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Learning on your own

  1. Feb 12, 2012 #1

    I suspect that many of you have experience learning independently. I have a few questions and perhaps reading how you guys work things out - whether in college or grad school - could help me.

    I have horrible time management skills* and find it hard to stay put. I might have ADD and I will only know for sure (?) by the end of the month. In the meantime, I still need to work. I tried to develop a "coping mechanism" but it's not working brilliantly so far. It basically consists of sitting down and working at something, say math. The instant I get bored and when I'm about to get off my chair to do a few laps (I walk a lot around the house and in the yard - probably a few hours/day), I will instead sit down and work on something else. This time, physics. And so forth.

    The problem with this method is it's not very efficient. I can't think of any other way to work better but I figure it's better to work a little than not work at all. The other frustrating part is it's not that the material I'm studying is particularly hard either (probably one of the reasons my mind races so often)!

    Opinions? Experiences? (not just pertaining to my situation but to yours as well, if possible)

    *To echo what twofish said about money: if I can't figure out how to make use of a little amount of time, the problem will persist and even when I do have a lot of time, I won't end up doing much. I can very easily myself get stuck in that kind of loop and I want/need out.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2012 #2
    I had this problem through my whole life.
    I managed to get it sorted at the end of my degree/beginning of my masters (I did Maths).
    I found that during term time, especially lower year when you have more lectured hours, it is harder, but as you get towards easter/christmas and revising for exams, it gets better.
    My masters dissertation went awesomely because that was the only thing I was doing for 10 weeks, no classes, no lectures, nothing!

    This is what I did to sort out my ADD issues. I am also dyslexic. Sitting down and reading as a dyslexic with ADD is quite the challenge :P

    1- Don't work alone. I know the title of this is about working alone, but try to be around other people who are working. It doesn't have to be class mates, or even friends, just go to the university library or a working area at college. I found that if people around you are working, it rubs off on you.
    2- If you don't need to use a computer, don't sit by one! Facebook, games, youtube are huge time sinks and massive distractions. It used to annoy the hell out of me when I would go to my library computing area during exam time and out of all 300 PCs, 250 would be on facebook.
    3- If you need to use a computer, turn off the internet connection. If you need the internet, just stay off those sites as best as you can.
    4- This method I used all the time. It is easy to do when doing coursework for maths since maths is question based. I would take rests on a regular basis. My friends would sit down for 3 hours and do it non-stop, which I cant do because I would get bored and my brain would go mad. Best way to explain what I did is in example and comparison. Say we had a piece of work, 5 questions, about 3 hours work.
    a) I would sit down, do Q1, take a rest (usually facebook/youtube), do Q2, eat lunch, do Q3, go to the gym, do Q4, rest on the internet, do Q5. Taking total of 5 hours.
    b) My friends would sit down, do the whole coursework for 3 hours, then eat, then go to the gym. All this together is still 5 hours.
    So you end up doing the exact same things, just in a different order. I found that worked really well for me. If you have things to do, do them between coursework questions and what not. Splitting things up is easier then trying to do it all at the same time.

    Hope that helped a bit.
  4. Feb 13, 2012 #3
    Thanks a lot for you reply.

    I'm currently trying this out. It's quite similar to what I had in mind anyway. I think that it's possible that I also have a few other things not wired in the conventional way but I don't think it's a good idea if I try to do a self diagnosis at all, let alone over a public forum.

    Somebody, homeomorphic I believe, mentioned that Henri Poincare worked on mathematics for only 4 hours each day. I looked it up on wikipedia and apparently he would do many things in a systematic manner and would study from 10 00 to 12 00 and then again from 17 00 to 19 00. Is this not a little similar to the "methods" we're talking about?

    Another thing that's been helping is having some music play simultaneously. I won't pay full attention to it at all times but I will occasionally (especially when I start getting bored or when there's a section that catches my attention, I suppose) stop to listen for a minute or two.

    There's also the "not being afraid to change subjects" bit, which resembles the "do 1 hour, then gym, another hour, then something else" strategy you mentioned. The "fear" here is really "if I switch between tasks so much, will ever be able to finish anything?" but the trick is that I will be doing instead of thinking, meaning that I will still be progressing.
  5. Feb 13, 2012 #4


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    Hey Mepris.

    I struggle with this in certain ways especially when I have more freedom which leads me this following response:

    If you get in any kind of routine with your classes, you'll find that you slip into this kind of mode where things become natural to just automatically do.

    Its funny in that the people that have huge demands on their time like say the father or mother raising two kids that goes to university, or the person that works a full-time job and studies part (or even full) time ends up using their time really really well and won't procrastinate as much as the person that only has university commitments and nothing else.

    We are a very adaptable set of beings and you'd be surprised what happens when you suddenly get a routine and try your best to stick to it.

    After a while what will happen is that you will just be in the mindset of doing stuff and you won't even think or hesitate when it comes to doing 'stuff'.

    Like I said this is a problem of mine in some respects, but I do understand why the people that have such a full set of commitments on their hands end up being the least wasters of time, because this is basically what they have to do. If people have even the option to procrastinate in a situation where they don't have many commitments, they will probably do it because they can do it.
  6. Feb 13, 2012 #5
    Hardy said the same thing:

    "... breakfast during which he read The Times studying the cricket scores with great interest. After breakfast he would work on his own mathematical researches from 9 o'clock till 1 o'clock. Then, after a light lunch, he would walk down to the university cricket ground to watch a game. In the late afternoon he would walk slowly back to his rooms in College. There he took dinner, which he followed with a glass of wine. When cricket was not in season, it was the Australian cricket scores he would read in The Times and he would play real tennis in the afternoons."

    http://www.gap-system.org/~history/Biographies/Hardy.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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