I’m an efficient shopper.
I’ve fine-tuned the art of getting in and out of a mall in the minimum possible time, all required purchases made.
There are two good reasons for this proficiency:
1. I’ve done enough shopping in my life to reach expert level.
2. I hate shopping.
It’s number 2 which motivates me.
If there’s stuff I need to buy, I just want to get in and out as quickly as I can. I don’t like the crowds in malls, and I hate having to choose between 36 brands of cereal; all of them cardboard, or trying on 15 pairs of black ballet pumps only to go back to the first shop and buy the first pair I saw.
I know some people love this…and that’s fine. Each to their own.
But I hate it, and to make it bearable I have to have a method of getting it done. And this is it…
Step 1: I write a list of what I need to buy.
Step 2: I put the stuff in order of priority – so if I run out of steam by item 43 I at least won’t have forgotten the pair of yellow Avengers Crocs or the AA batteries for the XBox Controller. (No wonder I hate shopping…)
Step 3: I mentally map out my route around the mall. If I want groceries, the supermarket has to be the last stop – I’m not carrying tins of Yellowfin Tuna and Pedigree Chum around the beauty section of Sogo. My route has to be sensible: no walking past a shop to the other end of the mall only to retrace my steps. Luckily I know the location of every shop in PIM 1 and 2 so this is an easy task.
Step 4: I decide where to park. See the grocery point above – I’m going to park there, even if the first stop on my route is the other side of the mall.
Step 5: I plan a rough timeline, so I know after which shop, and in which convenient location to stop for coffee, and more coffee, and maybe lunch. I determine my ‘wish-list leaving time’. Then I also determine the ‘I absolutely will give-up time’. In Jakarta this is dictated by the traffic. It’s the time at which I will leave the mall regardless of the state of play because I prefer not to spend 2 and a half hours travelling 8 kilometres home.
If you’re still with me, by now you’re either nodding in agreement because you do exactly the same thing or wondering if I really need to chill out, relax and go with the shopping flow. Either way you’re definitely wondering why on earth I’m telling you about my shopping habits.
It’s because of the Approaches to Learning.
(*Reminder: Thinking Skills, Research Skills, Communication Skills, Social Skills and… Self-Management Skills)
Shopping and Self-Management Skills?
Let’s look again at the shopping steps…
1. Have a To-do List
3. Mentally prepare
4. Position yourself
5. Work out a timeline – including contingency time
Doesn’t it sound like a recipe for meeting deadlines, not missing homework, being organised and getting stuff done efficiently?
Students, let’s examine each one:
A Recipe for Good Time Management
- The To-Do List
A vital piece of kit, the to-do list gets the tasks taking up space in your head down on paper. You won’t forget them and you get that feeling of satisfaction when you cross them off. Find a method which works for you: paper, post-its, notes on your desktops, apps on your phone… My personal favourite is Todoist. This Chrome app and extension sits in your toolbar and attaches to your email. I love being able to easily ‘add email as task’ when something drops in my inbox I’ve got to deal with. I can set reminders, break it down into smaller tasks and…
The list is all very well, but if you can’t decide what you should do first, you’re heading for Procrastination Park, and that won’t get you anywhere fast. So, colour code, number, order by date, whatever you need to do to work out what’s first. Good questions to ask are: ‘when’s the deadline?’ Closest goes first. ‘Does someone else depend on me doing this?’ You need to get it done for their sake as well as your own.
- Mentally prepare
A good way to avoid procrastination is to visualise yourself having completed the task. What will you be doing after your Maths homework is finished? Munching on caramel popcorn while watching your favourite movie? Skyping your best friend to chat about the day’s latest gossip? Checking out Instagram or playing League of Legends? Whatever it is, imagine yourself doing it, content in the knowledge that your Maths homework is done – then get on with your Maths homework.
Another method of mental preparation involves setting yourself a smaller goal. If an 800 word History essay makes you want to cry, instead visualise the first paragraph of your essay. Then set yourself the goal of writing just that paragraph. Do it. You might actually find you’re ready to keep going without shedding a tear.
- Position Yourself
You’re not going to get that blog post written lying on your sofa with your feet up. You’re not going to get your review of Physics done sinking in your beanbag. Getting yourself into the right position for getting stuff done has a real effect on your learning and your recall.
Studies have found that students who sit in the front and centre of the classroom achieve higher exam scores (Rennels & Chaudhari, 1988, and Giles, 1982). You might think this is because this is where the motivated students sit, but actually it’s likely because of better vision, better hearing, less distractions and greater eye contact with the teacher which increases your sense of personal responsibility to engage in learning.
Studies of memory also show that we remember better in the same state as when we learn something. So studying in the same sort of position as you are likely to have to recall is a good idea.
Table 8.2 Helpful Memory Techniques Based on Psychological Research
|Use elaborative encoding.||Material is better remembered if it is processed more fully.||Think, for instance, “Proactive interference is like retroactive interference but it occurs in a forward manner.”|
|Make use of the self-reference effect.||Material is better remembered if it is linked to thoughts about the self.||Think, for instance, “I remember a time when I knew the answer to an exam question but couldn’t quite get it to come to mind. This was an example of the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon.”|
|Be aware of the forgetting curve.||Information that we have learned drops off rapidly with time.||Review the material that you have already studied right before the exam to increase the likelihood it will remain in memory.|
|Make use of the spacing effect.||Information is learned better when it is studied in shorter periods spaced over time.||Study a little bit every day; do not cram at the last minute.|
|Rely on overlearning.||We can continue to learn even after we think we know the information perfectly.||Keep studying, even if you think you already have it down.|
|Use context-dependent retrieval.||We have better retrieval when it occurs in the same situation in which we learned the material.||If possible, study under conditions similar to the conditions in which you will take the exam.|
- Work out a timeline. (Including contingency time).
The most important thing you can do to ensure you meet deadlines is plan to have the thing done in advance. For a single piece of homework, this might be one day before. For a longer piece of work this should be at least a week before. If you’ve planned for this, if anything crops up or anything goes awry, you’ve still got some time to make it.
Working out a timeline also involves breaking down that larger task into the smaller component tasks. If you’ve got a Written Task to do for English, your to-do list should look something like this:
– Complete English Written Task (By Next Tuesday (Final deadline is next Thursday – 2 days contingency))
1. Complete brainstorm of ideas for task (tonight)
2. Write 200-300 word rationale (by tomorrow night)
3. Complete detailed paragraph plan (by Saturday)
4. Write introduction and first paragraph (on Sunday)
5. Write the rest of the task (on Monday)
6. Check over task for errors and correct any parts I don’t like (on Tuesday – my deadline)
Obviously this is a close deadline. For Internal Assessment and your Extended Essay you’ll have months to do it so you’ll have to attach actual dates to your timeline.
Doing this has so many advantages. Firstly by breaking the task into smaller steps it’s easier to get started (See ‘Mentally Prepare’ above). Secondly with something creative like a Written Task in English you have to leave it and go back to it. Your ideas might have changed slightly, or you see errors your didn’t spot the first time round and this results in a better piece of work. You wouldn’t expect to paint a masterpiece in a two hour time slot, would you? So why would you expect to do a great piece of writing like that? You’ll be forced to do so in the exams and this is what makes them unpleasant – don’t put yourself through that with homework too.
In the end, I can only give you some tips on time-management. It’s really up to you to implement them, but if you find the workload increasing and your ability to manage it decreasing then this is the advice I’ll give you…again and again. My suggestion? Do your self a favour now, and find a to-do list system which works for you, get out the highlighters and prioritise, manage your mind to prepare yourself for study, sort out your study space and embrace timelines.
Not only will your study habits improve but you’ll never miss a deadline and you might become a pretty efficient shopper too.
Parents, teachers and students, do you have any tried and tested time management strategies which work for you? Share in the comments…