Reaching for That A in School? Focus Like a Laser

What separates an A performance in class from a C? Often, the A student is not any smarter than the C student. It is more likely that he or she has better focus and study habits. What is meant by better focus? It is the ability to direct our energy effectively toward a purpose. In this case that purpose is to master the course material and to produce A results.
How do you harness energy to produce higher marks? Here are some thoughts:
o Dedicate enough time to your studies. A good rule of thumb is to dedicate 2.5 to 3 hours of study time per course for each hour in class. If you spend 15 hours per week in class, that works out to around 35 to 45 hours per week— the equivalent of a full time job! How do you find that time? Set aside 1 to 3 hour time-blocks and make use of your time between classes.
o Hone your study skills. How you study makes a big difference. Some techniques work better than others. Some are proven to get great results and are worth perfecting. Here are some skills worth mastering:
1. Effective reading – make sure you are pre-reading or skimming the material; then, deep-read for important concepts and information; finally, review what you have read.
2. Quality note taking – are you taking good notes in class and during your deep-reading? Notes should succinctly reflect key ideas, relationships, important developments, key people, key dates, etc.
3. Writing essays – are you identifying engaging topics, preparing useful essay outlines? Are you then staying on point, giving great insights, and following with persuasive conclusions?
4. Problem solving – are you quickly identify the problem? Try starting by evaluating the information/situation at hand, then formulate alternative solutions and choose the best one.
5. Prioritizing assignments: are you prioritizing your assignments? More difficult assignments should be given more time. Large assignments should be broken into smaller parts, then completed over time. You should schedule assignments such that all are completed ahead of time, then reviewed.
6. Studying for tests: do you review your notes, develop and answer key questions, make a hit-list of important concepts, people, developments, dates, and use pre-test visualization to perform well?
o Manage your time wisely. Put another way, manage yourself wisely so that you can do more in less time. A good time management plan will allow you to prioritize your assignments. Start by reviewing the requirements of each course. Ask yourself what it will take to master the course material and to get an A. Let the answer to that question guide you in prioritizing assignments and activities.
Allocate priority time to difficult or long assignments. Naturally, time-sensitive assignments must also be given high priority. Learn to shut down distractions – phone calls, text messaging, TV, drop-ins and other time-wasters. Get a weekly planner or calendar. Block out time slots to work on specific assignments. If you have the ability to delegate non-academic chores (trips to the store, pizza runs, etc) do so.
o Use visualization as a power study tool. Take a few minutes out before starting a new school assignment to imagine yourself doing an excellent job. See yourself working hard on the assignment and working with a high level of skill and ability. By consciously using your imagination to practice performing tasks successfully, you significantly increase your chance of performing well in the physical world. Stay very positive and practice each imaginary performance a few times before starting the assignment. Follow your visualization with your maximum effort to duplicate in the physical world what you just imagined.
o Make use of all resources. Studying is only one way to learn. We learn more when we use our other senses and when we experience things in a variety of ways. There are other great ways to master information. If you have questions or need clarification regarding the material, call or visit your instructor. Attend lectures or presentations covering topics that you are studying. Discuss material with classmates. They may understand a point or a concept better than you. Use the Internet. You can Google almost any topic and get useful information. Sometimes others have published material online that explains a concept or subject in clearer terms. Also, make use of the library to get additional information.
o Lastly, eat well, get plenty of rest and exercise daily. Staying focused and maintaining a high level of energy require a strong body. Eat several light but balanced meals daily. Take a daily multi-vitamin. Drink plenty of fluids. Exercise at least 30 – 60 minutes a day. Some find it helpful to schedule two or three short exercise sessions that add up to 60 minutes. Get at least eight hours of rest each day.
As you approach your studies, make sure to build in some time to relax between assignments and to get away from it all periodically.
Naturally, you should attend all of your classes and participate actively. Finally, when you are studying, put in your maximum effort. Use these techniques to channel your energy like a laser and to grab that A.

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