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Crowd Wisdom: What’s Your Most Innovative Study Hack?

Share Your Innovations

Every week I preach the gospel of hacking your study habits. Enough about me. Let’s hear about you! I want to know your most effective, innovative, and unconventional study hack.

  • Simply e-mail me your favorite homegrown study hack. I’ll choose the most compelling examples to post next Wednesday.

The winners will receive fame, glory, and the satisfaction of potentially helping thousands of their fellow students. Also: I’ll send you an awesome t-shirt featuring a big smiling picture of me, giving a thumbs up and saying “Straight-A Students Do It On Schedule. ”

I look forward to hearing your strategies!

9 thoughts on “Crowd Wisdom: What’s Your Most Innovative Study Hack?”

  1. After dreaming about it for several years, I starting working part-time toward a Ph.D. in Classics (Greek and Latin) last year, while continuing to work full-time. It is a difficult balancing act, and I knew I would have to get rid of my old super-perfectionistic procrastinating ways in order to succeed. When I fell back into the old rut of inefficiency (to which perfectionism tends to lead me), I knew I had to make a change. Then I heard an interview of Samuel L. Jackson on Fresh Air with Terry Gross (NPR). Terry complimented Jackson on his ability to sing the blues in one of his films, but Jackson corrected her. He said that he can’t sing the blues at all, but the character he was playing could . . . and when he got into character, he could do things he could never imagine doing as himself. So I decided to invent a character called “The Efficient Classicist,” and to conduct all research for my end-of-term paper in character. Before beginning work, I made a list of how “The Efficient Classicist” would approach my tasks, and I stuck to the list. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I knew exactly how an efficient classicist would behave, and I stuck to it. Inventing this fictional character helped me to get beyond my limiting ideas about myself – “I’m a procrastinator,” “I’m inefficient,” “I don’t know how to do research,” “Research takes forever!” etc. – and step outside my old habits.

  2. @Jib

    That is an interesting and funny approach on how to change your study habits. Sort of like when children try to imitate someone they aspire to be like, and thus tend to act like them. Only you created the character and their almost perfect study habits.

    I probably wouldn’t do this myself although I might some people who actually might, so I will pass it on.

  3. @Study Hacks

    Fantasy. Whenever I sit down with a piece of paper, natural lighting, and a good old pen I can’t help but remember the the Lord of the Rings scene where Bilbo is beginning to write his book (I believe that may be on the extended edition).

    I am also a big fan of American history, and I love to imagine the environment in which the Founding Fathers had written The Deceleration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, and even their many journal entries and personal letters.

    I don’t make a habit of writing by candle light, but when the power goes out, I enjoy myself.

  4. I’m not totally sure if you’d call this a study hack because it’s very specific to memorization and language-learning. But it saves me lots of time.

    Before college, I took Latin for six years and read at least 3000 lines of Vergil, Catullus, Ovid, and other poets. My classmates always struggled with memorization, but I didn’t. I can imagine that many students whose history teachers require date memorization have a hard time. In eighth grade, I read Harry Lorayne’s “How to Become a Straight-A Student in 30 Days” and learned to ridiculously connect Latin words with my naturally crazy humor. Whenever anyone asks me how I memorize anything (word or number), I give them this example:

    Memorize: Jamestown was founded in 1607.
    Know off the bat: 16 = 16 “dish” and 7 = “cow” *see below
    Me: Think of a friend named James in the pose of a cow. You’re milking him like you would milk a cow. Instead of milk coming out, dishes are coming out, and they clatter as they fall and break.

    *1= t, d, 2=n, 3=m, 4=r, 5=l, 6=sh, ch, j (soft sounds), 7=k, g, c (hard sounds),8=f, v, ph, 9=p, b, 0=s, c, z (soft sounds)
    All vowels and w, h, and y do not matter.
    DiSH (“d” is 1 and “sh” is 6) makes 16. Cow (hard “c” makes 7).

    I never use flashcards to memorize. Back when I learned languages, I would pass by my classmates in the hall and see them grind through a list of Latin words by rote. I just took my list of 40 Latin words 5 minutes before lunch and permanently memorize each one in 8 seconds. In 8 seconds, it takes a while to learn tosee “procella” (Latin for “storms”) and imagine Hilary Clinton fervently making a speech on a stand as a “pro” (I mean pro as in an advocate) for “cellars” (of lots of beer) while thunder (“stormy conditions”) strikes in the background. But when you do this two to three times a week, then it becomes second nature. I went to two Latin conventions in the San Francisco Bay Area where 500 students would take tests on different parts of the classics, and I both times I placed first above everyone in my level because of methods like you see above.

    Of course, you can memorize things more easily when you link commonplace foreign language words to sex, booze, drugs, and whatever sticks out among the forgettable. At a student organization meeting, a friend told me she heard an officer amazedly talking about how I see her every time and say her foreign name correctly (made ridiculous associations with the faces).

    Case-in-point: lots of studying, be it reading a huge European history textbook or crunching numbers in vector calculus problem sets, requires memorization of names, dates, formulas, and abstract material. The method above isn’t an easy solution to all memorization problems, but it saves so much time and energy when mastered. Time, like pages 109-110 of Cal’s book say, is the ultimate key.

    And here’s another great study hack. I go to UCSD, so we have that 9-floor Geisel Library that looks like a spaceship that’s about to launch off. After every hour of studying, I relocate to a different floor. This saves mental energy and prevents fatigue.

    Will you really give me a T-shirt, Cal?


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