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Study Guides and Time Management Techniques

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The name of the book that we will be discussing is "How to Become a Straight-A Student" by Cal Newport. This book was published by Broadway Books, Copyright 2007.

"How to Become a Straight-A Student" is not a typical study guide with study management tips. The content of this book (as well as all of the advice being given) came directly from Straight-A students from top Colleges and Universities, including: Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Duke, Amherst and Skidmore. The advice and skills discussed in this book concentrate on two specific areas:

(1) How to study efficiently and effectively

(2) Time Management

Of the two areas mentioned above, Time Management appears to be the most crucial element of the studying process and the most important area to master if you want to excel in school.

I must say that I had the pleasure of reading this book more than once and have really taken to heart the advice being offered by the students who shared their study skills with the author, Cal Newport.

Listed below are a few of the top Time Management skills that I have found would best suit my own personal lifestyle and future class schedule(s).

Without a doubt my favorite Time Management skill involves creating a Reminder List. A Reminder List is simply a list of things you need to remember to schedule on your daily calendar. This list gives you a place to jot down an event or thought that needs your attention at a later date and time. By placing the thought on a list rather than trying to remember it on your own, your mind is less consumed with trying to "remember" and is freed up to concentrate on more important matters, such as studying or attending to personal affairs.

Here are a few examples of reminder items: Call the Dentist to schedule an appointment for Brookie or send Brock's teacher an email regarding the zoo field trip. Clearly, these items aren't urgent so they don't need to be immediately scheduled on the calendar. You can worry about finding the appropriate time and date to complete these tasks when you update your calendar the next morning.

What I most appreciate about this Time Management skill is its simplicity. After reading about the Reminder List in the book I immediately put the skill into action in my everyday life. I was shocked at how something so small could make such a difference in my day. Almost instantly I found myself less anxious about all that I had to accomplish during the day and the days to come. I am a little surprised that I haven't tried this technique before now.

The next study skill(s) that I found useful was creating a calendar and actually sticking to it. Creating a calendar allows you to block off time to complete a scheduled task and then move on without giving it another thought. If you are able to commit to the schedule and not deviate from the task at hand, you will find yourself accomplishing more during the day in a shorter period of time. Once you have completed the tasks on your daily calendar the rest of your day is free to do whatever you like. Keep in mind that if you are a night owl or a college student who can be tempted by a last minute mid-week party, having your tasks completed early on in the day will allow you the freedom to enjoy such a party without feeling guilty or a nagging sense of doubt or regret for not getting all of your studying done.

Of note, there will be times when your day runs a little differently than what you have planned. When this happens, don't stress about it. Just chalk it up to being one of those days and move on. Be sure to reschedule those items that were not completed that day on another day's schedule and just do the best you can. At the end of the day that's all a person can really ask for.

Personally, I have always created a calendar in my professional life but I never took the time to schedule a calendar for my personal life in the same way. I naturally assumed that scheduling your personal day was instinctive, just like parenting. That right there should have tipped me off that my way of thinking was misguided. Now, as a result of the number of changes occurring in my day and all of the unpredictable requests being made upon me, creating a daily calendar just makes sense.

I am proud to say that I have now begun using a personal calendar in my everyday life. With such a time consuming schedule that now includes full class loads for the next two semesters, now more than ever I find myself needing the structure of a schedule to get everything accomplished without completely losing my mind. It's certainly a place to start.

Speaking of a person's mind, another reason it's important to stick to a schedule is (without it) your mind can become consumed with all of the things that need to get accomplished that day, and it can interfere with your ability to give the task at hand 100% of your attention. If you aren't careful, this lack of concentration can end of sabotaging your day. It gives way for regret to slowly creep into your mind and clutter it with guilt of what all you didn't get done that day or what areas didn't get your full attention. Again, if this happens just shake it off and try again the next day.

We've explored the benefits of Time Management, so now let's talk about Study Skills and how to study effectively.

First of all, in your opinion how long should a person study at any one given time? Should the student study a little bit each day (and risk losing what he or she learned weeks ago) or cram for a test the night or weekend before the exam to ensure the material that was just reviewed (learned) is still fresh in the student's mind?

Although both methods can prove effective (at times), the answer of course is to study a little bit each day and avoid cramming for tests or exams. If you take the time to master small sections of the required material a little at a time, the exam review sessions will be much shorter and primarily dedicated to those areas that are still giving you trouble.

Cramming, however, isn't without its perks or temptations. If you are a person afflicted with a special fondness and/or addiction for home-brewed Starbucks coffee with a touch of fat-free French Vanilla Coffeemate like I am, it is easy to see how the thought of being locked behind closed doors for a day, night or weekend with an endless supply of this wonderful caffeinated product at your fingertips could be appealing. You must stand tough and fight the temptation to give in. Fantastically brewed coffee should not be the deciding factor or influence you in any way



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