Your Learning Time
(C) 2003, Don Mize

A set-aside block of learning time works wizardry on grades.  Of course you attend school all day, and perhaps you walk into each class hungry to learn.  The truth is that most days in most classes most students are concentrating on friends, sports, and social life.  Most hope the teacher will not do much, not give homework, and can be diverted away from the subject. After changing classes, having lunch, and participating in other events, little concentrated academic learning occurs in the average school day.  If the productive time of schoolwork is time spent learning, most students are like the executive who attends meetings all day and does his real work at night and on weekends.  A set-aside block of learning time makes school worthwhile.

Notice we are talking about “learning time” rather than “homework time.”  Decide on something you want to learn, whip out your homework, and spend the rest of your time on your learning project.  One young man learned to play the guitar well once he hada set block of learning time, and he improved his grades.

By setting aside the same hours every day, your schedule works.  Some activities occur regularly after school, so don’t schedule your block of learning time then.  Also, you can be flexible. You may want to attend a basketball game one night, but you will know up front that you’re using up learning time.  Your block of learning time keeps you from forgetting to do homework, forgetting to study for tests, and forgetting to work on long-term projects.

I suggest you set aside a three hour block of time as your learning time.  If you set aside only one hour, you have no way of coping when you arrive home late because something went wrong.  You will feel rushed, pressured, and frustrated.  Besides, study requires warming up, much as an athlete warms up before a contest.  No one sits down and learns instantly at peak efficiency any more than an athlete goes from zero to peak efficiency.

A two hour block of learning time is better, but things will still go wrong.  At least with two hours you have time to warm up and not be totally frustrated the day you arrive home late.  You will, however, need a ten minute break after fifty minutes to continue learning at your peak. You can use the ten minutes to reward yourself, such as making a brief phone call, shooting a few hoops, or walking around the block.  When you return to your learning, you will be refreshed while still focused.

A three hour block of learning time gives you a margin of error.  When you arrive home late, or an assignment takes longer than you thought, you can still complete your work.  Most days you will have time for your learning project (like the boy who learned to play the guitar).  In fact, looking forward to your chosen learning project helps you work faster on routine tasks.  No one can sit at a desk for three hours and work efficiently, so remember to take a break every fifty minutes.

I once did my seminar on How To Make Better Grades (and Have Fun Doing It) in a school where one student caught my attention.  He was an ineligible football player who was failing every subject.  Since he loved football, he was especially discouraged.  He, like everyone else, hooted (as usual) at my suggestion about a three hour block of learning time.

The next year I did a follow-up seminar for those students.  The football player was on the front row, passing his classes, and excited about school.  He said (as did nearly everyone else, as usual) that he finally found his learning time.  After football he would go home, study an hour, have supper, and study two hours more.  He didn’t feel rushed, felt good when he learned something, and felt especially good when he passed his tests.  After all, in the classroom as well as on the athletic field, success is more fun than failure.

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