Posts Tagged "study tips"

Getting Back in the Game (Part II) | 5 Recovery Plan Ideas

Dear Kid,

It can be surprisingly easy to lose focus, not only when you’re listening to Great Uncle Bubba tell that same fishing story again, but in class (zzzzz), in a sporting event (Super Bowl anyone?), in life.

Put me in Coach! I'm ready to play! DearKidLoveMom.comSometimes getting back in the game isn’t too hard. A friend Gibbs-slaps you on the back of the head, wham, you’re not sleeping in class any more. Longer term, you vow to get to bed at a reasonable (ish) hour. Then you get together with that slap-happy friend and compare notes so you’re sure you didn’t miss anything. Poof, you’re caught up.

Sometimes it’s a little harder. You know you’re behind in studying, you know you should get to work, you know it’s important, and yet there you are, staring intently at the ceiling wondering why you still haven’t opened a book.

Five Tips for Getting Back in the Game

Here are five tips for building a recovery plan.

Move around

It is very hard to get working when you’re staring at the ceiling. Or the TV. Or the inside of your eyelids. If you’re having a really hard time getting started, start by moving around. Maybe take a quick walk around the building or over to the library. Certainly, sit up and find an active sitting position (at your desk is a good idea).

Set little goals

Studying huge amounts is daunting at best and can be overwhelming. Don’t tell yourself you have to learn three chapters of Bio in one evening. Instead, tell yourself you need to read one section in the next half hour. Easy peasy. Reward yourself with a quick text to your mother. Then set the next little goal. You’ll be cruising through the material without realizing how much there is.

Have an accountability partner

Once you get past the ickiness of the buzzphrase, you’ll discover you’re already doing this. Having a workout buddy or being part of a review group are good ways to be sure you’ll get the work (or workout) done. Another way is to agree to text a friend when you’re about to start your homework and agree to meet for a coffee when you’re done. Or just to text. Or whatever.

The point is we’re more likely to get something useful accomplished if someone else knows we’re going to do it and will probably ask if we’ve gotten it done.

Give something up

There seems to be a feeling today that one (and by “one” I mean “students in general”) should be able to have it all and do it all. Um, hate to be the one to tell you, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes we have to make choices and give up something in order to have something else. You may have to skip the basketball game. You may have to shorten your workout to only 2 hours. You may have to get up half an hour earlier. You may have to wait until reruns to watch the next episode of How I Met Your Mother. You may have to shorten your shower to under 10 minutes. None of these things will kill you. (FACT: It is perfectly possible to get thoroughly clean in a short shower.)

The point is we only have 24 hours a day. You might not always be able to fit in everything you want to do. It can be really hard to make the right choice, but make the right choice anyway.

Remove the distractions

I am the queen of liking to work with the TV on. But I also know if I really have to concentrate, really need to pound through a bunch of stuff (rather than writing 6 words an hour), I need to turn off the TV, turn off the music, remove myself from cuddling with the puppy, and just Get to Work. Dull, Boring, and Highly Effective.

There are two important keys to a Recovery Plan.

  1. Plan. Once you’ve started to slip behind it can be very difficult to get yourself going. Have a plan for how you’re going to recover if you start to slide. Create your plan while you still feel in control of your situation. Write it down. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do it will be there.
  2. Do Something. Do anything. But get started. You know the saying “Even if you do a short workout, you’re still lapping the people sitting on the couch?” Same idea. Just get started. Get off the bench and get back in the game.

What other tips and tricks do you have for getting back on track if you’ve slipped a little?

Love, Mom

P.S. Stay safe—We’re supposed to be getting more winter weather.

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Studying for Exams | 7 Things You Must Know to Do Well on Finals

Dear Kid,

Yes, it is that time. The time when professors gleefully put together complex questions designed to assess whether you were paying attention October 3rd at 3:24pm. The time when student services doubles the amount of coffee it brews every day. The time when the word “sleep” surreptitiously disappears from the dictionary. Yes, it’s Finals Week.

College is not high school (you’ve probably figured that out by now, but it never hurts to point things out). Studying for exams in college is not like studying in high school (ditto on the obvious).

Being the kind of mother that I am, I decided it was time to share with you Seven Secrets to Studying Successfully for Finals. (You may thank me later.)


Sleep. Your brain will thank you. DearKidLoveMom.comSeriously. Sleep is important. Brains sort of insist on it. The conversation goes something like this:

You: I must stay up and study.

Brain: I was with you for the last several hours, but now I want to sleep.

You: I must stay up and study.

Brain: I’m telling you, this is a bad idea.

You: I must stay up and study.

Brain: I’m not really absorbing this. Can you please read that last paragraph a 6th time?

You: I stayed up all night to study!!

Brain: No prob. I plan to nap during the exam. And I might drool. Talk to you tomorrow.

Eat and Drink

No this does not refer to nachos and alcohol. It doesn’t even refer to coffee and donuts. Brains need real food. They sort of insist on it. (See above for an indication of who wins these conversations.) Eat decent meals and drink water. Lots of it. Lots and lots of water.

Study in Chunks

Human beings are great learning machines. College students are the epitome of great learning machines. But we learn best when we learn in doses. Why do you think law school takes three years rather than one semester? Yes, partly so the school can collect all that lovely tuition, but partly because you can’t learn everything all at once. Study for a while, take a (short) break to give your brain time to process everything, then study for another chunk.

Mix it Up

Different parts of your brain work at different rates and for different things. It’s easier to learn if you use one part of your brain for a while, then give it a break and make another part work. (Kind of like legs one day and upper body the next.) Use the Memorizing Stuff part of your brain to memorize stuff for a while (love those flash cards), then use the Conceptual Stuff part of your brain to work on concepts, then use the Blog Reading part of your brain to read DearKidLoveMom. Rinse and repeat.

Chew Gum

So not kidding about this. Peppermint not only wakes you up, it encourages your brain to learn. So pop some gum and get back to studying.


Too much caffeine can make you too jittery to learn (and cause you to spill coffee into your computer) DearKidLoveMom.comAfter you’ve done a significant amount of studying (fifteen minutes does not–in this case–mean “significant”), get up and move around. Go for a quick run, do a couple of jumping jacks, practice Tai Chi, Tae Bo, or Tying Your Shoes. Just do something to get your blood moving before you get back to work.

Coffee in Moderation*

Some people (incorrectly) believe that by mainlining caffeine they will master all the material and do brilliantly on their exams. Um, no. Number 1, brains need sleep (as I may have mentioned). Number 2, caffeine dehydrates you and brains need hydration (as I may have mentioned). Number 12 (yeah, I skipped a bunch–good job noticing) it’s really hard to study when you’re so jittery you can’t see straight. It is even harder to take an exam when your hands are shaking and all you want to do is jump up and down yelling “Caffeine, Baby!!!”

Happy studying,

Love, Mom

*or in a cup

Need a study break? Like DearKid on Facebook (after you do three jumping jacks). Or sign up to get DearKidLoveMom’s daily blog delivered right to your email inbox.

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Five Tips for Reaching Your Goals | Deciding is Different Than Doing

Deciding is different than doing dearkidlovemom.comDear Kid,

Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left? Five, because deciding is different than doing.

It’s easy to decide we’re going to do something. It’s even easy to say we’re going to do it and really believe we’re committed. We can decide to start eating better—until we get a whiff of pizza at lunch. We can decide to work out daily—only to postpone a trip to the gym when other commitments get in the way. We can say we’re going to start saving money—only to “invest” in the latest iPhone rather than a savings account.

It’s easy to decide all those things. It’s easy to say all those things. It’s easy to really, truly, seriously, for realz mean it. But committing, really following through, really doing what we say we’re going to do is often not nearly as easy.

Here are five tried and true tips for reaching your goals.

Tell someone. The fancy term is having an accountability partner. Just as it’s harder to skip the gym if you’re meeting a workout buddy there, if someone knows you’ve committed to a goal—and checks in with you on a regular basis about it—you’re less likely to find an excuse to slack off. Note: Your accountability partner should probably not be your mother.

Keep track. Whether it’s an app to help you track workouts, an excel spreadsheet to track your savings goals, or a hand-written chart showing how many pages you have to study to get through all the material before finals, having a chart is a visible way to see your progress. Because it’s right there in front of you, it can be a not-so-gentle nudge to get studying—and a great reminder of all you’ve done so far.

Ask for help. We all have our strengths and not-so-strengths. For example, some of us are hilarious while others of us can kick a football directly through the uprights in snow and rain and heat and gloom of night flickering lights (extra points if you get the reference). If you need help memorizing French verbs, find someone who can help with that in exchange for learning computer programming (trade), money (tutoring), or an introduction to that girl down the hall (matchmaking).

Set small deadlines. If you have to memorize War and Peace before next Monday, set small goals and deadlines to get the work done. Don’t try to learn the entire thing at once. Determine how much you have to learn (a lot), how much time you have to learn it (not much), and what other obligations may take up time (eating, sleeping, going to class). Then allocate the workload: 10 pages before dinner, 15 pages by 8pm, 12 more pages by 11pm, review all before bed. By reaching your small deadlines you can be sure you’re on track to get all the work done. (When you are in the workforce you’ll do the same thing and call it Project Management.)

Reward yourself. Figure out what will motivate you and use it as a reward for doing something that is difficult. Did you go for a workout when you really, Really, REALLY didn’t want to go? Treat yourself to a new mascara or a new song for your iPod. Did you outline 10 pages of history when you would rather have poked your eyes out? Take an hour and go for a run. Did you memorize 22 formulas for chemistry? Hmmm, that deserves a big reward…call your mother (could there possibly be a better reward?)!

Most importantly, don’t give up. Remind yourself how important your goal is and keep working toward it. You CAN do it.

Love, Mom

An inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City reads:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

This is not the creed of the USPS as they don’t have one. It is a translation (by Professor George Herbert Palmer of Harvard University) of Herodotus (a Greek dude known for being the correct answer to difficult questions) describing the Persian system of mounted postal carriers ca. 500 B.C.E.

ca. is the abbreviation for circa which is Latin for “about” or “approximately.”

BCE stands for Before the Common Era, which means counting backwards from what we generally refer to as Year 0. One has to wonder how people back then knew to count backwards. Do you think they worried about getting to Year 0 they way we worried about Y2K? Oh, wait. You were a baby then and didn’t care.

But you probably knew all that.

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