Don’t Waste One Minute!

Do you struggle to manage your time effectively? It may be comforting to remember each person has as much time in a day as anyone else. Learn creative ways to use your time wisely. For example, your time will be best used if you get your least favorite tasks out of the way first. Try tackling your least favorite readings and assignments in the morning, perhaps before breakfast.1 If you do this, imagine how great it will feel to have the REST of the day to do things you enjoy most.

Another way to use time wisely is taking advantage of “waiting” times. Imagine all you could accomplish during the minutes normally spent waiting in line for a meal or for the city bus, or in doctors and dentist office waiting rooms. What about that 10 or 20 minutes between classes? These short spurts of time are perfect opportunities to flip through index cards of facts to be memorized or reviewing lecture notes from the week.2 What about jotting down ideas, titles, and outlines for upcoming papers?

Furthermore, wisely use the time you spend in your dorm room. Your roommate(s) should know when you are studying and want to be left alone. Discuss it at the beginning of the semester. Let your roommate know that between 3 and 5 in the afternoons (or the best time for you) you’ll be studying. Or, wear a colorful hat or wristband you only wear when studying, that indicates to your roommate you want to be left alone.3

An additional way to creatively utilize your time is saying NO. Did you realize setting boundaries is a form of time management?4 Say no to people, tasks, and activities that would interfere with your own priorities. You can’t do it all, and by learning to say no you will be saving yourself precious time! Don’t be afraid to kindly let someone know he or she is interrupting your study time.

Being too hard on yourself, and demanding perfection, can be poor uses of time. If your mind tends to wander, beating yourself up for it is not worth your time. Learn to laugh at yourself and accept your limitations. Ask yourself if it is worth spending an extra two hours on an assignment to make it an A+ instead of an A-. 5

When possible, make time for things that are essential to your wellbeing, such as exercising, reading for fun, praying, and quality time with friends and family. If you do this, you may actually save time in the long run, for you will be refreshed enough to be productive when you sit down to study.

You Can Remember—Here’s How!

People only remember about 20% of the information they read 24 hours after reading it.6 This is because the information was not presented long enough for it to make a significant impact on long-term memory. Instead, review the same information several times in a short amount of time; this will make the pathway in the brain well-tread with that information. Review the same facts and information again within 24 hours of reading it so it won’t slip away. 7

Information is retained and recalled better when it is organized. One way of organizing information is by seeing the big picture first. If your eyes are only a couple inches away from a painting, seeing only small details of one section, does what you are seeing make sense? No. You must back up and see the big picture first; only then do you understand the details. Apply this to your reading by first skimming the chapters in order to get the big picture. Read the headings, summaries and conclusions. Only then should you go back and read more carefully. Getting the overall message will give you a place to fit the details. Another way of getting the big picture is asking a friend who has already taken your course for a general overview. 8

Your brain also organizes information more efficiently when it is meaningful to you. What are you passionate about? See how the contents of your class can relate to that. Is there any way that the information you are learning in class helps you understand or do what you love most? Make connections and associations. People remember information better when it is associated with something they already know or have interest in.

Finally, people remember what they do more than they remember what they see or hear. Use your body when you study. Try standing and pacing back and forth while you study. Move your arms and legs. Whatever you do, using energy will fight boredom and sleep and help you retain information.9

Reading…in Color and Sound.

Remember wanting to color everything in sight as a child? No one is stopping you from making your textbooks an outlet for creativity. Feel free to mark up your books with highlighters and pens. Highlight the words and concepts that are most important. Use the margins for notes, diagrams, and drawings. You will utilize other parts of your brain when you visualize concepts; as a result you’ll be more likely to recall the information.10 An illustration or map will help you make more sense of information than merely words or lists.

Sound is another of your senses you can use. Repeating and reciting information out loud anchors it more firmly in your brain. Repeating the same facts several times will help you hold onto them. After reading your assignment, talk to yourself out loud and explain what you have just read. Recite and review the facts and concepts you have learned out loud.11 Within 24 hours, review the information again by going over your notes or over what you have highlighted. It should only take you a few minutes to review, and you will be much more likely to remember it.

Consider using unique accents, singing, or imitating a famous person while reciting information. Such exercises will pull even more of your brain and your senses into the reading experience and help you with recall later. Remember that what you do is remembered more than what you see or hear. 12

Use the creative side of your brain by doing a “mind map” on paper. A mind map is a diagram that begins with one general concept with lines drawn outward to more specific concepts. This map on paper is remembered visually by your brain, helping you retain your reading. In traditional note-taking, a concept is listed, and smaller “sub” lists are written underneath indented to the right. In contrast, a mind map has “branches” drawn from general to specific concepts. Each new word or concept written can have its own branches out to the side. Brainstorm other ways to “diagram” your notes so that your information is visualized in picture fashion. 13

Writing Made Easy

One of the first tasks in writing is brainstorming ideas. Do this out loud and with others. If you are confused or can’t seem to think of ideas, talk about that out loud. Speaking will help you clear your mind. Start writing whatever ideas pop into your mind. Try a technique called “free writing” in which you write for ten minutes, without stopping, whatever comes to mind about your potential paper topic. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or anything else; you can always edit later. This will get your creative juices flowing!

After generating ideas you can start thinking of a specific topic for your paper.14 Within the limits given by your professor, make a list of topics you find interesting, and then choose one. If you have a hard time choosing a topic, give yourself a deadline by which you must choose one.15 Don’t pick too broad of a topic; narrow it down so you feel you have some direction.

After picking a topic and a working title, you are ready to write a thesis statement, which is a complete sentence describing the main message of your paper. This will give you direction for research. With your thesis in mind, you can do initial research that provides general information. With this general information you can begin an outline. An outline is like a map or traveling route. It tells you what information to include each step along the way. To begin forming an outline, get some 3×5 index cards and write each idea you want to include in your paper on an index card. Then arrange the cards in the order you want your ideas to appear in your paper.16

When you begin detailed research for these ideas, use index cards to record each source. Include authors, dates, and other necessary information numbers.17 If you keep your research sources on index cards you will not have to go back to the library later and get that information! Now that your outline ideas and sources are on cards you can begin filling in the meat of your paper. Your first attempt at writing your paper is a rough draft. Don’t be a perfectionist and don’t let yourself get frustrated! When you begin writing, let your thoughts and ideas come out freely. Remember not to worry about grammar or spelling; this is only your first draft. You have plenty of time to edit and rewrite on your second and third drafts!

1 Ellis, Dave (1997). Becoming a Master Student. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company:
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