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Mr Chen's anecdotes.

How to study efficiently

We all have just 24 hours a day. That's 1440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds in a day.

hand holding a clock

As our education system evolve to become one that increasingly emphasises on holistic development, we may find ourselves caught in the middle of trying to be a great student and trying to be a well-rounded person.

Classes are no longer confined to learning within the four walls of the classroom. We're now being trained to be confident, self-directed learners who can actively contribute to the society. Our school assignments have evolved, and so have our modes of learning to help encourage us think creatively and critically.

But as with anything that pushes us out of our comfort zone, we will need to spend some time and effort to develop specific, necessary thinking skills. The curriculum that we go through is also consistently updated to be more current and relevant, which means that we'll always need to keep up with the times.

As students, we also have other commitments like CCA, service learning programmes, programmes that encourage student leadership... the list goes on. And on top of that, we're human. We are social creatures who need time with our family and friends. As human beings, we should ideally also have time to discover our own strengths, hobbies, and interests, or indulge in activities that provide us entertainment. (Yes, all the time spent on making Taylor Swift friendship bracelets were not for naught!) With the small pockets of time left, we sometimes let ourselves be absorbed by the online world. The glittery, noisy world, condensed into short bursts of content that we can access on our palm.

All these, while trying to get 8 hours of sleep.

How can we cope with that, you might ask?

We learn to be more efficient, at least for the way you study and learn. Because that is the one thing that takes up the bulk of your time now as students.

Efficient? You're not just throwing another buzz word in my face... right?

definition of the word efficient
In case you forgot what it means.

Maybe... but also not really.

Being efficient is important when we have so much we need and want to accomplish in a day. Regardless of what those are, being efficient is necessary so that we can maximise living life rather than spending hours and hours just studying.

Here are some tips that can help you study efficiently. You are welcome.

Tip 1: Put your devices aside

This one goes without saying. You can't be efficient when you are scrolling on TikTok or watching video after video on YouTube.

Our devices are a wonderful source of distraction. It has also been proven that social media destroys our attention span.

So for starters, toss your phone aside!

Tip 2: Get to know the tasks you need to accomplish for the day

For instance, when you are assigned a piece of homework, don't just chuck it in your bag.

We all know that you did not lose your homework. And your teachers definitely aren't buying the "Cher, I forgot".

Be honest with yourself. The first step to being efficient is by facing your hurdles. Make the effort to look at what you need to accomplish so that you can gauge how much time and effort you realistically need.

One thing that helped me face was this quote mentioned by @dutchdeccc on TikTok:

Just do it miserably. Do the thing you don't want to do, and give yourself the freedom to be in an awful mood about it. As long as it's getting done, there's no need for positivity. This is freeing to me.

Being uncomfortable with doing your tasks is normal. Once you accept that, facing what you really need to get done becomes much easier.

This can also be done in smaller steps.

For instance, rather than forcing yourself to finish an entire tutorial in one sitting, look through your entire tutorial first. Pick the easier questions to try so you can get an inkling of how much time and effort you might need for the rest of the tutorial.

That way, you can kind of figure out whether you might need help from teachers, tutors, or even your friends, or the amount of time you might need to revisit your notes and materials in order to finish the tutorial.

Tip 3: Do your homework first, then reference what you need

Studying to do your homework, in an ideal world, is a wonderful idea. But this also translates to spending time and effort on studying first, then spending more time on homework.

Diving into your homework first can save you time. This is especially true for tutorials in JC. Tutorial questions are usually set with intent. Meaning, your tutors usually have thought through your tutorial questions to make them extremely relevant.

Doing your homework is also useful for helping you learn better. Being elbow deep in your tasks forces you to find ways and means to get to what you set out to accomplish. This pushes your brain to remember what you have learnt. This is also why I often advocate for students to not just watch others attempt questions online. You have to try it for yourself.

Tip 4: Understand and internalise every single key word

Our study materials are often laden with technical terms and jargons. How many times have we skimmed over or assumed that we understood every single word in a sentence?

Take "Activation Energy" as an example.

Activation energy refers to the minimum energy that reacting particles need to possess to overcome the activation energy barrier before forming products.

The important key terms here are "minimum energy", "reacting particles", "activation energy barrier", "forming products".

Rather than memorising every key term, take some time to understand and internalise every of these key terms. What does the word "barrier" in "activation energy barrier" imply? Probably a hurdle or something that needs to be overcome. "Activation" implies that something might get activated or be put into motion. Putting it all together, this term likely means that once you have sufficient energy to get over the barrier, something else can happen.

Once you are able to understand and internalise every of these key terms, you will realise that the topics are not as difficult as you think they are.

This is a tiny habit that you can incorporate into your study routine that will make a world of a difference.

Tip 5: If you get stuck, consider doing something else instead

This is so that you don't waste time being stuck and feeling stuck.

Feeling stuck may make you feel more demoralised than you already are, but that time could be spent on other tutorials or studying for other topics.

Colombian novelist and Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel García Márquez has a writing routine where he would just set his writing aside whenever he got stuck, and to work on writing something else instead.

By switching things up, you give yourself a break from feeling frustrated and constantly staring at the same thing over and over. And who knows, a different perspective may hit you when you distant yourself from whatever you're stuck with.

Put it all together now and you will find yourself studying more efficiently

Being efficient does not need to be complicated or difficult. The tips above are tiny changes that you can gradually incorporate into your routine. But I promise you, once you make these tips a habit, you'll start to see changes and improvements.

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