Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Note taking… Perfect for Finals or Fall Semester 2010!

May 11, 2010

Hello fellow Spartans!

This post is going to focus on note taking.  For me, note taking has been either very difficult or very easy. However, thanks to Cal’s tips, I learned some new ways of thinking about notes and classes.

Cal separates classes into three different types. These types are non-technical,technical with math, and technical without math.

First off, before I read his site and started this experiment, I had never considered to group different classes into different note types. Genius! Now, how did I go about using these different groups and applying them to my classes? Overall, it was pretty simple. I just reviewed my schedule and found out  which type each class fit  for note taking.

Russian 102: non-technical

Wra 202: non-technical

Iah 202: non-technical

Iss 315: non-technical

As a professional writing major, all of my classes fell into one category. Thus, when carrying out Cal’s strategies, I relied on focusing on one type of note taking.

For this note type, he advised  to not write everything down. This has to be my biggest problem in my history and english classes. I tend to go overboard and write everything down.

This strategy helped with  my history class notes,  but not truly in the English or Russian course. I feel that the English class did not always rely on ideas or note taking, while the Russian course was too new for me to do the recommended format explained in Cal’s blog.

So, I switched things up a bit. The Russian professor always gave us strict notes, and what I did was try and relate the ideas in her way on the first note day, but then try to recreate using Cal’s strategy of question and conclusion the next day. So I combined old with this new strategy.

It worked okay, but I feel that language courses are a bit harder to stereotype into a note taking group. Thus, I learned from this week that note taking requires serious thought on what TYPE of class you are taking. If I had done this experiment in the fall with my math class, I would not have written eveything down like I did for previous  classes.

Overall, this strategy taught me to think different about future note taking. Most especially, writing everything down for sure is a  bad strategy. It is also a bad habit that is hard to break.

Till next time,

Natasha 🙂

Retreating Deadline and Test Preparation..Hard but Necessary

May 11, 2010

Hello Spartans!

Now, we’re going to discuss two topics that are more geared toward exams and papers rather than general studying. However, these are pretty essential.

Cal’s  Retreating Deadline  Method is basically “forgetting” the real due date and making one that works with your schedule.

For example, I had a paper to write for one of my required courses. It was a simple assignment, so I wrote it the weekend before it was due. Then, the day before the real due date, I looked it over and scanned it for anything that was missing. This took a total of perhaps a half hour. Then, the next day I just turned it in. Sound heavenly to you? Well, it is!

The best part of this strategy is that you never feel rushed. No more coffee runs or all nighters with this tip! I certainly also felt so much relief when I could concentrate more on my exam than on the paper due the same day.

Test Preparation

Now, test preparation has been covered a lot. I have seen this strategy of studying a little bit in lots of different places. However, Cal’s take on it is a little different. I found some general test truths that I had done beforehand which accrued more stress than necessary. He breaks down these truths in the article on the site.

Most importantly, he mentions the limit  of preparing to be at MOST 3 hours per day before the exam. I would say that it depends on the exam. For a really easy  class, I made it  one to two. But if it is a pretty heinous  or moderate exam, then 3 hours might be preferable.

Here is how his strategy  played out in my exam preparation:

Like he said, do something conducive to studying, but do not study on the first day. I made Russian vocabulary cards. Then, again like the strategy details, study the hardest first.  From past experience, I know that studying the easiest first is not as effective. You are already good at it, so why study it first? This worked well since I knew ahead what was hardest for me to remember on the exam.

The further along I got in the days, however, the harder it was to keep on track.  This strategy needs repeated successful atttempts to become normal and routine. However, even if I didn’t always follow through, it helped a lot to be more ahead than the night before. This strategy needs definite persistence to be successful, so I recommend testing it out with an easy exam and then with a hard exam to see how it works. 

But, the information did stick in my brain for the exams that I did this. I also found myself exploring new areas of the material as well. I think this strategy allows connections to be easier to make between different concepts, which is a major benefit. Overall, a good but tough strategy that I think will become easier over time.

Basically, these test strategies are gold, but they need strict dilligence to become second nature. Hopefully, next year I will have these down better than this past semester.

Good luck on exams,

Natasha 🙂

Hard vs. Hard to Do, Pseudo Work, and Hard Days

May 10, 2010

Hello Spartans!

I know it’s been a long time since the last posting, but for the experiment’s sake, I have decided to comment on the remaining strategies. I have used them directly or indirectly this last semester, and I will share with you how Cal’s tips worked in my own academic life.

The following tips will be analyzed through my Russian 101 and 102 courses.

In his blog, Cal talks about hard vs. hard to do work. Basically, if you think it is hard, then you will work for LONG hours on a particular class. I did this with Russian 101 in the fall, and it was hard to do simply because I waited until the night beforehand. I remember doing a whole week’s worth of homework in one night, which was problematic for learning the material.

Instead, he says to use “hard focus” or do the assignments WITHOUT distractions. For example, for my Russian 102 I do the homework assignment the night it is assigned, and then I go over it again the next day before class. Alone, whenever possible.

This way, I do not  overexert my time and am therefore refreshed. It works :).  Plus, here’s the kicker: the language became EASIER since I wasn’t rushed and could exert less  effort to learn a great deal of material.

This also relates to a topic that I did in Russian 101:pseudo work.

Cal describes this as work that isn’t really work.  For me, I think of it as doing the work just to turn it in. I would do Russian 101 worksheets and just fill it in, but I never learned and paid for it with the test..and the many red marks. So, unplugging   the internet and doing it then(in two different time blocks, like I do now) really prevents this problem. This concept also stresses breaks and not focusing for a long period of time, the opposite of  the “hard to do” mentality. Cal also states how you acccomplish more by doing it on different days, just like how Russian 102 assignments worked better with two days 🙂 Overall, this is one of my favorite tips because it can be applied to any subject you need to work on more dilligently.

Russian 102 was also enjoyable due to this tip :).

Hard Days. We all get them from time to time. But, if you plan, you will know what they are beforehand. This past semester, my hard days were specifically Tuesday and Thursday. I worked in the evenings, but made an effort to make sure homework was done beforehand. This saved a lot of stress for the little assignments. Or, if something comes up, plan a specific day to work the stress out. My awareness of Cal’s strategy really helped the days that I had two exams planned.  Basic summary of Cal’s tip here: Devise a plan of action and carry it out if things fall on the same day.

These strategies are important, especially as the semester becames harder. It is so easy to throw in the towel and just complete assignments, but then the test comes :(. Remember that!

Good luck,

Natasha 🙂

Sunday Ritual and Work Shutdown Ritual Results

March 19, 2010

Hello all!

So, in the second meeting Carolyn and I discussed these two types of rituals.

Here are our thoughts on each one:


They’re pretty basic and straightforward. I may have a problem remembering to do it. Fighting the urge to just collapse and go to sleep may be a problem.


These two techniques seem pretty simple but that could be  a problem if I underestimate the time required. I am excited however to see if these two rituals work very well and decrease stress.

So, here are what we are going to do for the next couple of weeks:


Sunday Ritual

Pretty much the normal routine. Eat breakfast, walk, go to library, review calendar, and watch a movie.


Wake up, eat, read a book, go to the library to review calendar, and hang out  with roommate.

Work Shutdown Ritual


Check lists, brainstorm for anything the next day, say magic words, and then read for the night.


review planner, say “Stop”, read a book and watch television.

These are definitely tentative and will probably be much more complex as it develops.

Till next time,

Natasha and Carolyn 🙂

Time Blocking with Carolyn

March 19, 2010

In theory,  time blocking sounds like a pretty good idea,  and maybe it is.  Unfortunately for a former procrastinator and perpetual worrywart such as myself,  it radiates that familiar feeling of “I’m forgetting something,  aren’t I?”

While time blocking gave my schedule a welcome sense of organization,  I consistently felt as though I was failing to accomplish all that I needed to do.  There were also occaisons where I discovered I actually didn’t have anything to do during the time I had allotted.  This left me feeling somewhat addled and unorganized.

While I’m going to continue time blocking,  I think I’m going to make it more flexible and totally change it.  I might consider making it vary week to week due to the ever changing nature of college life.  Finally,  I’m going to make it adhere more to my personality.  As of yet,  I’m just not totally comfortable with time-blocking as my dominant scheduling method.

Plan for the remaining weeks…

March 18, 2010

Hello Spartans!

Phew! I cannot believe spring is nearly here. With that being said, I wanted to lay out for you topics for the remaining weeks.




Carolyn and I will explore these two rituals and implement them into our academic lives for the next two weeks.

Week 2

Work  Galore!

Topics: Hard vs. Hard to Do Work,  Hard Days, and Pseudo Work

Do you ever feel stressed when studying for 10 hours? Well, of course you do!  In this week, we’ll look at Cal’ s ideas on hard work, pseudo work, and hard days. This stuff is so beneficial, you cannot miss it!

Week 3

Deadlines, Deadlines, Hear all about it!

Topics: Retreating Deadline and Test Prep Strategies

Ever imagining no studying the night before an exam? Well, now you can with these two topics. We discuss these topics in detail. Currently, I am working on this now so I will be able to share my experience in this as well.

Week 4

No Drawing Allowed (unless you’re an art major)

Topics: Note taking and Project Folders

Focus on different types of note taking and how to organize tests. Perfect for upcoming finals week!

This is a tentative schedule for the next few weeks. More posts to come very soon!

Till next time,

Natasha 🙂

capture and control: natasha

March 18, 2010

Hello fellow Spartans!

So, for the past few weeks Carolyn and I have had our time blocking and scheduling assignments. In this post, I will focus on my experience, then Carolyn will reflect on hers later on.

It is a very hard thing to time block and keep on schedule. I am still adjusting this schedule as of now, but I have also learned three crucial lessons:

1) USE empty time spaces to your advantage.

I have Russian at 1:50 and my writing class ends at 11:40. By doing a bit of homework before Russian or afterward, I don’t need to worry about it as much. I review Russian exercises and the book as well during these times.

2) These time spaces can be used together or apart.

Now, I  sometimes do Russian homework after class at 3 p.m. Then, I may go over the homework and study a bit the next day before class. If the class is HARD, this is a good option because you can double check errors on the assignments.

3) Dear self, check yourself.

Sometimes I would need to spend extra time because I did not check each class during  its time slot. I thought I just remembered the assignment, but I was wrong. Also, you need to review the schedule frequently to remember it, unless its before or after a class. I recommend placing a schedule in paper and online (as a blog post or other website) so you have more than spot to check.  Classes with fluid reading assignments means you should check the syllabus during the appointed time slot.

Overall, Capture and Control takes real, honest effort. However, my awareness through this study is progressing as I move along.

Till next time,

Natasha 🙂

First Meeting Results

February 16, 2010

Hello Spartans!

The first meeting is complete!

For the next week, we are going to focus on the autopilot schedule and capture as one.

Carolyn and I reviewed our homework for each class and assigned certain days to certain tasks, in addition to the goal of capturing new assignments as they are announced.

Here is what we decided:


Afternoons after russian 102 are designed for russian homework.

Review ISS notes on Monday and Friday evenings.

On Wednesday evening, read for IAH quizzes.

Tuesday and Thursday are reserved for WRA reading from 7:30-8:30.

Friday evenings are designated for taking out trash.


Monday afternoons are for Law and Professional Writing readings.

Tuesday mornings, before work, are for out of class paperwork.

Tuesday evenings are for Mass Media homework and Pyschology readings.

Wednesday Afternoons are for Mass Media readings.

Thursday evenings are used for Pyschology readings.

Friday afternoons are used for Law Readings.

Saturday mornings are used for Archaeology readings.


1) review study schedule every day.

2) If something important is announced, write it down  and incorporate it immediately.

Till next time,
Natasha and Carolyn 🙂

First Meeting is TODAY!

February 16, 2010

Hello Spartans!

Today marks the first meeting of MSU’s Study Hacks Group!

During the meeting, you can learn about Cal Newport’s studying philosophy and how the group will run experiments.

It will take place in the Main Library, probably around the second floor study rooms! The meeting starts soon ( at 430ish), but I will have my email up in case you desire to come and want to notify me or the other members.

If not, do not worry. More meetings will be announced in the future!

Till next time,


Look for Fliers Coming Soon!

January 26, 2010

Hello Spartans!

Now that classes are starting to speed up, it’s time for the MSU Study Hacks Group to have its first meeting!

First of all:

I am looking for fellow leaders to help in coordinating and organizing the group events. If you are interested in becoming one, send an email or just talk to me at one of the meetings.

Also, the Fliers are coming to buildings around  campus at the end of this week/next week! I went on a trip last weekend, but these fliers should be up in the next few days.  Word of mouth needs to be spread about these meetings! Bring friends who you think may need the guidance of the Study Hacks blog.

Till next time,

Natasha 🙂