Me (crazypumpkin) wrote in scigradschool,

getting back into the swing of things

I'm cross posting this a few places as I'm sure different groups will have a slightly different perspective on what I'm asking about. So sorry if you see this more than once.

And as an FYI, I'm a first year in a biomedical sciences PhD program.

I graduated in 2001 and have done the work thing since then. I've been quite comfortable the past few years doing the work thing during the day and then going home to do my own thing (yoga, maintaining my spiritual health, cooking good meals, harassing the cat, etc).
I was never great at studying (a problem I "blame" on high school being too easy, and being able to float by with B's with minimal studying in undergrad). I love to read, but I've never been on great at reading for content. Some of it I remember and understand, which is great, but I'd say more of it I either don't remember or don't understand. I'm pretty sure I don't have a learning disability. But I do know I learn better through pictures and/or tactile stuff.

I'd like to say that I need suggestions on how to get 'back into studying', but really I need suggestions on how to get into it in general. I'm interested in the classes I have to take this semester. I'm interested in the lab I'm currently rotating in. And I KNOW that my current reading load is REALLY light, I'm just having a hard time actually getting it done and getting something out of it other than just reading words on a page.
Is it sad that tonight I procrastinated by washing my dishes? (watching The Daily Show on I'll admit was pure procrastination)

I want to do well. I want to get my work done. I want to understand what the hell it is I'm doing and not fall behind quickly (which is what I can already see happening as I didn't finish my readings for today until this morning before class).

I hope my question makes some sense as I'm at a loss on how else to even ask it.
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I am the same way.. very visual and tactile.

For things like biochemical, molecular pathways, I get a pack of multicolored printer paper and draw each pathway on a seperate sheet. I've also been known to cut out pieces of multicolored felt/ pipecleaners labeled as the different enzymes/molecules and arrange them to illustrate the pathway.. remove and repeat a few times and before you know it you have it memorized.

Try to make whatever you have to remember interactive in some way. I've also used write/wipe boards.. keep drawing it over and over.

And sometimes it helps to re-arrange the way the material is presented. For Lewin's Genes series, I always had to do this.. so I made a note page for each topic then shuffled it to fit my understanding (I like sequential.. he presented things kinda piecemeal imo).

Always read with a pen and paper or note cards at hand.. write the important points as you read. The brightly colored ones always kept my ADD self focused enough usually.

Hope that helps!
Well, I know the problem.
The drawing thing is a good suggestion. It workes for me, as well.
Moreover, if I am reading things I have to memorize later on, I write down all the important facts. You need more time that way, that's true, but in the end, for me it is worth it.

With the actual motivation to do something, well ,that's a tough one. Maybe you could go to university one hour earlier that you have to or something like that. I always got a lot done when I have "free hours" and no one is around to get me to do other things...
I know what you mean :)

What works for me is a balance between self-bribing and self-blackmailing and threatening.

When I had to do heaps of work the last few months, I found it helps to have negative consequences for not doing it, and targets you can make. I then bribed/threatened myself to get them done: NO sleep till you finish writing this chapter! NO dinner until this or that is done! Or, on a nicer note: you can watch this or that new ep if you finish this, there's icecream if that gets done on time, and your grade is proportional to the reward you'll give yourself for getting it.

On longer time-scales, especially when you have to make deadlines, try the following: If I finish this before this and that date, I can have [reward]. For every day/week longer I take, this or that gets taken away from [reward]. The amount of books I'm allowed to buy works really well for me. If I get an A, I get 3 books, a B, 2, etc.

Hope that's at all useful?
One of the best things I've learned since I've been in grad school (physical chemistry here) is to go to the prof's office hours and ask questions.

Secondly, if you're like me and you have a hard time getting yourself to study, make sure you don't have a washer or dryer. I try to go to the laundry mat once a week. I get so bored there that I'll open up a book and start reading and studying anything on hand (so I usually bring one of my textbooks).

Thirdly, if you can (and if you are a GTA), try to set your office hours in the early morning (8-10). I'm lucky in that I'm only teaching freshmen courses this semester, and no freshmen wants to wake up to meet with their TA at 8am. So, you'll get bored once again and start studying while you're waiting for anyone to show up and ask you questions!

Anyway, I hope this advice helps.