Monday, November 26, 2018
AT&T sponsors a huge college football game each year in Dallas. During the breaks in the game, they have celebrities, including the coaches from each team, take the pledge to not text and drive. They blast their “it can wait” slogan. AT&T’s campaign has over 20 million supporters. However, data from dmv.org indicates 1 in 4 car crashes are the result of texting and driving, and 9 people die every day from distracted driving. We know we shouldn’t text and drive. Many of us even pledge to make changes, but in the end, many people still succumb to the same bad habits, even when they are extremely dangerous.
Students fall into similar traps as distracted drivers. They make plans and pledge to study more. Some even incorporate more practice questions into the plans. However, many students fall back into the same bad habits of re-reading outlines and studying throughout the night. If distracted driving is a hard habit to break when the dangers are serious, then changing study habits will be near impossible without mechanisms in place to ensure quality studying.
My wife has a great quote on her wall in her office. It is “dreams don’t work unless you do.” I write often about how to plan for finals and the bar exam. I believe planning is critical for success, but I always tell students in my bar prep class that students must plan and execute the plan. Execution is critical. Plans only work when followed. The key is to figure out how to follow your plan.
The first step after creating the plan is to remove distractions. Plans are great until a Kardashian posts a new Instagram story that is breaking news or when a friend sends a text. After chasing rabbits for an hour, you may get back to studying. Too many rabbit holes and you studied half the planned time. When sitting down to study, get rid of distractions. You can put your phone in another room or under some papers. Print out your outlines and turn off your computer. Study in the library so you can’t see the clutter in your house. Removing distractions is the first step to successful studying.
After removing distractions, chunk your studying to improve execution and motivation. Studying for long periods the same way without breaks is exhausting. When reviewing material, look at outlines in chunks. Understand the big picture skeletal outline. After understanding the big picture, look at information within sub-topics. Then, complete a few practice multiple choice questions or issue spot an exam. Switching between tasks helps improve focus because the tasks aren’t monotonous. Also, completing a task is rewarding. Finishing a chunk marks something off our list, which many people find satisfying. We are then more motivated to completed the next chunk.
The last step to executing your plan is constant evaluation. In theory, plans are great. However, sometimes we make bad plans. I make bad plans all the time. I overschedule myself by underestimating how much time a task will take. I think leaving the house each morning should only take 5 minutes, but my 8 and 4 year old tend to double that amount of time, on the best days. Studying is the same way. You may think it only takes a couple hours to study agency (or any other topic), but after 6 hours, you may be off schedule. Evaluate your progress at each major break, which is normally lunch and dinner. Make adjustments as needed. Evaluation and modifying your plan can help improve how much you accomplish.
Making plans is a great first step to studying. Work your plan to accomplish more by eliminating distractions, chunking studying, and evaluating progress. Those steps will put you in a good position on exam day.