The term ‘information’ is quite broad. My Collins English Dictionary gives a definition of information as:a. knowledge acquired through experience or study; b. knowledge of specific and timely events or situations.
The information you take from studying is different from what you get from, say, the Sports section from a newspaper. When you read the Sports section (or fashion, business, cartoons, gossip pages…whatever floats your boat), you take loads of information in without even thinking too much. But when it comes to your studying, many people switch right off.
This needn’t be the case. You need to redefine your comfort zone. Whatever the study situation is, you can get more out of information than you think:
1. Don’t put it off…Do it now!
A lot of information gathering is done because it’s related to our study, or because we need to find out about a particular thing. Therefore, we tend to leave the search for knowledge until the last minute.
But the longer you put off the search, the more it will weigh down on you.
If you collate all the facts as soon as possible, you won’t have the same weight to carry and you’ll be surprised how much more clearly the topic has become. Even if you don’t understand it, at least you’ll see which aspects you don’t understand.
2. Don’t underestimate yourself
Many students worry far too much about learning and memorising. There’s also a tendency to feel as if something is missing, so scrutinising a text ends up wasting valuable study time.
Until you need to focus on the finer detail of a concept or article, it’s much better to get a grasp of the bigger picture. Let the information flow at a steady pace first of all. If you bluster and pause at the outset, there will be no flow and you’ll find it infinitely more difficult to take the data in.
3. Have a focus
I’m not contradicting myself here. While you do need to see the bigger picture first, there are many instances when your mind can wander, or something else catches your eye and you lose your concentration.
An example is when I am organising the EduLinks to post on UniversityBlog. Sometimes I must remind myself what I’m doing, because one moment I’ll be bookmarking and noting relevant links, and the next moment I’ll find some articles that I could use for another project. Rather than quickly note the article and put it to one side, I might stop what I’m doing and read it. Next thing you know, I’m searching for similar information and have changed my priority by stealth.
This is a bad move and I always have words with myself when I start falling into this trap. Nobody is immune to this, because we’re all human and we naturally flit from one thing to the next unexpectedly. It’s nothing to be unhappy about, but definitely something to keep an eye on and deal with when you see it happening.
4. No interruptions!
It doesn’t matter where you are, even if it’s the quietest part of a library, you’re always liable for interruptions. A knock on your door, a friend asking for a chat, a new e-mail. It’s easy to be disturbed and it’s difficult to get back on track, especially if you don’t feel interested in what you’re doing. Distractions are very appealing when you’re working on something more difficult.
If a friend wants your attention for anything other than an emergency, get rid of them as quickly as possible. If you find the urge to procrastinate too difficult to decline when you’re studying in your room, try putting a sign up on your door when you don’t want to be disturbed. It’s unlikely you’ll need to use the sign THAT much.
Of course, you might have friends who will knock on purpose if you put up a sign. It’s either time to buy some earplugs, or disappear to that quiet library spot. It might not be foolproof, but without a tracking device, your friends are going to have more difficulty finding you.
Remember, interruptions and distractions don’t just hinder information processing on a work level. With lots of noise and fun surrounding you, it’s difficult to digest even a trashy novel. So have the will to move away from the interruptions and you’ll go far!
5. Enjoy the ride
It’s easy to forget that many of us are in Higher Education because we want to be. Whatever subject you’re studying, it’s probably something you enjoy or at least have quite an interest in.
Yet work and study are commonly associated with attitudes other than fun. This is a shame, because when you experience something you have an active interest in, it’s a lot easier to digest the information.
Try to make the most of your time at university by getting engrossed in the subjects you’re studying. Information really is your friend, so have a mutual relationship with it!
While you continue regarding study as boring and stressful, the information will treat you the same way. You hold the key in your mind’s attitude and all you need to do is make the decision to involve yourself more positively to the situation.
It might sound easier said than done, but I genuinely believe that a large proportion of students are specialising in a topic because they are interested. If that sounds like you, then stop kidding yourself that the work is a drag. If it’s a module that doesn’t interest you, that’s one thing, but your whole degree??? That’s nonsense.