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Sabbotaging the Quick Pace of Work

  1. Jan 28, 2010 #1
    Hi all, I wanted to know: have any of you ever sabotaged how quickly you could possibly "understand" a concept in physics by assuming that it would take a long time before you even began reading about it? Then, you read about it, and it's simple after all? Only...you were prejudiced to expecting hours of fruitless staring, and it turned out that wasn't necessary at all, and you understand the concept in five minutes? It happens to me all the time: and I waste hours of staring that way.

    Any suggestions on how to overcome that?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 28, 2010 #2


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    I'm confused; you understand the problem in five minutes, but then continue to stare at the problem anyways?

    Or, are you staring at a problem which you have not figured out, but you feel should only take five minutes to comprehend?
  4. Jan 28, 2010 #3
    I'm not 100% sure what you mean, but I'll take a swing at what I think you might mean.

    When I was in general physics 1, I'd often stare at a problem for a few minutes, confused about where to start or how to tackle it. Once I decided to finally attempt it, it was trivial.
    Now, I just put my pen to the paper and start trying anything possible immediately. I've found that once I get rolling, I can usually get the answer somehow. Sometimes I take a detour and accidentally solve things that weren't part of the problem, but it works out in the end.
  5. Jan 29, 2010 #4
    I mean...beginning a problem with the destructive assumption that you won't be able to solve it. You're prejudiced against yourself. Only: the problem and the concepts were easy to understand after all, and you solve it in five minutes. But: thanks to that assumption, you wasted hours.
  6. Jan 29, 2010 #5
    Nope, never happened to me. On the other hand, I have a huge ego, and assume I can tackle any problem thrown at me, even when I can't.

    Have you tried inflating your ego? It can make you less likable, but you won't have to worry about self-doubt.
  7. Jan 29, 2010 #6
    Please don't do this. There are enough annoying people in the world pretending to be smarter than they actually are. Be humble but don't doubt yourself.
  8. Jan 30, 2010 #7
    I get what jack is saying. He isnt saying that you should be a jackass, he is saying to have some confidence in your own abilities. If you spend hours on something that actually takes you five minutes then you do need some confidence in yoursef. You asked for suggestions to "overcome" your problem. The thing is that there is no real problem. You have the ability. Just put your pencil on the paper and start writing like jack said. You have to just do it.
  9. Jan 30, 2010 #8
    Never happened to me. The opposite problem really: when I try to learn things on my own, I proceed at way too quick a pace. I'm doing an independent study with a professor right now, and we didn't start until a few weeks after other classes began. I was worried she'd think I was lazy if I didn't appear to have done anything on my own, so I flew through several chapters of a very advanced analysis text. Then we finally met, and the professor was stunned when I told her how much I had "learned". But then she gave me some easy practice problems on sigma-algebras that completely stumped me, and I realized how little I'd actually learned by just trying to "get things done". It was a reminder for a lesson I'd learned before, but never fully accepted: by far the best way (for me) to learn is to write down a few very simple general principles of a subject, throw the book away for the day, take a pencil and stack of paper, and just tinker with those concepts all day. Then return to the book that evening to find insight into all the questions/ideas my tinkering generated throughout the day.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2010
  10. Jan 30, 2010 #9


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    I think the situation in question is essentially a form of procrastination. You imagine a task to be more difficult than it is, and so you put off doing it and even cause yourself unnecessary stress as a result of it.

    I think the solution lies in self discipline more than anything.

    For assigned problem sets, one idea is to make it a habit to look over the problems as soon as you can and them come up with a strategy for how you're going to solve each one of them. This is the kind of thing you can do on the bus, or between classes. On a psychological level this introduces your mind to the problems quickly and will keep your imagination from running away. It will also help you to plan your homework and study time a little more effectively.
  11. Jan 30, 2010 #10
    Yeah, I was very tired when I wrote my post, don't mind me. I wasn't suggesting actually becoming a jackass. However, it may be helpful to develop a persona for yourself, even if it's only for when you're alone, where you pretend to be some sort of demi-god who can solve everything. Even if deep down inside you know it's all bull****, fake confidence can start turning into real confidence, and then you won't have to fake it any longer.

    ...I was going to write a little anecdote about how I did something similar, but the details are QUITE embarrassing, and actually irrelevant, so I'm leaving them out of the discussion. It involved a bit of fantasy role-play with myself based around a certain science fiction show.

    Point is, it might be worthwhile to just pretend to be confident in your abilities, and when you start to have successes, seize them and build real confidence off of your them.
  12. Jan 30, 2010 #11
    Ah yeah, I misinterpreted what you said. ^ Thats some good advice actually.
  13. Jan 31, 2010 #12
    Nah, I think I just miscommunicated what I meant to say. The part about being less likable was supposed to be a joke, but I wrote the post around midnight, after waking up at 6am, so what seemed like an obvious joke to me at that time was not so clear to people with their wits about them.
  14. Jan 31, 2010 #13
    haha, don't worry I have failed on more than several occasions at jokes online. Sarcasm is tricky to pull off on the internet.
  15. Feb 1, 2010 #14


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    Emphasis mine.

    Does that make sense to anyone else, or am I just losing my mind?

    The only thing I could infer from your post, as I think has already been done here, is that you are staring at the problem instead of trying to work through it. If that's the case, Jack is right; start writing down everything you know about the problem - known variables; relevant equations; etc.

    You'll find that what you don't know about the problem is much more manageable after doing so.
  16. Feb 1, 2010 #15
    Nvm, bad post by me.
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