Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success Posts on Features: Pulling It All Together

Resolve to Make 2010 a Year of Radical Simplicity

December 31st, 2009 · 30 comments

A New Year TraditionOrganized

It’s a tradition here at Study Hacks to greet the New Year with ambitious resolutions. In 2008 I listed five habits students should resolve to avoid, including skipping classes and studying without a plan. By 2009 I could trust that my readers were beyond such basic mistakes, so I presented instead three advanced habits students should resolve to adopt: commit to full capture, use assignment folders, and finish major assignments early.

Now that 2010 looms, I want to continue the evolution of my New Year’s advice. This year, I want to throw caution to the wind and try to convince you to transform your student lifestyle. (Though this advice is college-specific, elements of it should resonate for a variety of situations, so it’s a worth a read for anyone who is feeling overworked or under-inspired.)

Specifically, I want you to make 2010 the year that you seriously consider radical simplicity…

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The Hidden Art of Practice

October 21st, 2009 · 13 comments

Note: I’m giving a talk at Dartmouth on Wednesday, October 28. If you’re a Dartmouth student and are interested in meeting me, send me an e-mail. I might arrange a slot in my schedule for a group of us to get together and talk shop.

E-mail Wizard Guitar Practice

I don’t waste much time with e-mail. I typically check my inboxes two, maybe three times a day, and always process them back to empty.

(An exception to this rule are the copious e-mails from blog readers, which are shunted to their own inbox and which I work on once a day, in a pre-scheduled 30 minute slot that keeps my fixed-schedule intact.)

It’s a well-oiled, efficient machine, that keeps me connected to the world but also maximizes the hours I can spend in a state of hard focus.

There are three important points about this system that I want to draw your attention toward:

  1. It’s simple to understand and provides obvious benefits.
  2. Many people would love to do something similar.
  3. Few of them actually do.

It’s the contradiction of point 3 that motivates today’s post…

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My Advice for Rising Freshmen

May 26th, 2009 · 29 comments

The Great WaitCollege!

It’s almost June. For high school seniors, this means two important milestones have passed: college admission decisions and graduation. You know where you’re headed next year and have nothing to do until you get there.

In this post, I want to offer you some friendly advice for how to best use this final summer to prepare for the new world you’ll soon face. If you want my general thoughts on how you should tackle college, read last year’s open letter to students awaiting their admissions decisions. Today, by contrast, I want to get more specific.

Below I’ve listed three suggestions for how to prepare for college …

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4 Weeks to a 4.0: Create Project Folders

April 20th, 2009 · 8 comments

4 Weeks to a 4.0 is a four-part series to help you transform into an efficient student. Each Monday between 3/30 and 4/20 I’ll post a new weekly assignment to aid your transformation.

Welcome to Week 4Time to Change

This is the fourth and final post in our four-part series 4 Weeks to a 4.0.  Let’s do our review. In week one you gained some control over your schedule. In week two you mastered taking notes in class. And in week three you streamlined your assignments. In other words, we’ve covered all regularly occurring academic work. This leaves us only to tackle the big infrequent stuff. I’m talking about studying for exams and writing papers.

Week 4 Assignment: Create Project Folders

Your assignment for this week to adopt the project folder method, which I describe below. This simple method streamlines the process of studying for exams and writing major papers. I used it throughout my time at Dartmouth, and swear by its effectiveness. You can also see aspects of it in action in our ongoing finals diaries series.

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4 Weeks to a 4.0: Master Your Assignments

April 13th, 2009 · 20 comments

4 Weeks to a 4.0 is a four-part series to help you transform into an efficient student. Each Monday between 3/30 and 4/20 I’ll post a new weekly assignment to aid your transformation.

Welcome to Week 3Time to Change

This is the third post in our four-part series 4 Weeks to a 4.0. In week one, I asked you to take control of your schedule, and in week two we overhauled your classroom notetaking. This week we advance to a crucial topic: your assignments. Nothing requires more time for an undergraduate than suffering through long readings or tackling impossible problem sets. Let’s learn how to dispatch them with maximum effectiveness.

Week 3 Assignment: Efficient Assignments

There are two major types of assignments: readings and problem sets. Below I’ve described a streamlined strategy for dealing with each. Your task this week is to adopt these approaches for dispatching your regular work.

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4 Weeks to a 4.0: Streamline Your Notes

April 6th, 2009 · 35 comments

4 Weeks to a 4.0 is a four-part series to help you transform into an efficient student. Each Monday between 3/30 and 4/20 I’ll post a new weekly assignment to aid your transformation.

Welcome to Week 2Time to Change

This is the second post in our four-part series 4 Weeks to a 4.0. Last week, I asked you to start an autopilot schedule and adopt a Sunday ritual. If you’re like me, you’re probably having some trouble making this schedule work. That’s okay! Just keep adjusting; it takes some practice to work out the kinks. This week I want to move from the big picture issue of scheduling to something more tactical: notetaking in class.

Week 2 Assignment: Smart Notes

This week we’re focusing on taking notes in class. To better target my advice, I’ve identified three major types of classes: non-technical (history, english, etc.); technical without math (biology, psychology, etc.); and technical with math (calculus, macroeconomics, etc.). Below, I’ve provided a specific notetaking strategy for each of these three types. This week, I want you to adopt the appropriate strategy for each of your courses.

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4 Weeks to a 4.0: Adopt an Autopilot Schedule and a Sunday Ritual

March 30th, 2009 · 27 comments

4 Weeks to a 4.0 is a four-part series to help you transform into an efficient student. Each Monday between 3/30 and 4/20 I’ll post a new weekly assignment to aid your transformation.

Welcome to Week 1Time to Change

This is the first post in a new four-part series I’m calling 4 Weeks to a 4.0. Each Monday, for the next month, I’ll be posting a new weekly assignment. I can’t guarantee that you’ll immediately earn a 4.0 if you finish all four assignments, but your grades will definitely improve and your stress will definitely plummet. If you want to overhaul your study habits, but feel overwhelmed by all the changes this requires, then this series is for you. Your first assignment, presented below, covers some scheduling basics.

Week 1 Assignment: Autopilots and Rituals

The goal of this first week’s assignment is to help you reclaim your schedule. I don’t want to overwhelm you, so we’ll start small with two easy ideas: starting an autopilot schedule and initiating a Sunday ritual. Your assignment for this week is to adopt these strategies, which I detail below.

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What the Hell is Study Hacks?

March 27th, 2009 · 50 comments

The Study Hacks Philosophy

It occured to me recently that I should write a short post that explains what Study Hacks is all about — something I can point people to when they stumble, for the first time, into our quirky little world of note-taking strategies and rants about focus. So here we go…

The purpose of Study Hacks is clear: to help students succeed without stress.

My philosophy for achieving this goal can be reduced to three simple rules:

  • Do fewer things.
  • Do them better.
  • Know why you’re doing them.

All of the important advice on this site circles back to these same three themes. Folks, I’ve been obsessing over this stuff for years. Trust me, this is what works.

Some Notes… 

If you stick around here long enough, you’ll learn that I have an obsession with simplicity. I hate the warped understanding of impressiveness that leads students to try to do many, many things.

I think the happiest, most successful students know why they are at college, and they believe this answer. They also tend to do very little, but the small amount of things they do, they do exceptionally well. They recognize that in the end, the world rewards those who are so good they can’t be ignored. By contrast, we forget about the burnt out triple-major who joined 10 clubs to show leadership and managed to earn a 3.9 without ever once impressing a professor.

I applaud the student who adopts a balanced and reasonable courseload, and leaves enough free time in his schedule that he can saturate himself in the material – letting it get inside his head and stew for a while; the type of student who tolerates a little boredom as the price you pay for doing stuff well.

I think studying is an art and should be taken seriously. (I even wrote a whole book about this.) Most students are terrible at studying. The best students, however, are like scholastic maestros: their methods for note-taking, reviewing, and paperwriting are magical in their efficiency.

I have a weird obsession with reducing e-mail (even though I don’t get much).

I harbor an inexplicable hostility towards business majors.

And I have an extremely low threshold for labelling something a “method.”

These are the ideas that drive Study Hacks. It’s not for everyone. But for some of us, it just seems to make a hell of a lot of sense.