For Aron: Increasing Efficiency

>> Saturday, January 2, 2010

Aron told me: My first semester didn't go that well. I got a B- in all my classes. My parents where happy with the scores, but I'm not. I made stupid mistakes on my tests and I could have understood the material better. If it was a real engineering project, I could have killed someone. I need to get better at training for my profession to be an effective engineer. It's not a matter of time, I spend every moment I can in the library and I use to program called leechblock to block all the sites that can waste my time. I can only get more efficient. After reviewing the material with some of my professors, most of my mistakes where misunderstandings. I made a list of things I could do to be more efficient. Do you think this will be effective? They are in order from most important to lest important. Lecture day procedure -Hand write a copy of lecture notes -Complete Gantt chart activities {I break down my problem sets and reading into bit sized chunks on a Gantt chart, I find it very effective} -Write down how I completed each question on problem set -Type copy of lecture notes in Onenote -Review lecture recordings and type in material uncover by personal notes -Read relevant Wikipedia articles and type in material uncovered by personal notes -Review references used in textbook -Create relevant flash cards based on material reviewed that day -Create practice questions based on material reviewed that day -Watch relevant Youtube videos {There are some real great lessons on the topics I cover on Youtube, I feel I need to make time to watch them} -Get one day ahead on Gantt chart actives -Complete club responsibilities -Submit end of day actives Email {I have a friend who will let me send the a report with the things I planned to get done during that day and the things that I actually got done during that day. He said he would get on my tail if I don't keep up with my schedule} -Check all emails ------------------------------- Non-lecture day procedure -Complete Gantt chart actives -Spend 5 hours on lab actives -Compile lecture notes for Youtube lecture -Record myself lecturing on the material in class and post on youtube -Create relevant flash cards based on material reviewed that day -Create practice questions based on material reviewed that day -Compile a practice test -Get one day ahead on Gantt chart actives -Complete club responsibilities -Submit end of day actives Email -Check all emails

Aron, darling, when you're struggling with a full plate, there are several potential problems.

One is a lack of organization. I don't think that's your problem. Clearly you take your education seriously and want to do your best. And you make sacrifices to accomplish your goals.

Another is having more than one can fit in a day in your day. That could be part of your problem. There are so many hours in the day and filling each and every day with an endless litany of repeating activities that may or may not stimulate your mind can not only be disheartening and exhausting, but also can turn off the useful/creative parts of your brain, the very pieces you want to stimulate.

With just so many hours in the day, what should you do? My thought is to (a) find a creative outlet or something that give you pleasure, preferably something that doesn't directly deal with school, or (b) find a physical activity that you can do without too many restrictions (like facilities, cost or time available). The goal is to find something to relieve stress, something that you enjoy that you can use to preclude burnout (which is all but a given with the all-work, no-play itinerary you've given). This is not just to keep from going crazy, but also to help you focus. When it comes to learning, too much can make it harder to focus, rather than helping you learn.

Give yourself the time you need to do each of your necessary tasks and add repetition judiciously. Piling it on can become counterproductive. If there's something you struggle with, practice those, but not everything indiscriminately. The feeling of being overwhelmed is hardly conducive to learning or good work.

Take a break once in a while. See a movie, go to dinner with a friend, read a book that takes you away from your work instead of adds to it. Those mindbreaks can do wonders for giving it the rest it needs before absorbing more.

I have complete faith in your abilities, Aron. Good luck!


  • Jeff King

    Amen steph, good advice.

  • Patricia Rockwell

    Aron, I too agree with Stephanie that you're probably overdoing the organized studying. I remember reading an interesting research report that compared the lecture notes of students who ultimately got A's in the course to those who ultimately got much lower grades. It turned out that the students with the lower grades had beautiful, organized notes, that they recopied, retyped, etc (sort of like what you're doing). The A students had rather sloppy-looking notes with coffee stains, dog-eared corners, etc. The A students' notes were often unreadable by an outsider. What this suggests is that your lecture notes should work for you--not be a project in and of themself. Keep your notes with you, read over them often, study them--but other than that--they're just notes.

  • soubriquet

    Aron, reading your problem, I'd say you're putting too much emphasis on trying to organise, and too little on effective learning.
    You also need to take greater care in your use of language. Learn the difference between 'where' and 'were'.
    I'd suggest looking at wear, too. One day you might meet a sentence like "On the diagram, the marked points were where wear was occurring".

    "I use to program"? Did you mean "I use a program"?
    "most important to lest important" least? or less? (lest we forget).

    I'm not being picky. being able to write clearly is a vital skill for an engineer. Writing something that is either factually incorrect or ambiguous could also get somebody killed.
    If, say, you were writing instructions for the use of a piece of equipment, it could prove fatal if the reader had to take a guess what you mean when you write where, or were, or wear.
    Last point. Wikipedia is not a reliable source for anything. Treat it as hearsay, nothing on Wikipedia should be trusted until it has been checked elsewhere. Use the library, read texts that are peer-reviewed and written by respected experts in your field.

  • Stephanie B

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Stephanie B

    I appreciate what you're trying to do, Soubriquet, but I feel I have to note. Aron (and my husband) get slack from me on spelling because of their dyslexia. I happen to understand (as much as someone who doesn't have the issue) how much of an effort the reading and writing effectively can be. Homonyms are a particular nightmare for the dyslexic. Just sayin'.

    I also understand that part of the reason Aron has a certain level of overkill on his list is because learning from reading is a particular challenge. He's not wrong in thinking it's essential (and Soubriquet's not wrong on thinking effective writing is essential). I maintain, however, that, if it's not working so well for him, it's because he's burning himself out.

    Try not to demand the world from yourself and take the good advice from Patricia and Soubriquet as well. It's not how many hours you spend on your learning but what you absorb that really counts. Be effective, but don't put too much pressure on yourself.

  • Aron Sora

    @Stephanie B
    That makes sense, I did better at the beginning of the year when I was blogging then at the end when I gave up blogging.

    I know writing is a weak area of mine, that why I started to blog. I had a gaming blog freshmen year of high school. Thank you for pointing out the mistakes.

    @Patricia Rockwell
    I made this study plan based on the idea of handing out my notes to help my friends. I need to rethink this plan, maybe my sloppy notes are ok. Thank you.

  • soubriquet

    Aron: I looked at your blog. That's pretty cool, I'm sorry if my comment sounded picky, I take Stephanie's point, I'm not good at all, myself, with mathematics, I struggle, and things slip, I just can't grasp and pull the loose ends together, I used to set myself mental math problems to try persuade my brain to improve, but, it seems my brain's wired for language, before math.
    So, perhaps I put too great an emphasis on spelling and grammar.
    I think, really, the important thing is enthusiasm and the will to succeed, and it definitely seems you have that, and the ability to undertake complex projects.
    Keep going!
    And... a last thought. Back when I was a student, one of my tutors gave me a quotation, which I stuck on the wall above my overloaded desk. It's from Doctor Samuel Johnson, "Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it"
    At its root, it reminds us that we don't need to try to know everything, that sometimes it's enough to know where to look for the information.

  • Stephanie B

    Soubriquet, I understood where you came from, seriously. My husband (and brother's dyslexia) has taught me some tolerance (though I don't edit my own posts like I should, so I am not perfect either, by any stretch).

    I think that's an excellent quote and a great piece of advice. My ability to find data has served me 20-fold my innate knowledge (and also increases my chances that the data I move forward with is up-to-date and accurate).

  • flit

    one thing that I think is worth mentioning, too, is that a B- is NOTHING to be ashamed of many academic programs, a C is average, and is what the majority of students are supposed to get.

    As a prof, I get my hand smacked if I give too many As and Bs...

    Given the challenges you work with, I think you are doing extremely well, really.

    I do like Patricia's advice re: notes - especially after I saw that you said you were spending time making 'em pretty for other people!!! Make them work for YOU. Period. Full stop.

  • california nursing schools

    I got to agree with what you said that time must be set for rest days. It's hard to work when your mind is so clouded because there are too many things to do. Set a time to meditate or to rest and you'll see that your thoughts will be a lot clearer.

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