Forming a study habit - What to do when stuck

With a limited study time per day, I cannot afford to waste it. Here are some techniques I use to be more effective.

Try a different resource


One mistake I make is re-reading a section of a book, over and over, hoping that it will stick. Sometimes it can be the explanation doesn't work for me, particularly with some authors. Other times, it can be the "obvious" bits that the reader is presumed to know while I am desperately checking how much of an idiot I am. Either way, it can be a costly and wasted effort to just revisit some material.

A practice I learned while playing the guitar was to not fixate on the first guitar tab (a less formal version of sheet music) I came across. Some tabs lost the nuances like bending a string here or sliding a finger there, which makes the difference when rocking out to Metallica. I would remedy this, first by playing the song how I think it should be played with the first guitar tab as a guide while making notes on what bits sounded funny. I would then use other guitar tabs, videos and reduced speed versions of the song, to figure out where I am going wrong.

Image result for kirk hammett
Kirk Hammett of Metallica
Music is great from all the mediums to learn from, like audio, video and text. Other subjects, like mathematics and science, can be more limiting. That's why we should take advantage of any material we can get a hold of. Luckily the internet has some great resources available, https://www.youtube.com/ and https://www.coursera.org/ are my first ports of call.

Take a break


We have briefly covered the importance of breaks in the Pomodoro Technique (Forming study habit pomodoro technique), but it is worth reiterating here.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but stepping away from the problem you are working on for a few minutes can be more productive compared to keep going at it. For me, that break time is when I let my mind wander. I have experienced plenty of eureka moments when making a cup of tea, going for a walk or playing couple stages of Space Invaders. I also use these times to reflect on my work, sometimes discovering unpleasant edge cases.

The hard bit I find is knowing when to take a break. On problems I love, time flys by. Problems I dislike, I will soldier on until I switch tact, not looking at the problem itself, but thinking how can I make this a problem I do enjoy. A few cues tell me when I need to pause: When the Pomodoro work session ends, when my tummy is grumbling or when I have copied and pasted something on the computer.



* Photo of Kirk Hammet - From Wikipedia [https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kirk_Hammett_2017.jpg], Ralph Arvesen [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

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