Imagine that you’re in the middle of cutting down that old tree in your back yard. Suddenly, you notice that your saw blade has gone dull, making your work slow and painful.
What do you do?
Well, if you’re like most people, you simply redouble your efforts to make up for the dullness, and keep on cutting away. You tell yourself that sharpening the saw would take time, and that it’s better to just keep working the way you’ve worked so far – no matter how much time and effort it takes.
But sometimes, there’s more to it than simply working hard. Sometimes, it’s better to stop what you’re doing and make that initial investment that could allow you to double your efficiency.
Sometimes, you need to stop and sharpen that saw.
I personally learned this lesson the hard way when I first started university a few years back. At that point, I considered myself a straight-A student, determined to never see a consonant on my report card. I viewed every single exam as a personal challenge, and I always studied really hard to get the best score possible.
But as I made the transition from high school to university, I was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material to study. Where there had previously only been a book or two per course, there were now thousands of pages of course literature to get through.
Nevertheless, I kept up my old habit of studying everything there was to study… and got a D on my first exam.
So what was my response to this minor setback? Why, to study harder in exactly the same way, of course!
So I redoubled my efforts, put in as much time as I needed, and managed to ace most of the exams for the rest of that year.
Unfortunately, this took up most of my free time, and it wasn’t long before I started feeling burnt out. By the end of the year, I was hanging on to my sanity by a thread (okay, not really, but I was pretty stressed out!).
That’s when I realized that my old and inefficient studying habits just weren’t cutting it anymore. It was no longer possible to keep studying the way I was used to in high school – I would have to stop and sharpen my saw.
It was either that, or keep going until I inevitably hit a wall and crashed.
So I decided to spend my summer holidays that year learning how to study. I took a course on speed reading to improve my reading speed. I studied cognitive psychology to learn how to better process information. I taught myself to single out the important knowledge from my textbooks, while skimming through the unnecessary drivel.
Come the next semester, I was able to cut my time spent studying in half, while maintaining my good grades.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’ve now cut that time down to about a fourth, and actually improved my overall understanding. Thanks to this, I’ve been able to take on several extra classes every year, while also managing a full-time job on the side.
There is no way I would have been able to do any of that if I hadn’t made the initial investment of learning how to study in the first place. (more…)
Enjoy what you just read? Subscribe to the Blog Feed to keep up with new posts!
Or why not connect on Twitter