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James Ash

One idea I'm experimenting with as an organic chemistry tutor as far as "study in small chunks" is making a series of short quizzes (that could be done in 5 minutes or a little more) and getting an email program to automatically send them to the students' inbox at appropriate times in the future. It should be pretty easy to set this up yourself. It helps prevent students from descending the "forgetting curve". The key is to make the emails short such that there isn't a strong barrier to opening them.


The New York Times is into this theme:

Forget what you know about good study habits (Benedict Carey, New York Times, 9/6/10)


Thanks for the post, Bob. I agree, it is tremendously difficult to “pace yourself” when the pace of everything around you is already rapidly moving. With multitasking and tremendous expectations of the workplace, it is difficult to slow down, let alone stop to take a breath. Even on the marathon journey, everyone needs to stop for a water break. As a full-time employee also pursuing my M.B.A., I will certainly remember this list as it contains many great reminders.

Ellen O'Rourke

Bob, thank you for sharing the BPS learnings. Number one struck me as true. As a returning student there is a difference in my mindset. When I was attending my undergraduate program twenty years ago I lacked confidence and was unsure of my abilities. I also treated my education as a commodity. Twenty years later, I have started graduate school and there is a difference in my mindset. After years of adult learning in the business world I have come to believe that I bring a valuable perspective and an important set of life experiences to the training classes I attend at work. This mindset has transferred to my participation in graduate school. I have learned to question my assumptions, I have found that I am more secure and confident, and I contribute to classroom discussion - something I would never have done twenty years ago. I completely agree with you when you say “if you believe you can, you can.” Personal investment in one's education does yield better performance and success.

Eric Schwarzrock

#5 is excellent. When you cram for a test it’s the equivalent to stuffing your mouth at a Chinese buffet just to go home and puke kung pao projectiles all over the toilet. Instead, eat a fair amount of snacks everyday and reap the nutrients and manageable servings. Reading and problem solving in spurts allows you brain to digest the information and retain the data.

Jeffrey Thomas

I found the list to be very interesting. I have struggled with a number of examples on the list. Getting a good nights sleep and setting a pace while learning are two areas I personally have found to be important and am working on improving.


Advice from college professors whose own skin (off spring) is in the game is likely most valuable.

From Greg Mankiw's "Advice for Frosh" a link to his NYT column
that starts

". . . And this year, I am sending the first of my own children off to college. Which raises these questions: What should they be learning? And what kind of foundation is needed to understand and be prepared for the modern economy? Here is my advice for students of all ages . . ."

Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Thank you for sharing these! I am a middle school special education teacher, and this sort of information is good stuff for me to share with my students.

Wally Bock

Thanks, Bob. This is a really helpful post. For people my age ( 64 and a half) the point about the plasticity of the brain is vital. We grew up learning that IQ and other talents were essentially fixed. My mother now seems so wise since she refused to let the schools give my sister and me an IQ test. When I asked her about that years later she said, "They wanted to pigeon-hole you and you're not a pigeon."

The points about sleep are critical, too. It's been a big life lesson for me that sleep is one of the most important variables that I can control. When you get enough, things have the best prospect of going well. When you don't, it's like loosening the bonds on your inner jerk. Plus you're more likely to over-eat and less likely to exercise discipline of any kind. Vince Lombardi said that "fatigue makes cowards of us all," but it's seems more accurate to say that it turns us into sloppy, undisciplined jerks.

I've added a link to this post to my own, "Read Better, Do Better" with links to posts on business book selection and creating a self-development program. It's at

Ali R. Khan

Learning is Fun if you make it and i really do believe on your point nice...If you believe you can,

Ali R. Khan

Serhiiy Yevtushenko

I would like to point out on another evidence based research about learning, which was done in cognitive psychology. For learning about them, one could read Cognitive Psychology by J.R. Anderson, or look at PQ4R method (Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, Recite, Review). Some summaries could be found here:

Alexandru Bolboacă

I think vivid examples are wonderful for raising interest, but they need to be followed by theory or practice.

As a trainer for software developers, I can tell that experiential learning is the best. First try to do something, then learn how you can do it better and then try on the new skills.


I disagree that 1 is magical thinking, after all, we know that our brains are plastic, so why handicap ourselves unnecessarily by believe they aren't?

That said, number 9 needs a slight readjustment because, as John suggests, self-belief is only helpful if it is a task you actually *can* do. If you can't, then high levels of self-belief lead to high levels of depression as your failure comes as a shock and you are constantly faced with your own unexpected inadequacy.

It's the "unexpected" that causes the problem here, expected failure doesn't upset us much. Finding the level of self-belief where we believe we can but are not disappointed if we can't is It's a tricky balance to strike.

Andrew Meyer

Curiosity. Universities are the greatest places to follow your curiosity, find people with similar curiosities and get honest feedback from people with experience who may like or dislike the idea.


Another good resource for students is Karl Wirth and Dexter Perkins's "Learning to Learn", summarizing research on learning

Students also need to recognize the shadow curriculum - Bill Coplin's "10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College: The Know-How You Need to Succeed"

Peter Drucker's quotes to remember:

"When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course"

"Education gives you neither experience nor wisdom"

And Tom Magliozzi's Car-Talk comments, just for perspective

John Jenkins

1&9 seem like magical thinking to me.

You can't do something if you don't try to do it, but just because you try doesn't mean you can do it. So while half of the idea works (if you think you can't, you can't, at least to the extent you don't try), the other half is simply false.

I think a better mindset is one where you simply don't cut yourself off from TRYING based on your predispositions about what you can and can't do (but, eventually, you may find that you're really, really bad at something, and it's okay not to do that thing in preference to things you're better at).

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