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EP 08: Study Hacks, Impact Effort Matrix, The Corson Technique, Learning Anki & More

Welcome to Episode 8 of The Homework Help Show! This week our Host & Top Writer dived deep into study hacks that every student can use. We looked into specific hacks you can use such as the impact effort matrix from YouTube Thomas Frank, the Corson technique, how to learn facts quickly using Anki, and much more! For more information on Thomas Frank, his YouTube channel and website can be accessed here:

The Homework Help Show is our brand new show where we will teach, assist, and offer valuable insights on different topics related to students’ academic and personal lives. Want your questions answered? Ask your questions on social media using the hashtag #askHHG


Cath Anne: [00:00:07] Just to give you a little sense of what we’re going to be talking about today, because it is crunch time, it’s exam time. We really wanted to get into some awesome content that can help you focus your learning and do some studying and really give you some techniques and some hacks, to help you contribute to your learning and make the best of this really hectic time of year.

Cath Anne: [00:00:38] So, while we all hope to be our most productive and we plan ahead, and we try to do our best, there are times when we are just not going to be able to do everything.

Cath Anne: [00:00:54] University programs are very challenging. Undergraduate programs and Master’s programs are very challenging. So, there are some strategies that you can use to actually work with the way your brain works in order to make sure that you are making the best of your experience in university, especially in these crunch times.

Cath Anne: [00:01:15] Like I said, it happens to all of us. We plan ahead, and we make our agendas and we try our best to work towards being the best student we can, but sometimes there are just times when we just get bogged down and we can’t keep up with everything.

Cath Anne: [00:01:32] So, today this is why I wanted to offer you some really strong techniques that will help you to be able to navigate these situations. They are things that I would love to have known when I was in university. We’ve all been there, chugging coffee at 12:00a.m., propping yourself up on your desk, trying not to fall asleep while you’re writing a paper, and taking a quick nap of the couch in between papers and study sessions. Those are just the realities sometimes of being a university student. But, there are some techniques that can help you to navigate those situations.

[00:02:14] So, while I hope that you are much more prepared than I ever was as a student I wanted to give you some thoughts and some quick hacks. I won’t take too long today because I know everyone is super busy, but I appreciate everyone joining me and I hope that we can give you some really awesome information.

[00:02:42] Let’s jump into the content and I see that The Neighbourly Consultant and G Kaur are here with us. Thank you guys again for joining us every week. You’ve been our loyal followers and I really appreciate it. I always loved to have the conversation with you guys. Thanks again for stopping in.

Cath Anne: [00:03:01] So, the first tip that I wanted to convey, and this is a really simple one is to create your workspace. Pick your location where you are going to feel like you’re going to be most productive. Now it might be very tempting to find the comfiest chair or even work from your bedroom. But, in reality, I mean this seems kind of obvious, but you’re going to want to work away from where you feel most comfortable. That is because when you, especially at the end of the year when you’re swamped with papers and you have a lot of studying, it can be really tempting to take an nap rather than finish that assignment. So, you want to be intentional about positioning yourself as far away from your bedroom as possible. So, that we can make sure that we are focusing on our work and not tempted to sleep. Especially when you’re tired, it’s a natural reaction. So set yourself up for success. Make sure that you’re getting as far away from your bed as possible.

Cath Anne: [00:04:09] To go along with that, I wanted to recommend that you want to go to a space where you’re feeling a good vibe. You’re feeling really productive vibes. So, there are times now when I will leave my house because I have a home office. A lot of students likely study from their homes. So, I will leave my house to go work at a cafe or a shared workspace or even going to the local University’s common area. When you are around other people who are busy and they’re doing work and they’re studying then you will likely feel motivated to do the same.

Cath Anne: [00:04:48] I think that what’s important is to really be intentional about how you’re setting yourself up for success. So, look for your location. Make sure that it’s as far away from your bed as possible and potentially go to somewhere where other people are also doing work. Then you’ll feel motivated to do work yourself. It’s kind of like being in an office environment. If other people are doing work and you see them doing work obviously you’re going to want to do some work as well. The first tip is to find your location.

Cath Anne: [00:05:24] The second tip I wanted to draw on, I don’t know if any of you have heard of YouTube for Thomas Frank, but he is absolutely amazing. When I was doing research around these topics he popped up on YouTube and he does some awesome work around facilitating productivity and hacks for students and I really love his YouTube channel. So, I did link it below in the comments so if you’re interested in looking to see any more of his work. I highly recommend accessing him on YouTube.

Cath Anne: [00:06:27] This second tape that I wanted to offer you is to plan your efforts. Like I mentioned this comes directly from Thomas Frank, so I wanted to let you know that this is not my information, this is based on research that he’s done. I thought it was really interesting and pertinent to what we’re discussing today. So check him out. He’s a great YouTuber. So Frank suggests breaking down your workload into individual components and then assessing the importance of each component.

Cath Anne: [00:07:05] As such he has actually developed a matrix around this idea. He drew the idea from other research that has been done around productivity. Basically, he suggests that even when you are in a time crunch or an urgent situation it is helpful to plan your next steps and plan your efforts.

Cath Anne: [00:07:29] So, using a matrix can really be helpful. Even though it might seem like everything is urgent and you need to get things done right away, it is beneficial to create some kind of a structure for yourself because then you can assess which components of this project are most important and which should get done first and then overall you will have a bigger impact. This works specifically with a limited time. So, basically his matrix is I’ll show you a picture of it. Instagrammers, it’s going to be backwards, but I’ll show it here on Facebook. I was hoping to be able to share my screen but I’m not able to do that yet. It’s called the Impact Effort matrix. These are the components that you’ll want to be doing.

Cath Anne: [00:08:29] He’s breaking everything down into high impact, low impact, low effort, and high effort. The things that you want to do are going to fall into the high impact but low effort category. Things that you’re not going to want to do when you’re in a time crunch are the low impact high effort ones.

Cath Anne: [00:08:59] So, you’re wanting to make sure that you’re focusing on the issues or the components of the project that are going to have the biggest impact while also using the smallest amount of effort. Pretty basic.

Cath Anne: [00:09:15] So, you’ll want to identify when you’re first starting with his main tracks: what are the core deliverables? What do those look like? What is the grading criteria for the project? So obviously if you’re being graded on a paper you’ll want to make sure that you are completing the paper and not focusing on a bonus question or something like that. That seems obvious but it’s a tangible example. What percentage is each grade counting for? Which is going to impact your grade the most? Like I already mentioned.

Cath Anne: [00:09:56] So, when you’ve assigned the scores to each component, Frank recommends take tackling the one with the highest impact and the lowest effort. I wanted to give a little bit of an example. This isn’t really a school related example, but I wanted to kind of break it down into some easy to understand terms.

Cath Anne: [00:10:22] So, for example, pretend I’m cooking a dinner for my family. I’m really busy with school and work. I have tons of things going on but my core deliverables in that scenario is I want to make sure that my family goes away feeling full. I want to make sure that they are happy when they leave and that they’ve enjoyed their time. Those are the deliverables that I want to give to my family. So, those are the most important things that I want to focus on. So, I will put that into the high impact low effort category because it doesn’t take much for me to make sure my family is happy as long as I’m happy, as long as I’m enjoying my time, and then give them a little bit of food to eat. It’s likely that they’re going to be happy, so I’m going to put most of my effort into that category.

Cath Anne: [00:11:10] However, maybe I decide that I want to bake a cake for supper or for dessert but I’m also really busy with school as I mentioned, and I don’t really have time to bake that cake.

Cath Anne: [00:11:24] That would likely go into the low impact, high effort category because it’s going to take a lot of effort for me to bake a cake from scratch and it’s not really going to have that much of an impact because I know that my family is already having a good time. In essence I’m narrowing down the categories and the components of a bigger project and deciding which takes precedence and which is going to have the biggest impact for the lowest amount of effort and then in that sense you’re using all your willpower to do the most important component and focusing on that and then leaving the rest of your energy if there is any left to tackle the other components. As we know when we are really busy with school it can take a lot of energy to focus on a lot of different projects and so we want to make sure that all of our energy is going into the efforts to have the biggest impact.

Cath Anne: [00:12:43] So, I’m just going to have a quick glass of water because I just talked a lot.

Cath Anne: [00:12:53] OK. I did put the link to Thomas Frank’s website. So, he had all kinds of tools on there as well if you want to if you’re interested in checking that out.

Cath Anne: [00:13:14] The third component I wanted to offer you today is called The Corson Technique. That is an effort through which you are learning as a student. So, Thomas Frank also discusses The Corson Technique. He talks about the idea of really taking the time to solve a problem. So, it’s really about critical thinking.

Cath Anne: [00:13:52] The Corson Technique is about taking the time to solve a problem. Frank suggests that a lot of times when students approach the professor they just kind of skim over a question and they can’t solve it right away.

Cath Anne: [00:14:10] So, they go running up to the professor and they ask the professor what what’s lacking and how to solve the problem. What The Corson Technique would suggest is to take at least 15 minutes puzzling over that question.

Cath Anne: [00:14:28] Now, it probably depends what discipline you’re in but I’m imagining this would be most likely in math, physics, sciences, any areas where there are problem solving.

Cath Anne: [00:14:45] Take your time to think about those questions and take about 15 minutes. Consult with other students and then go to your professor. But, when you go to your professor you’re going to want to break that question down into logical questions. Skim over the question, read into it, and really narrow down where your confusion is beginning. So, maybe you’re okay in the beginning of the question, maybe the second part of the question makes okay sense, but then there’s a third part of the question which is really throwing you off.

Cath Anne: [00:15:24] Narrow that down and ask yourself: why is this throwing me off? Then go to your professor with that specific question. So, not only in that case are you going to impress your professor because they’re going to recognize that you’ve put a lot of effort into this and that you’ve thought about it deeply, but you’re also going to be able to retain more information. When you do eventually solve that problem, it’s going to be more ingrained into your brain because you’ve worked so hard at figuring it out. Tt’s really about critical thinking skills and exercising your brain muscle rather than going to the professor right away for the answer or for some suggestion about what the answer is. You might even figure it out.

Cath Anne: [00:16:17] You take the time before running to your prof. It’s highly recommended because it can really help you to develop your learning and it helps you to evolve develop this critical thinking skills that you can take along with you in the future.

Cath Anne: [00:16:43] (To Instagram Viewers): So, do we have any comments or questions? Well, I’ll take a little pause here for a moment. I don’t want to take up anyone’s too much of anyone’s time. So I will get on to the next topic.

Cath Anne: [00:17:48] I’ll jump back into the content. So, this was a really cool tip and I wish I had this when I was in university and even in high school. Learning facts quickly through this spaced repetition method. I’m not sure if anyone out there has heard of the spaced repetition method before. The premise is that you’re spreading out this space between what you’re learning and what you’re studying. So, originally it was focused around a series of flash cards. So, if I was studying I would look at a flash card and study a certain topic and then I would put that into the back of the pile and then study something else. Put that into the back of the pile.

Cath Anne: [00:18:40] But, what this method would recommend is to space out the time in between what you’re studying because then your brain has to make a more valiant effort to retrieve that information that you’ve studied.

Cath Anne: [00:19:04] What’s going to happen is that you’ll see things that you know really well less frequently, and you’ll see things that you don’t know as well more frequently. It is targeting that point in the brain where you’re just about to forget something and your brain has to work harder to retrieve it.

Cath Anne: [00:19:24] In essence then that is going to make it stick longer in your brain and this can be a powerful technique for learning information quickly and for retaining it more readily. It can be more effective than just traditional studying mechanisms using notes or flashcards.

Cath Anne: [00:19:48] So like I mentioned this method was originally used just with flashcards but of course with the technology we have today you can actually access these processes online. In particular Web site which came up and this was actually through Thomas Frank as well is a website called Anky. You can study anything with Anky you just input the information that you want to study and then it formulates a series of flashcards for you. It mechanically does the spacing out in between each topic for you. So, then you are more able to study using the space repetition method which I thought was really neat.

Cath Anne: [00:20:58] Then another benefit of the site is that you can actually access decks of cards that people have already generated on different topics. You can explore things that people have already saved and use those if you’re interested in the topic that they’ve been studying.

Cath Anne: [00:21:16] I thought that was a really interesting kind of process and I think I’m going to take advantage of it myself and maybe try to learn a new language.

Cath Anne: [00:21:50] The fifth strategy that I want to talk to you about today is test preparation ritual. I thought this fit in really nicely with some of the other content that we had discussed in former and prior weeks around having rituals and to doing brain dumps and things like that. So, a test preparation ritual has two components. The first component is before you attend the test if you’re a person that has test anxiety take out a little notebook and write down all the things that you’re anxious about. Literally do like a brain dump about all the things that you’re anxious about.

Cath Anne: [00:22:36] There has actually been research to prove that this has had a positive impact for people going into a test. When they get those anxious feelings, it is beneficial to write them down on a piece of paper and physically see them. It just takes the edge off and gets those negative thoughts out of the brain.

Cath Anne: [00:22:56] That’s the first component of preparing for a test and doing a test preparation ritual. The second one is something probably that’s common to some people who might have taken math or sciences in university, but I always remember doing it in high school before math test.

Cath Anne: [00:23:18] When you’re going into a test actually do another brain dump of all the pertinent information that’s at the forefront of your mind. So, any formulas, any phrasings, any strategies, any concepts, or definitions that you think are going to be useful through a test. Write them all down the sides of your test so that when you’re in the throes of doing the test and going over the material then you’re not forgetting some of those important strategies. When you are in the exam room and you’re under pressure and you’re grappling with complicated questions then those are the times that you will often forget those solutions and those strategies and formulas. So, definitely take the time to write those out and get those in the side of the margin so that you can access them when you are going through the test.

Cath Anne: [00:24:27] So, and then one more strategy this will be the last one for tonight. A little bit of a shorter session tonight but I just really wanted to give you some solid strategies that you can use moving forward when you are going to and exam or writing a paper. These strategies are more likely used when you’re studying for an exam.

Cath Anne: [00:24:56] One more strategy that you can use is to develop a cheat sheet.

Cath Anne: [00:25:04] There will be times when you go into an exam and the prof will let you bring in a cheat sheet.

Cath Anne: [00:25:09] There have been very few times that that has happened to me. Maybe once or twice. So, it’s pretty rare especially in university but developing a cheat sheet can actually help you to memorize some of those really important things that you’ll want to carry on into the test with you. So, while you might not be able to bring the actual physical copy of cheat sheet in with you. Just going through the process of doing it will help you retain information. So, I highly recommend developing a cheat sheet, writing down all that essential information that will be pertinent to the test and then even if you can’t take it with you, you can reflect back on what you wrote down on the cheat sheet.

Cath Anne: [00:26:07] So, that was it for this week. Those were all my tips. I guess we’ll do a little summary. We talked about picking your location. So, making sure that you’re not too comfy when you’re studying and that you are in a location that is going to be a motivating space for you that other people will be working.

Cath Anne: [00:26:29] We talked about planning your efforts. So, the matrix that I showed you. Making sure that you’re focusing on the highest impact component with the lowest amount of effort and leaving those other efforts towards the end when you are feeling a bit more drained.

Cath Anne: [00:26:46] Giving your energy to the highest impact components is really important in order to make the most of your time crunch. So, this is specific to when you are under a lot of pressure and you want to get work done quickly.

Cath Anne: [00:27:03] Using The Corson Technique. So, when you’re studying or when you’re working your problems make sure that you are not running to the professor with every problem. Give yourself 15 minutes to go over the problem again, revise it, crunch your brain, work as hard as you can and then narrow down where you start to get confused. Then you want to specifically ask the professor what your question is. Not only will you professor be impressed but you will also retain information more readily.

Cath Anne: [00:27:48] Learn facts quickly. So, I talked about the space repetition method. You can use apps like Anky to input information and develop a series of flashcards and spaced out method which will make you retain information because it’s making your brain work hard to retrieve the information that you’ve almost forgotten.

Cath Anne: [00:28:24] If you want to for more information look up space repetition method and it will all be there and check and If you’re interested and online application which you can use to do spaced repetition method.

Cath Anne: [00:28:41] Test preparation ritual was the fifth topic I talked about. Doing brain dump of all those things that you feel anxious about before the test. If you are an anxious type of person or if you have test anxiety, that can be really helpful. Then the second part of the test preparation method is to write everything in the in the margins. So, all your formulas, all your strategies, all your definitions, anything that’s important to you moving forward in the test because you don’t want to forget it in the throes of the challenging test questions.

Cath Anne: [00:29:26] Make a cheat sheet because it will help you remember all that really important information that you want as you are moving forward into the test. You can even rewrite the cheat sheet over and over. That’s rote repetition. We all know from grade school but that can be really helpful especially if you’re a visual learner.

Cath Anne: [00:29:44] So that is it for this week. I know that was a speedy one, but I wanted to make sure that we kind of gave you some strong information but do it in a short time. I know everyone is super busy this time of year. I wanted to also remind you that a lot of that information was taken from Thomas Frank who is a YouTuber who talks about productivity and student lifestyle and he is really amazing. I found him when I was doing research for this. So, check him out. He’s on YouTube.

Cath Anne: [00:30:17] Just Google Thomas Frank. I also put a link to his website in the comments on Facebook Live.

[00:30:24] I hope you guys are all having a good week and I wish you all the best on all of your tough exams and papers and this busy time of year. I know even if you’re not in school things are ramping up towards the holidays and that can be a hectic time of year so I’m wishing you all the best and I hope you can join us again.

[00:30:48] If you’re interested in listening to this session again. We’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter, we’re also on LinkedIn, Google Plus, we’re on YouTube and Medium. We write some different blogs on Medium. We’re also now on SoundCloud, Anchor, iTunes Apple Podcast, Google Play Music and all you have to do is search Homework Help Global and you will be able to find us.

[00:31:14] So, if you are interested in this topic and this information we will be on all of those platforms.

[00:31:22] So, we are easy to access and if you’re also interested in accessing some support around essay writing or resume writing, editing you can also visit our website and we will be happy to help you there. That is it for this week. Thank you so much and have a great night everyone. Best of luck with all the stuff that you’re doing in your lives.