Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What Can You Do With 20 Minutes?

There is a popular Tumblr called UnF**k Your Habitat. They advocate a process called "20/10s". This is 20 minutes of work (cleaning, organizing, or just generally unf**king) followed by a 10 minute break. Repeat as needed to accomplish what you need to.

There is power in taking things "20 minutes" at a time. It seems manageable, particularly if what you are working on seems daunting or overwhelming in the least. If you are gearing up for finals and the last few weeks of classes, studying in 20 minute chunks will often help you more than unending hours of cramming.

Make a "single sheet":
Pretend that your instructor is allowing you to bring a single sheet of notes to your final exam. What will you put on it? Instructors that I know who employ this technique say it helps students organize the information ahead of the exam, and that writing down some of the information helps them to remember. Take it one topic at a time, and make notes you can use to study.

Do the "blank page" exercise:
Unfortunately you likely have a final exam where a page of notes won't be allowed. Help to prepare for this scenario by doing what I call the Blank Page Exercise. At the top, put a topic or a question ("how" questions are good for this). Then without looking at anything - books, notes, internet - write down everything that you can recall on your own.  This will give you confidence in what you do recall, and help you identify what you need to study more. You can use what you have written as an outline to fill in the details when you turn again to your notes, books, and other resources to study.

Use technology:
What if you are caught with an extra 20 minutes but don't have paper in front of you for even the Blank Page Exercise? Most of us keep our phone or other device handy. If you are able, download an app with photos of the human body you can label. Bookmark a website like StudyBlue with ready-made study guides and flash cards that you can use to quiz yourself. Watch a YouTube lecture on a topic or do a Kahn Academy lesson related to a chapter. Studying a topic using a number of different techniques, including technological ones, can have a real impact on your understanding. Yes, even in 20 minutes.

Record yourself:
A variation of the Blank Page Exercise without paper is to use a voice recording app on your phone or device. Putting concepts into words is an important step in preparing for essay exams. You might actually see your confidence increase when talking about the material you are learning.

What about you, readers? Any 20-minute techniques that you rely on?

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