Written By: Henry Fleischacker
I’ve witnessed a student who averaging in the category of vocabulary took up the suggestion of making note cards with his vocab words and studying them for ten minutes each day. I told him no more than ten minutes, so as not to become exhausted by the technique. Honestly, two minutes of intentional study each day can do more than twenty minutes of half-conscious work. This result is because anything intentionally done also works in the back of the mind when focused elsewhere and in sleep when at rest. Two minutes of intentional study becomes, unbeknownst to many, many more minutes of examination. And my student improved from an average to a B student within a month. Onwards to the A class.
Managing study habits appears different for everyone since all persons possess a different capacity to complete intentional focus from beginning to end. A tutor is great at recognizing when a tutee should stop focusing, for intentional study will create endurance naturally. In other words, a student who intentionally studies for two minutes will be much better off than one who studies half-consciously for half an hour. The intentional two minutes will naturally build endurance as the student recognizes his or her self-achievement. Such a goal is hardly recognizable when the kid is forced to study longer than they can endure, not because they are forced to endure longer, but because they are forced into half-conscious study (and almost every kid will be half-conscious). Don’t subject yourself to time. Subject time to your capacity, and let the rest take care of itself. When I was younger, five minutes turned into an hour or two as I continued stopping where I needed to.
The environment is relevant to how each student can enter into intentional study. Sometimes, silence is needed. Other times, music. I’ve mixed in study music, classical, even allowed pop, and of course pure silence with all my students, at various times, and in various combinations. The tone of the ambience contributes to the tone of the work ethic.
In addition to the ambience is the physical setting. Some students better enter their intentional focus on a comfortable couch. Personally, I need a chair and table with my journal and favorite pen. Some students enter ‘the zone’, as it were, in ever-changing environments. One day they relax in the living room; the next is the dining table. Some people need the same space for a time being. Work backwards: get one example in your own life of entering intentional study - be it two minute or twenty - and examine the environmental circumstances. What surroundings contributed to your action? Is it consistent, or must it change? What is your ideal situation?
Lastly, intentional focus oftens demands a physical and mental ‘mapping out’ of the subject(s) at hand. Have some space paper and a favorite pen or pencil close by. Jot down responses to your environment, your thoughts, your work, whether it be related or not to the topic, so as to take account of the details of yourself and your surroundings. This jotting down will serve as an exhaust pipe to your energy, allowing self-reflection and self-improvement as well as longer endurance for your mind’s eye.
Together, short intentional focus, an ideal environment, and a means of mapping out your mind will craft better study habits at home and beyond in preparation for academic achievement and success.