I am an intensely extra person and am proud of it. For example, when I went out to dinner for prom I wrote a list in the notes on my phone of my large table's order, then handed that to the waitress. Spreadsheets are my thing and no matter how much storage I need, I never delete the Google Sheets app. When I was bored this past summer, I organized my apps by color, but only after screenshotting my screens, so I could return the apps to their old positions. As such an extra, pedantic human being, I adore staying organized. That is really helpful in college, so here are six tips to help you learn better, courtesy of your extra friend.
1. Write two sets of notes.
Okay, so hear me out. This is one of my greatest tried and true methods of staying organized and keeping track of my materials. At least in my experience, many professors don't allow note-taking on laptops unless you have an excuse, such as a learning disability or hand cramps. Thus, a lot of your notes end up being handwritten in pencil or pen, often in messy scribbles because the professor was talking so fast. Furthermore, in trying to follow the professor's train of thought there's a good chance your notes make it hard to discern the major points of the lecture. So, what I do is write two sets of notes; one for what I write down during class in the initial learning phase and the second written down afterwards, usually organized and color-coded (the color-coding is, of course, optional). Not only does it make it easier to return to the material and understand the big ideas, but the repetition of material really helps hammer in the points.
2. Write a summary of your readings.
This is another one of those things that requires a little bit of extra work, but will have a lot of extra pay off. In classes with a lot of readings, the instinct is to do the readings the night before, so you don't forget the material before class. However, this needlessly piles work onto the night before class. It also doesn't build your long-term memory. If you only give yourself time to retain material for a day maximum, it's going to be that much harder to remember it for final exams. I do my readings whenever I have time, no matter how many days away the class is, then write a short summary of what they were about. Then if the class is discussion-based I can pull out my notes and if I have a quiz on the text I can quickly re-read my summary rather than re-reading the entire passage.
3. Really, really don't work in your bed.
I know, I know, everyone says this. And let's be honest, no one really listens. Studies have shown that working from your bed can make it much harder to go to sleep later, because you associate your bed with more than just sleeping or relaxing, and it's harder to make your brain slow down. I know it's nice to work from a comfy mattress and comforter, but there are much better places to work. Speaking of....
4. Vary your study spaces.
In a perfect world, you could set aside a place in your room, your dorm building or the nearest library and that would be your study spot. You'd arrive, sit down, work non-stop for hours and be able to do that every day, if you so choose. Trouble is, that's not how anyone works. Hopefully, you use study spaces mostly for, you know, studying, but we all take breaks to play on our phones or talk to friends. While the breaks are important, sooner or later, you might start associating your study space with the breaks and not with the actual work. I have four or five places across campus that I use to study, which I rotate, so that one doesn't become too familiar. Also, if one is taken by someone else I always have somewhere else to go.
5. Use the reminders app.
This is exclusively for Apple users, but the reminders app is truly a godsend and yet no one under 40 really uses it. I've spent a lot of my life trying to use planners or bullet journals, but they just don't work for me. With the reminders app, not only can I make a list as long as I want, I can also divide my lists into even more lists, creating an entire family tree of lists that will help me get my life together. Oh, and it automatically sets notifications based on when you say your assignments are due. So that's cool.
6. Use both sides of your brain so you don't get distracted.
Okay, so I know that studies have shown that multitasking is really bad for you. But I'm still going to do it and you probably are too. So don't just multitask any which way. Multitask more efficiently by using both parts of your brain. For example, while doing math problem sets or coding for computer science, listen to a podcast. Or, even better, listen to the audiobook version of one of your readings, killing two birds with one stone. Not only will you be learning twice the material, the time will also fly by faster as your brain is so busy that you can't consider what hour it is.
Let me be clear: You do not have to do all of these things. In fact, I might not even recommend that you do all of these things. But even just one or two will help you not only retain information better, but be more efficient at studying.
Lead Image Credit: Rob Bye via UnSplash