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    Really. Getting focused is hard. We (humans) are not very good at multi-tasking, much like we don't really work better under pressure, no matter what you've told yourself.

    The key to focus is to limit the amount of things competing for your attention:

    (1) Get a space that works for you. Cafe? Park? Dungeon in the basement of your building? Whatever makes you comfortable.

    (2) Have a routine. Do you like to get an iced coffee with two napkins and place it in the upper right hand corner of the table you're working at with your screen tilted between 115 and 120 degrees? Get setup and comfortable in under 5-minutes.

    (3) Take breaks often. Use the Pomodoro technique. Work on one task for 25-minutes, take a 5-minute break, repeat three more times and take a 15-minute break.

    (4) Ditch the distractions. I'm looking at you cell phone alert and email notifications. Below are a couple of applications and browser extensions that can help your to stay on task.

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    Textbook Reading

    Doing textbook reading on a topic will give you a broad knowledge base on a subject and since many subjects in your major are connected, having mastery of a topic in one course will benefit you in another. Here are simple tips to get going with your reading and a video below that is helpful.

    1. When is the best time to start reading? Early! Textbook reading can be tedious, often times the text is uninteresting in comparison to literature so starting early is key. If you get on a roll don't stop because there is nothing wrong with reading ahead.
    2. Where should I do my textbook reading? In isolation. There are great opportunities to work with others but reading should not be done with others. However, that does not mean you have to huddle at a desk in your bedroom. Find multiple locations both near campus and your home that can be study sanctuaries--coffee shops, a 24/7 dinner, a spot in the library and/or a nice space in the park. Rotate your spots so you don't burn out at any one place.
    3. How long should I read for? Reading is more like lifting weights or running then we think. You can go for a 2-hour run, but you might be wrecked for a week. If you lift heavy weights with a ton of reps you'll be sore for 5 days and not want to move, let alone workout. Ease yourself into reading. 15 minutes at a time is perfect to start with and if you get on a roll do a few repetitions of 15 minutes.

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    Taking Notes

    Getting ready to take notes. Here are some tips:

    (1) Pick a medium. Paper and pen vs computer/tablet. Most students can type twice as fast as they can write...but recall from writing is almost double that of typing. The reason for the higher recall with paper and pencil is due to students trying to type every word spoken by the professor--students lose the concepts in focusing on the words. With paper and pen you're forced to summarize and prioritize information, which help to learn it.

    (2) Pick out the good stuff. Most test questions are based off of facts and recall, so these are important but can also be found in textbooks and on flashcards. The examples and application of the facts are usually the basis for higher point and short answer questions. These are the notes that are key to have and review.

    (3) Review. Review. Review. This is the most difficult part of note taking--reviewing the notes. There is not always time to go over everything but taking 15-minutes (1 pomodoro) to review the previous class/reading notes will give you a frame of reference for the next class and help you to mentally connect the material. At the end of the week take a half-an-hour (2 pomodoros) and review all of the previous notes. By exam time, you'll have gone over some notes 6-7 times and will have a great handle on the information. This is another reason to have them digital--you can pull them up anywhere.

    (4) Connect. Note taking is a great opportunity to connect thoughts from different sections, chapters, classes or even disciplines. Having a tapestry of information will help you to solve problems on exams on in papers even when you don't know the answer for sure.

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    Writing Papers


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    Essential Library Sources

    An army of helpers with masters degrees and Ph.d's are ready to help you find what you need to complete assignments and papers. Use the tools below to streamline your research and get help with tasks.

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