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Thursday Thirteen: Best Study and Work Habits

July 9th, 2009

Happy Thursday 13, to all you usual suspects. I haven’t been over here for a long time, sorry! Bad blogger. Bad.

This morning, I am once again putting off studying. How am I ever going to make it through grad school if I can’t even get through this one little class? I am tormenting myself and the Internet. How am I going to teach my kids good study habits, for middle school, high school and college? I had a hard time my first two years at college (Portland State University, gooooo Vikings!) because before I could pass any classes I had to learn to study.

Now, I realize that it’s summer, and for some people, school is the last thing on their minds. But I am hoping to be accepted into a graduate teaching program, and get a dual endorsement to be a media specialist (aka: Librarian), too. For educators, summer means time to take those extra classes and brush up on your skills. And for those of you who are parents… reading abilities tend to fall behind in the summer, but math skills really take a hit. Why bother, when there are all those good video games to play, right? Please do what you can to keep your kids’ heads in the game, so to speak.

Here are some tips, for yourself or anyone who might need them. These can also be tailored for work situations… Hope they help!

1) Focus. I try to work out every morning, even if it’s just a little deep breathing and yoga to stretch. A walk helps, or better yet a run. Once your head is clear you can make a plan.

2) Have a snack, make a cup of tea, grab a bottle of water, use the restroom — no excuses to get up once you’re studying.

3) Have everything ready — post-its, sharpened pencils, a notebook to take notes, index cards. I’ve been using index cards to scribble down definitions. My class is Psychology 311, Human Development, and my term paper — only five pages, not too bad! — is to write down my life story, with “explicit reference to the facts, principles, and theories presented in the text.” First of all, that’s crazy. Second of all, I’m a blogger! I can deal.

4) Find a spot where you won’t be tempted to take a nap.

5) Read. Read, read, read. Blink. Read, read, read. Blink. It takes me sometimes a half an hour to really get into my textbook.

6) I try to put myself into my kids’ shoes. (They are going into 2nd and 5th grade.) They truly have no incentives to do homework. They know they’re not going to flunk, even if they bail on their homework half the time. It’s boring. Worksheets are usually involved. It’s too easy. Or too hard. Or too, uh, boring? Yeah, that’s it, Mom! They are not being challenged! Now this one especially pertains to work. No one likes the drudge work. No one. But it has to be done. So I try to stress to my kids that they can’t just cherry-pick their assignments — sometimes it takes pages of drudge work before you get to the fun or interesting stuff.

7) Don’t complain, whine or have a fit. The work could be done in the time spent doing that.

8) Rewards are good. I know after I finish this class, my employer will reimburse me the $400+ I plunked down for the class. If I bail on the class, I don’t get reimbursed. That is a good incentive. For younger kids, it can be something as small as a sticker chart, a nice dinner out, a trip to the park, or maybe baking cookies. For bigger kids? I’m sorry, but you might have to be mean. No TV time, no techno toys, no sleepovers unless that homework is getting done.

9) Try not to let anything stand in your way — the phone, someone dropping by (your house or your desk at work), drama… keep it at bay. When you let others know how important your studying (or project) is to you, they will back off and (hopefully) the interruptions will dwindle. (Edited to say: I forgot the most important thing — unless you’re using the computer for research (my class, for instance, has cool flashcards I can access online. They helped so much with the two tests I’ve taken so far) — STAY OFF THE COMPUTER. NO blogs, Facebook, e-mail, nada.)

10) Pace yourself. Set aside chunks of time for various parts of the project, or schedule study blocks so you don’t have to pull any all-nighters. My kids had three or four big projects apiece this year. (First and fourth grade! Please. I thought that was a little too much pressure.) Dino reports, speeches, animal projects — it was crazy. So we charted it out: Diorama materials gathered up one night; diorama assembled the next night. Index cards compiled; speech outlined; speech written. I think they’re going to be ready for college in three years, at this rate.

11) Another thing — don’t pressure yourself or your kids too much. Relax. At the end of the year, I finally started drawing lines through my son’s homework. (Huge packets, weekly.) He’d finish a chunk of it, then another chunk. I would draw a line through whatever didn’t get finished, initial it, and write a note for the teacher saying, “This is as much as we were able to complete in the hour we spent on homework three nights this week.” It is insane the pressure that is put on kids now.

12) That being said, it has become necessary now more than ever to learn to get along/go along. (There are a lot of us out here who feel lucky to even have a job, or be able to go to school.) Life and work — what are you going to do, you know? The bills need to get paid, the classes need to be completed. Working as part of a small group? You can expect that at least one person will bail out and “let” the others do the work. Just do the work to the best of your ability and get on with things. It will be obvious to whoever is in charge (teacher, boss, supervisor) who was and wasn’t responsible.

13) Look on the bright side — it’s pretty cool to pull off something you didn’t want to deal with, or thought you couldn’t handle. That sense of completion is pretty satisfying.

OK, off to study now.



  1. Alice Audrey says

    I have had the worst time trying to get my kids to do homework! It’s that drudge thing. They are too stubborn to do it.

    July 9th, 2009 | #

  2. she says

    these are GREAT tips! great tt!

    July 9th, 2009 | #

  3. LIB says

    Good list, WM! Best wishes with the whole school/study thing!

    July 9th, 2009 | #

  4. mitchypoo says

    There is a difference when you want to be in school, instead of having to be in high school or even college. It was difficult for me, being an older student, but the sense of accomplishment is wonderful. You can do it!

    July 9th, 2009 | #

  5. Bitter Sweet Moments says

    Great list. I should have paid more attention to these when I was in school:) Happy Thursday.

    July 9th, 2009 | #

  6. My Home Comforts says

    Great list! Happy T13.

    July 9th, 2009 | #

  7. Nan says

    Good tips! Hope all goes well with the studies. You are setting such a great example for your kids.

    July 10th, 2009 | #

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