Reading the book, How to become a straight-A student: the unconventional strategies real college students use to score high while studying less by Cal Newport has made me surmount my poor study habits. Before reading the book, I found my studies overwhelming since I often complained that I never had adequate time to complete all of my work. Newport made me realize that achieving good grades is not a matter of cramming and spending all time studying, but the breakthrough approach in academics is to study smarter. As a construction/engineering student, I had to make sacrifice to my social life so as to achieve above-average grades. However, the strategies I have learnt after reading this interesting book will make me get good grades as well as have enough time for my social life.
The author proposes several approaches to studying that I think can work well in my academic life. To begin with, he proposes that students ought to take at least five minutes a day in managing their time. I find this approach useful because writing down a to-do list and deadlines that are to be met make one to schedule his or her time appropriately within the day. Such a kind of list is a trusted piece of storage since it makes it easier to remember the tasks to be accomplished.
Thereafter, Newport suggests that the tasks are to be transferred to the calendar every morning and this is to be used in planning for the day’s activities. He says, “This becomes your master schedule, the one place that stores everything you need to do,” (Newport, para. 16).
He notes that the activities are to be scheduled within realistic time frames and only necessary tasks to be accomplished within the day are to be included. Lastly, but not to be ignored, one needs to update the list of to-dos depending on what one wants to accomplish before the day ends. Although I find this approach a little bit taxing, I think that it can help me better schedule my time, even after I have completed my studies. After school, I intend to use this approach in updating my calendar of activities every morning so as to improve on time management and hence improve my quality of life.
Another technique that I find useful after reading the book is how to conquer procrastination. To my surprise, I find this approach to be the most beneficial. Although I have laid down ways of killing procrastination, I have never completely applied them. However, I think that the suggestions this book proposes can be of great benefit to me in destroying procrastination so as to achieve high scores in my studies.
Newport’s strategic blueprint for success includes keeping a work progress journal and faithfully recording each day whether or not one was successful in fulfilling the day’s obligations. He advises that one should write, “COMPLETED” after successfully accomplishing the day’s scheduled tasks. Since one of the main causes of procrastination is due to lack of sufficient energy to accomplish tasks, one needs to watch carefully what he or she eats.
Skipping meals and using food as a source of satisfaction, not a source of energy, should not be the habit of a straight-A student. Energy is important in the thinking process and having adequate amounts in the body makes one to accomplish tasks faster, hence avoids postponing them to a later date. To become a successful student, one should not delay the everyday tasks. Steady progress must be made on a daily basis by establishing work routines that are to be followed without fail and without having to infringe on the time allocated for social events.
The techniques of killing procrastination suggested in the book could be of benefit to me in future, even after completing my education. For example, in a situation in which I have more work than I can take care of with a well-balanced schedule, I would adjust my schedule accordingly so as to fit the increased workload. This would involve planning for such tasks and labeling them in my calendar as “COMPLICATED.” In addition, I would try to prepare myself mentally for the complex tasks by maybe informing my friends that I would be busy on such a day therefore they should not bother me.
In order to improve one’s study habits, Newport proposes the technique he calls The Grind. This approach is against the conventional way of improving performance since it considers efficiency as well as the time spent studying.
He takes note of triage; that is, one has to prioritize in order to know what is important and what is not important. To succeed in becoming a straight-A learner, he does not put more emphasis on sacrificing a lot of time, but on proven efficient and effective techniques that can make a student use his or her time for achieving high grades in school. However, while this approach is good, I think that it does not seem to work in the short term. This is because it may require more energy and time to acquaint oneself with these strategies. In the long run, however, these strategies can pay off, even after one has completed studying.
Newport points out that straight-A student gains efficiency by using the proven approach of compressing duties into focused bursts so as to avoid pseudo-working. By using the formula, work accomplished= time spent × intensity of focus, it is clear that a student who is pseudo-working has a very low intensity of focus. The implication of this is that to achieve a goal by pseudo-working requires a lot of time; however, the straight-A approach maximizes intensity so as to minimize time spent on activities. Applying the above formula implies that straight-A students are able to achieve high grades as well as have enough time to relax.
They achieve this by “replacing long, low-intensity stretches of work with a small number of short, high-intensity sessions” (Newport, para. 8). To become a straight-A student, one needs to gain control over his or her lifestyle by having basic time-management skills. As much as it is not a small task, the smart strategy of choosing the appropriate locations, times of day, and amount to time spent studying can prove to be of great benefit when implemented. ). After reading this concept in the book, I now use it to plan for my work. For example, I do most of my studies for one hour after taking a meal and I have realized that I can still have sometime off to relax with friends.
As human beings, every one of us has implicit goals. This is why we choose to do one thing over the other. The implicit goals of students determine how they handle their academic work. In this regard, Newport proposes that the best implicit goal that can work best for a student is to make understanding the goal. I have been using this strategy in the construction/engineering class in understanding the complex concepts of this technical course.
To grasp the concepts, I have been using the Question-Evidence-Conclusion format almost in every lesson. Newport talks about this technique in the book and the way he explains it makes it a lot easier to apply in my academic life. Deeper understanding is achieved by reviewing on a daily basis, with friends or alone, the concepts studied in class. Newport points out that deeper understanding cannot be realized through pseudo-working. It can only be realized, as described above, by appropriately using the time when one is more alert to grasp the concepts learned in class.
In conclusion, reading the basic techniques of studying described in the book have proved to be indispensable for my academic life. Although there are some strategies that I think does not seem to work, several of the proposed strategies are applicable in becoming a straight-A student. Moreover, I intend to use some of them after I have completed school, especially the ones that I realized were useful after reading the book. It is important to note that mastering the strategies will be instrumental in all aspects of my life –not just getting the good grades.
Newport, Cal. How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less. New York: Broadway Books, 2006. eBooks. Web.