Ask any student, “How’d you like to study less—while still getting the highest grades possible?” The response will be a resounding, “Are you kidding? Yes!” A student who figures out how to reduce study time while still achieving high grades is freed to pursue paid work, sports, volunteer positions, deep friendships, and other opportunities that will enrich her for a lifetime.
Today we’re looking at just one of the top ten ways students can reduce study time while still getting the highest grades possible.
Students, reduce study time by putting your laptop away.
Oh don’t worry—you can still use your laptop in the library, for doing research and for writing papers.
But when you walk into the college classroom, leave your laptop turned off, put away in your backpack.
6 reasons putting away your laptop during class will reduce study time:
The following points are important, so please—share them with every student you know.
1. Take notes on a laptop, and you’re sure to take way too many notes.
You can type fast—no question about it. Your fingers fly across that keyboard! Put a laptop in front of you, and you can record almost every word your professor says!
That’s the problem.
When you’re typing fast, fingers flying, you’ll tend to become a recorder of information—almost like a court reporter. You learn almost nothing while doing this, but wow—you’ll get a ton of information into your computer for learning later.
But wait—that’s a serious problem. Who wants to put off learning until later? You’ve got other things you’ll want to do with your time later!
What you actually want is to slow your brain and your fingers down during a college lecture. This puts you in the best possible position to think and process and learn right there in the classroom, while the professor is talking.
2. Reduce study time by taking notes by hand.
Yep—I’m suggesting taking notes the old fashioned way, with pen and paper.
Why? Because when you write down notes by hand, you can only go just so fast. Perfect! Going slower is exactly what you want.
Taking notes by hand forces you to slow down and think about what you’re hearing. Taking notes by hand forces you to focus. You can’t write everything, so you constantly aim to get down just the main, most important points. (The points—I must point out—that are most likely to appear on exams later.)
Plus, the simple act of physically moving your hand to form letters and write words and draw diagrams on paper solidifies learning more firmly than tapping keys ever will.
3. Taking tighter, more focused, handwritten class notes allows you to reduce study time later.
Who wants to plop down in a library study carrel the night before a college exam, pull up 30 pages of typed lecture notes, and start memorizing off of a computer screen? That sounds miserable. You might as well pull a book down off of a library shelf and start memorizing that.
Students who pull out brief, handwritten notes have less to study. Many times they finish studying in half the time it takes others.
Plus, your own notes, in your own handwriting, with your own diagrams, will feel far more engaging than page after page of dull dry typed lecture material.
4. Taking handwritten notes reduces distraction and skyrockets real-time learning.
Studies show that the typical college student squanders 20% of his class time texting, emailing, checking Instagram and Snapchat, surfing the web, and playing games online. (See the article I’ve written on how this behavior costs the average college student over $28,000.)
It’s been proven that multitasking doesn’t work.
Make a firm decision that you will put your laptop and your phone away under your desk during class—and you will free yourself to get as far down the road toward an A as possible, while sitting right there in that classroom.
5. When taking handwritten notes in class, you can get creative.
Leave behind the days of slavery to lined pages in spiral notebooks. Instead, consider taking notes on unlined, blank printer paper.
You’ve never done this before? You can learn. And you can get better and better at it with practice.
Draw diagrams that explain to you what the professor is teaching. Add slanted notes and stars and arrows for emphasis, and use large and small writing. Organize the information in a way that seems logical to you. Put effort into making your handwritten notes visually interesting. Every minute you spend doing this solidifies learning while you’re in the classroom, and helps you reduce study time later.
6. The research is clear. Students who take handwritten notes reduce overall study time.
Read the great, detailed NPR article on this subject here.
Want to learn more strategies that help you succeed in college?
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What about you? What strategies have you found for getting higher grades while studying less?
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.
This article was originally published on this blog on August 12th, 2019. It was updated on November 12th, 2020.