This Is How I Study: Part 4

Inspired by the popular Lifehacker series, This Is How I Work, and the companion post from Letters to a Young Librarian, we here at Hack Library School would like to share with you some of the tools and tips we’ve learned during our time in school. This series, titled This Is How I Study, will feature questions (some original, some borrowed) about study habits and technology must-haves that we have found to be effective. You can find parts one, two, and three of the series herehere, and here. As always, we welcome comments and tweets, so feel free to share your own tried and true methods with the HLS community.

Question 4:

What is the best study tip you’ve ever received?


I can’t remember when or where I read it, but my best tip is this: the amount of time you spend on an assignment should correlate with the amount of points the assignment is worth. This is precisely what the perfectionist in me needed to hear, especially since I’ve been known to spend the same amount of time on a discussion post as I would on a longer essay. If something’s worth only a few points, I give myself an hour or so to do it, and I save my big chunks of time for more heavily weighted assignments.


My best study tip is one I eventually figured out over time as a graduate student. I am a former procrastinator, and I learned to overcome it by applying the following tip: When you have a large task, like a project or a paper, break down the assignment into smaller goals and record “due dates” on your calendar. That way, you are working on the assignment gradually, but because you have broken it into small chunks, and only working on those bits at a time (this is key! don’t try to fast forward!), it doesn’t seem like you are constantly working on it. Do your best to meet your own deadlines, and by the time the actual assignment is due, you will have a polished paper or project ready for submission, stress free!


My favorite study tip/tool is a Gantt chart. Gantt charts are basically bar graph schedules – they can be super complicated but mine are very simple. I use them to break down big projects into smaller goals/action items and then plot everything out by date. Here is a snippet from one I designed for a class:



This is a tough question! It’s especially difficult as my very last school assignment is due tomorrow (and isn’t nearly in the shape I want it to be) and I’m staring at my work inbox with a measure of panic about where to start. In other words, don’t emulate me! That said, the advice Nicole and Courtney shared about breaking assignments into smaller chunks is KEY. I’m just not good at it. A related point, though, is to start each of those items on your to-do list with a verb. So, for example, using Nicole’s Gantt chart above, “Reminder email for web survey” would be “Send reminder email for web survey” (or perhaps “Write reminder email…?”). Perhaps I should go fix my to-do list to feel less stuck on my work!


The best study tip I’ve ever received comes from my mom – and, like a lot of the tips from fellow hackers above, it relates to time management. It’s all about tricking myself gaining momentum and overcoming the difficulty of transitioning tasks. When I am feeling overwhelmed the point of paralyzing procrastination, or when I just plain don’t wanna work on something, my mom always recommends whipping out a timer. I set the timer to a manageable, non-terrifying number of minutes – usually just 15 or 30 – and then I will myself to work until the timer goes off. More often than not, by the time the timer buzzes, I’ve become so absorbed in whatever I’m doing that I just keep working!


My favorite study tip is: take breaks! When I stare at a page too long, the words start to blur and lose their meaning. Stepping away forces me to think about something else so that when I return to studying I view the text with fresh eyes. Make some tea, order a pizza, watch an episode of your favorite show, whatever you need to do (just make sure you have the self-control to get back to work)! This tip is also super useful when writing/editing papers. I can’t count how many times I’ve found simple grammatical/logical errors in my writing just by taking a break and rereading later.


The best advice I was ever given is that you should always know when to let go.  Eventually, the work is as done as it’s going to get, and you have to accept that and hand it in!  I have a tendency to keep thinking about assignments, even after they’re in and I’m supposed to be working on something else – it can be easy to distract yourself if you find an article that would have been perfect for your last essay or report.  Unless you’re actually going to get the chance to rewrite something, get it to a standard you’re happy with, hand it in and draw a line under it.

Categories: Day in the Life

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1 reply

  1. Nicole! Please do a post about your Gantt chart system! I’ve never heard of this before and it seems like an awesome way to manage multiple projects (classes, etc.) at once.


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