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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Study Tip - 4 ( Plan, plan and plan )

It has been a while since my last study tip.

Learning style

I am not a type that can sit still for hours to read, think deep mathematics and make an occasional note in my virtual notepad in my memory. Although I would like to be like that it is not going to happen. They say Euler was like that. That's why he had no problem to continue with his mathematics after he became blind. Stephen Hawking also has this ability to do theoretical physics in his mind. In the Netherlands we have a former checkers World Champion, Ton Sijbrands, who can play and win or draw close to 30 games blind. It proves what the human brain is capable of, in principle. - I can't do it though because I have to be active, I must do something, better: create something. Otherwise I can literally doze off. A friend once said that I have a kinematic learning style. Different people have different learning styles. I can't sit in a lecture and listen to a lecturer either. It literally goes in one ear, leaves the other, without any storage or processing in between. I get extremely bored in lectures ( or courses ), days seem ages because I want to go home to -do- something.


Over time I organized my style of studying into a series of to-do items. The first to do is always 'Make a detailed plan.' For example if I plan studying a booklet ( Open University study materials are delivered in booklets which often take two weeks to study, or something between 16 and 32 hours ) I create a check-sheet for it. ( If you have ever done a course in scientology, you know the concept. ) If you study from a check-sheet you won't have those blockages. They really work. The most important thing is that you create a plan that works for you. A plan helps you go through the materials and you know when to do what and no more. That way you won't fall in the 'I never have time-off trap'.


Maybe you study to make a step on the career ladder, expect to make more money or maybe you simply want to be able to do your current job better. Or you study to get a(nother) job, or you finally want that degree. In any case you have a deep interest in the subject you study. Final study results come in after many years of study. They are hard to measure on a daily basis, even success on a module which usually takes a year is not a good measurement. TMA results? Yes, somewhat. But what if you got that 'good' result by cramming the TMA out in 48 hours of almost continuously cramming? You will have forgotten the materials on the exam. You have to set a study statistic you can measure on a daily basis. I make ( = do ) flash cards with the open source program Anki. For example when I study a definition, of a graph for example. I type in Anki Q: What is a graph. A. A graph G is a tuple [V,E] where V is a set of vertices. etc. Anki makes sure that I will never forget the definition by monitoring my recall on the question in a very efficient manner. But most of all, I am doing something while styding because I am alert and awake as to which questions I have to put in Anki. Naturally I try to formulate the answers in my own words. Anki then provides me a with a range of graphs and statistics about my progress.


Have you ever made a plan which worked well for onze day but you threw away the next day because all the time unexpected things happen? I often made plans to study on times when I was not physically up to studying. I felt tired, spent too much time in traffic, got hold and so forth. That is very valuable information you can use when you make your next plan! And if you record the time spent on each topic your time-estimates will improve and improve.

That is what I mean by "plan, plan and plan".

Oh, I no longer think in time, my unit of doable work is the Pomodoro. More about pomos another time.

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