroom time. Write down things that you think will be on the test, right down things the teacher emphasizes as very important. Write down things you know you won’t remember. Write down things that aren’t in the textbook that the teacher is teaching you because you will need to know that more than what is in the textbook. You get the picture? But if you try to take down every word – you’ll get hung up on being a recording secretary and not a student!

The teacher gives hints – Go up to the teacher’s desk after class, make an appointment to see the teacher about your progress. This isn’t just because it will be harder to give an F because of your effort. More than just getting the grade, if you really don’t understand something, he or she will probably take time to give you a bit of an extra lesson on that. Besides, teachers respect effort. They know that not every subject is easy to grasp and that people have varying levels of aptitude for various subjects and disciplines involving various skills sets. You might not get an A for effort but you might get many more points toward a better grade if you use interaction with the teacher as a study habit.

Don’t get hung up on the medium – The teacher has read such things as the Cliff and Monarch notes, too. Teachers know students cramming may resort to reading these instead of original versions or assigned versions of texts and literature. One of the stupidest things you can do is use language directly from these synopses. The teacher may recognize it immediately. So this tip isn’t about shortcuts. It’s about a passion for learning! Don’t be hemmed in by the medium! Who says you have to learn from a book? Go to the movies, rent a movie, find out of if there are library materials to borrow, too. Audio cassettes, CDs and DVDs are often available at the library, even on some fairly technical subjects. Still, the most important thing to point out here is that if you use your time creatively you may ingest all the material flung at you. As an example, I remember one year in college taking a required course in Shakespeare. How was I going to remember all those characters and pages of quotes? So in addition to slogging through the reading, I took out recordings of famous actors reading their parts! That listening helped me “hear” the material as well as just read it. When the time came to take the test, I had a distinct edge over those who had only read the material.

Be a beginner always – When life gets complex, go back to the basics. Go back to 8th grade books then reread new works; become a beginner. If you can’t understand something in one textbook or workbook – try another! And don’t be afraid to learn the concept from a book ordinarily used in another grade level.

These are but a few of the ways you can get creative about studying and not only learn more comfortably and better, but usually achieve better grades, too! Good luck and get creative!

For Further Reading

Source: John D. Cross maintains a motivational and meditation web (log) site. He is a motivational speaker, meditation instructor, teacher of comparative spirituality, registered optician in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and music reviewer.
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