I get a lot of questions from my students and on social media about how to make the most of homework time and how to reduce the pain!
Some students are interested in getting better grades and are willing to do almost anything to get them.
Others are interested in reducing the pain and want something easy to make that happen.
These two goals are not as disparate as they might seem at first glance.
If you use good study skills and develop habits that will serve you well, then the pain is mitigated and the learning can truly begin.
Students are not always happy with my answers because there is no magic. In other words, there is no secret “trick” that you can do to suddenly make homework as fun as pony rides (assuming you have no morbid fear of ponies) and that will instill in you the intelligence quotient of an Einstein.
The tips are basic
Most of them have been known for thousands of years! What! Even when the Internet didn’t exist – or smart phones – or apps – or herbs and vitamins to boost the brain? YES!
Simple is often still the best route. Some of the additional benefits of technology can help (or hurt) and, maybe (big maybe), some vitamins and herbs can boost your brain – but you still need the foundation.
The tips are basic, but they work!
Sorry, I got carried away there. But really, find a quiet location, if possible. It is much easier to focus when distractions are at a minimum. Turn off the television – no smartphone (no dumb phone either) – no music* – no internet chat – no Sloppy Joes over your textbook / keyboard, etc. Focus on one task.
* Music can be used to block out other annoying sounds, but is should be at a level that does not interfere with your focus – preferably without lyrics so that you don’t start singing along!
Read and read, and read. I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as much as you can, and re-read for more comprehension. You never capture everything on the first read of a substantial text. You need to look over it several times. Read supplemental material as well. Go beyond the minimum!
Write out notes. Draw diagrams, create charts, pictures, graphs – anything that will help you remember. Write on flashcards – especially useful for terms & definitions, but they can be used for all kinds of study.
Write a journal. Really? Yes, writing about your thoughts can help you review your day and your network of knowledge, so keep on writing.
Writing or printing by hand engages different parts of your brain, so make use of this old but tried-and-true tool as well.
I don’t mean look over your notes once, or three times, or one-hundred times. I mean study.
Close the book, look away from the screen, stop listening to the lecture recording, and ask yourself if you can answer questions without looking or listening. If you don’t know the answers without looking at them, then you don’t know the material!
Self-test (or you can use a buddy) is one of the best methods (not to mention the most overlooked and underused method) to prepare yourself. Don’t cheat yourself by thinking you know something without testing this hypothesis.
Be kind to yourself
Reward yourself when you have done a good job. Recognize the value of working diligently but also the value in working smart. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Catnaps are good, too, if they are brief. (Catnaps might be a misnomer. Don’t sleep like your cat for sixteen hours a day!) Make sure you eat healthy meals – small and numerous is best to keep your body (brain included) performing at a steady rate. Don’t let yourself off the hook!
Wait – I thought you said to be kind to yourself? Yes, sometimes kindness equals toughness. You need to be honest with yourself – no cheating – no lapsing on scheduled homework time – no excuses. The reward you get later is the kindness component.
Making the most of homework time
If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will retain far more information, gain more knowledge, and do better on quizzes, tests, and exams. You will be working smart which is at least as important as working “hard.”
Reducing the pain:
If you are focused and use solid study strategies during homework time, you will learn the material faster and better. Using the correct techniques, students often find they are studying less time but getting more out of it – reducing the pain.
You know the value of your efforts, so the pain factor becomes less noticeable even during the toughest sessions.
These are very broad strokes on how to make the most of homework time and reduce the pain. If you would like to learn more, do not hesitate to get in touch.
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