Bad studying habits – a case study

A friend of mine is writing her thesis (at last). She’s not reading this, so I can tell you how much her plans suck:

  • She’s made a schedule, which is basically fine. Too bad she’s planned to work ten hours every day. I told her she’d have twice more done by halving the daily toil.
  • She hasn’t scheduled free days. No socializing, no fun. Just sitting at home studying and writing. The result: she’s addicted to Facebook and online games.
  • I’ve asked her how her work is going. What does she want to say, what has she discovered. I told her describing her work to a complete ignoramus like me would get her out of social scientific jargon and be of great help in seeing things more clearly. No response. She doesn’t want to talk about her work until it’s ready.
  • I’ve asked how many pages are ready. She’s not very comfortable talking about it. And no wonder. I just heard she hasn’t even begun the actual writing. One hundred pages to go. If I remember correctly, the original deadline was somewhere in October.

I hope she makes it by sheer perseverance. I believe she’s actually capable of that. However, if I ever have to do something like that, I know I’d at least try to

  • Keep my daily portions realistic. I read somewhere Oxford mathematicians taught one can do something intellectually demanding for about two hours a day. Maybe three, but definitely not more. Use these two hours (really use) well and you’ll be as productive as you can ever be.
  • Remember the fun.
  • Talk about it to anyone willing to listen. Nobel physicist Richard Feynman said once that if you can’t describe what you’re studying to your slightly demented grandmother, you don’t have any grasp of it yourself either.
  • Talk about my schedules and advances and make the fear of public humiliation work for me.
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