How to study for exams – a highly effective technique. 

When we study for an exam, we usually have a few chapters to go through, from either one or more textbooks and perhaps some articles, and learn the material for an exam. It contains important terms, dates, definitions and some facts. You’ve read (or not) some of this material ages ago and surely don’t remember or know many important facts right now.

There is one very effective technique that can help you a lot.

How can you study to learn so much and quickly?

I’ve been using this technique for years and it always work very well for me so hopefully some of you will find it very useful too! 😉

  • (Obviously) You probably don’t have time to re-read the chapters so just skim them, looking for and highlighting the most important information. Many of the most crucial dates and terms will already be in tables or marked in some way by the authors to make them more visible which will simplify this stage a bit. Don’t highlight all the pages! Just dates, facts, definitions and a few examples!
  • Once you choose what’s most important go through your book again and make handwritten notes. In a notebook, not your book. Write down the highlighted sentences and terms. Try to be as selective as possible. Each time you go back to the text you should be able to narrow the information down more and more. The important bit here is to re-read some parts of the highlighted text and try to write the most vital things in your own words. Sometimes it may seem impossible to paraphrase something like a difficult term so just copy the authors’ words. It’s for your own use only anyway but you will need to use your own words during the exam unless you remember some quotes and then can use the exact wording. Make your notes interesting. The brain doesn’t like boring linear notes so adding some small mind maps and using colours or writing some words with a thicker pen can help with this. Funny or abstract little drawings on the sides? That’s what will help your brain remember stuff even more.
  • Take a break. Come back after a small meal and a walk or some exercises, andcarefully re-read the text. Read it out loud! Imagine that you are a teacher and try to explain the material to your students (you can speak to plants or books while practising this). It’s a very effective exercise that will help you to remember things better.
  • The next step is to take an A4 page and, bearing in mind that you have only one page for this task, summarise everything that is most important/worth remembering from the chapter you’ve skimmed and made some notes on. So basically, all the notes from one chapter now need to be narrowed down and summarised further: 1 chapter = 1 page. You decide what may be useful during the exams. You won’t be able to remember EVERYTHING anyway unless you’ve been studying hard all year—even then you’ll probably forget some facts. Again, make your notes colourful, use arrows, circle and underline the most important things to make things clear and easy to remember. Once this is done, you just need to re-read it the same day and the next day, and if you have time after 5 -7 days too. Read it while trying to understand, and if possible even imagine the meaning, of every single sentence. Turn the page upside down and try to say what you’ve read about, again like you are teaching someone about it. So, the rule is that a summary of every chapter goes on one page. You can write this using very tiny letters, but make sure it’s handwritten and colourful!
  • A day or ideally two before the exam, try to summarise your chapters even MOREall summaries of the textbook now go to one two-sided A4 page! So usually you can allow 20-30% of the page to each chapter’s summary, but it really depends on the number of chapters you have. So basically, you end up having one piece of paper with all the most important knowledge that your textbook contains. Again, make it super colourful and attractive – so you actually will want to read it. Make the letters quite small. Re-read this final summary a few times. Remember to take breaks! Keep the longer summaries (1 chapter = 1 page) with you and read them slowly in the morning before the exam, without rushing so as not to get stressed and to avoid doing these final repetitions a bit mindlessly. Then re-read your two-sided final summary with all the chapters on it.

If you follow all the steps, then you are more than ready for your exam!

Good luck!

Personal Growth project – week 1

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A bit over one week has already passed and I feel that I should provide an update on my Personal Growth project.

The first week has been extremely active and busy for me:

  • full-time work
  • considering & researching & preparing stuff related to pregnancy and the arrival of my second baby such as finding the right pushchair… and boy, let me tell you that it is really time-consuming to find something I and my husband both would like (at a reasonable price!). At the moment we are considering purchasing this pushchair model here (if any of you have/had it or knows someone who did and can let me know what you think about it – that would be superhelpful!
  • organising some stuff at home, including taking the Christmas tree down
  • cooking lessons with mum (delicious Polish dishes!)
  • first judo lesson for my daughter
  • + there were a few other things but I won’t bore you with them.
  • And of course I was working on my personal goals such as reading and writing books and blog posts

As I expected, the project seems to be working well because I feel a lot more productive and managed to achieve most of the tasks I set. It’s a bit messy and challenging but that’s what I also expected. Nevertheless, I have been enjoying it and I spent some quality time on finishing my first book, making notes for the second one, writing & reading & posting blog posts, doing some research on personal development and positive-psychology-related topics, recording a video for YouTube, and I have managed to complete a few other smaller tasks.

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I feel that although I narrowed my goals down a lot, I still need a simpler plan or fewer tasks so I could manage them more efficiently because currently I know that I do a lot but I haven’t managed to tick all of the boxes for each task yet. Again – expecting too much from myself is coming to light! And this is one of the reasons why goals may not be met so I’m glad I admitted it to myself now, earlier rather than later, because in the next week or two I’ll keep in mind that I need to work on simplifying and narrowing the project down even more.

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What has surprised me is how much I can get done when I devote a lot of time to the planning processstepping back and thinking of the most important aspects, possible problems and solutions! I’ll continue to keep a small block of time for planning at least once a week to make sure I know what I’m doing each week and what I should focus on. I haven’t yet had time to prepare any clear & nice pictures so I can share my charts, lists or mind maps with you (they are more in stage of drafts yet and a bit unreadable), but that’s on my list to-do too!

Have a  great productive day!

How to plan your 2018 GOALS smartly?

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Quite a few statistics I’ve come across indicate that approximately 92% of people who plan New Year resolutions give up on them within around a month! This is a shocking number. If you asked me about the stats before I found this information, I’d have thought it was more like a 50/50 or 40/60 ratio.

Isn’t that one of the most discouraging and demotivating statistics you’ve ever heard of?

What do you do to ensure that you are among the remaining 8% of people who get what they want in life?

Firstly we need to understand that our dreams are not goals, and vice versa.

Dreams become goals only if you are willing to work on them, if you specify them, write them down, prepare an action plan, and in any other way show commitment and effort; and naturally when you take action towards achieving them.

  • Specify:Think what your biggest dreams are and which ones you can and want to pursue. Think what you could do to fulfil them.

 

  • Be Realistic: When someone says, “Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable”, I think, “Well, if Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, (two American inventors, engineers and aviators) had thought what was realistic, what had been done before, what people of their time were able to do, they would NEVER have built and flown the world’s first airplane in 1903! If Einstein, Edison or Darwin had listened to others and had tried to set SMART goals (*goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time specific), then they surely wouldn’t have got as far as they did because many things that they invented or discovered weren’t thought to be realistic or achievable in their lifetimes!

On the other hand, it is commonly stressed in psychology-related books and articles that people OFTEN overestimate what can be done in a year and underestimate what can be done in 5 or 10 years. And certainly there is some truth in it as well. Surely we can do a lot in just one year BUT some goals such as writing books or becoming an expert in a chosen discipline may take more than a year.

It also depends on your circumstances, although they are not as vital as you think because even if you haven’t the resources you believe you need, you may find other ways around it to achieve your goals. To tell the truth people rarely have an ideal situation (enough money, contacts, time and so on).

  • Action plans:According to many different studies, people who write their goals down are more likely to achieve them. I didn’t know how important an action plan was before someone advised me to do it. I used to think I work hard on my goals but with the right action plan I’ve realised I didn’t put enough effort into my goals before.

A good action plan, and most of all FOLLOWING IT, is a real eye-opener!

I’ve realised that many people get frustrated and/or fail because they don’t plan any tasks with regard to their goals at all (and think, e.g. “I’ll learn Spanish when I find some time for it.” ) or make their action plans too strict. I used to be one of those people. For instance, I planned that I’d do something EVERY SINGLE DAY for the next X months or years! There is a quote I really like which says:

You can do anything but not everything.

Yes, so dream big, make sure you prepare and plan your goals well but DON’T forget that you need to have a flexible approach to it. For example, I have a four-year-old daughter and I’m going to give birth again in March 2018, and I’m sure that there will be days when I am not able to write anything.

Additionally to all these things that we can predict there are ALWAYS some things that we CAN’T predict. You may have to change your job and you won’t be able to exercise, write articles, design clothes or work on your business idea in the early mornings as you planned; or you may need to move and many of us know how time-consuming it is. Rather than getting irritated that we can’t have it all and do everything we want to, we should design our action plans quite flexibly – a good idea may be to write down what you will focus mostly on in each month of the next year and plan the month ahead only a few days before it starts. 

  • Reviews: Planning November or even April next year when life gets so unpredictable sometimes seems like a huge challenge. During the next year you may find out ways and techniques of working better on your goals (for example, you may do an online marketing course and find out how you can find more clients for your business) because we are constantly learning. You may get some good advice from others who achieve their goals or you may decide that your real passion and true goals are a bit different from what you thought they were. Therefore, it would be best if you review your goals and action plan regularly, for example at the end of every month(some people would prefer to do it every quarter).

 

  • Modifications: And the most important point – changing or adjusting your goals does not mean that you give up on them or that you failed. As long as you have grit and put passion and real effort into whatever you’d like to do it still counts! There definitely will be days when you will have doubts and lose your confidence but remember these are JUST YOUR THOUGHTSgenerated by your own mind. If you need a break, take a few days’ break, don’t think about your goals at all and then with a fresh eye and energy consider what you can improve to become more productive and effective, and to accelerate your progress.

 

I’m very interested in what you think about this and what your plans for 2018 are!

 

A few words about positive psychology

I’ve been interested in personal growth for as long as I can remember. Before I learnt the word ‘self-growth’ I thought that my interest was mainly in the learning process:

  • How can some people learn so quickly?
  • Why do some of us seem to have sharper brains?
  • Why are some people more productive and achieve more things effectively than others?
  • Why did my encounter with foreign languages used to be such a disaster but a few years abroad prove that I can learn a foreign language, or languages, if I really want to? (And it’s important to add here that some people who live abroad actually choose not to learn almost any of the foreign language at all).

Then I realised that it always been personal development in general that has been so interesting for me. There are so many different aspects and I enjoy reading and learning about all of them: motivation, time usage (time management, as some people say, but I don’t like the phrase), productivity, achieving one’s goals, the impact of different habits (sleep, nutrition, technology usage) on one’s happiness, stress levels and work-life balance.

Although the topic of self-growth had already been considered by ancient philosophers, the first study about achieving goals was done in the 1930s. Then there was a long period with not much significant research in the field, mainly due to world wars, when psychologists and other scholars focused more on dealing with and helping people who had suffered post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. There wasn’t much government interest or money for studies which would focus on positive psychology and peoples’ strengths and personal growth. It was more about survival than personal development. During this time five times more articles about negative symptoms and states such as depression were published compared with the ones which spoke about self-growth and strengths. So psychology became a science of mental diseases and disorders. Then positive psychology and coaching emerged and became as popular as ever in the last couple of decades.

Now it’s difficult to focus on one topic linked to personal development. There are so many of them! Let’s take the term ‘emotional intelligence’—that’s a huge area with lots of different studies and scientists involved!

I feel sometimes that different aspects related to self-growth are so intriguing that it’s hard to be selective enough and focus on particular narrow topics. What about you? What are you most interested in?

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