Work Ethic

September 3, 2012

Cater to your senses. I think that it is important to figure out what you are most sensitive to and manipulate that factor. Supposedly I am an auditory learner, but taste and smell also have a great effect on my memory.

Music, as we very well know is powerful. In my last post I toyed with the idea of connections and how singing makes me feel closer to my dad. Sound can also help me focus, and free my mind.

The only way that I can force myself to run my 2.5 miles a day is to blast highly womanizing, explicit music. 50 cent, Eminem and Snoop Dogg usually do the trick. I don’t know if it is that I want to run away from the degrading lyrics or what! But it works. The only way that I can study is, inversely, listening to Maria Callas’ 100 Best. There is really no in between for me.

As suggested in the article below, physical exercise can help make your “hippocampus” bigger…that sounds good to me! Running also helps me relieve the stresses of the day and release my creative side. Letting my mind wander for 30 minutes is sort of like “free time” in fifth grade. Then I could ignore my teacher telling me that I was too young to have a boyfriend, that my social studies skills were not up to snuff and the rumor that I snuck out of my house to visit this boyfriend (I’m still bothered by that!); and now I can forget about whether there is a schwa or an open “e” in my aria, that I have to write paper on WWII, and the fact that I have strep throat. It is simply a time to explore.  My exercise time and right before I fall asleep are my most productive, creative times because that is when I am most relaxed. I have found that writing down tidbits of what is bouncing through my brain leads to some solid material.

Study breaks and deferred gratification are also a big part of my work ethic. I have a typical case of mother-diagnosed ADD, and because of that I have to give myself little goals for 2 hour periods. I am also highly food driven. Making up little games for myself is usually the best way to get a paper or homework done. Example “If you get the first page of the music theory homework done in twenty minutes or less you can have two fig newtons”. (this is the sad truth of what I talk to myself about). Although I usually go for a third fig newton, I am sure that I finish my homework much more quickly than I would if I had been eating fig newtons the whole time I was attempting to study. The second article says that those who have the ability to delay a reward have more success in personal, artistic and academic realms. Who knew that making myself wait to eat fig newtons would make me more successful!

Crazy Theories of Mine:

I sleep with a noise maker every night and am convinced that I can’t sleep without it. Some call me a baby, I call me comfortable.

My junior year of high school was particularly difficult. I knew that I had to work the hardest this year because I had a much larger course load and had APs to study for as well as finals. I had noticed that I am very sensitive to smell and taste. When I have a memory (fond or unpleasant) it is usually triggered by a smell or a taste and not any sort of visual. For example, whenever I taste a devil’s food cookie I think of my Grandma Harper and whenever I smell something like moth balls and dust I think of riding on my Grandma Strahm’s rocking horse. I decided that I could use this quark to my advantage. As there are no cookies allowed during final exams I thought of using flavored gum to trigger my memory during the test. About two months before my exams started I laid out five different flavors of gum and assigned them to each class. I then chewed this flavor of gum in my five classes, at home studying, and during tests/quizzes leading up to the big exam. note: make sure not to mix up the flavors! That year I got the best grades on my finals ever and received Headmaster’s recognition as well as High Honors. Yippee! If you try it let me know how it works out for you!

I am curious to know what works best for other people! Please write back and tell me how you study best and if you also enjoy the serenades of D-O-double G.

Ps. the referenced articles are in the comment box

One Response

  1. Articles provided by Jose Boen

    Some of those college guides will tell you how to get “A”s. Some of it works, but most of it does
    not lead to deep learning, great art or things you can use later. Here is a list I simplified from a
    new book by Ken Bain, What the Best College Students Do, (Harvard University Press, 2012):
    Are there some key techniques that will both grow the dynamic power of the mind and
    support academic success? I think there are and they are found largely in the approaches
    that we saw among our best students. Not surprisingly, those ways of doing things have
    strong support from the research on human learning, yet they require a special rereading of that literature in light of our stories of highly creative people and the vast and
    growing body of work on deep learning. What does the research tell us about how best
    to review material?
    1. Elaborate, elaborate, elaborate. Associate, associate, associate.
    Make connections. Ask questions. Evaluate. Play with words in your own mind. Have
    fun. As Jenkins and Hyde demonstrated, even the somewhat silly notion of rating a word
    on its “pleasantness” will help. When I introduced their ideas, I set them in the context
    of snow and winter in Minnesota, greatly increasing the chances that you will remember
    where they did their original research and even what they concluded. You can think
    about the rhythm a word conveys, the lines and colors of its meaning. The more
    association you make, the greater your chances of recalling it later.
    2. Develop an understanding before trying to remember. This applies to
    virtually anything you might try to stuff away in the memory banks. Understanding
    requires a deep network of associations, and it is those intricate strands of connection
    that make recalling even possible. I’m currently trying to learn Chinese characters used
    in writing Mandarin. At first, the task seemed almost impossible, and every guidebook I
    consulted advised blind memory, repeating them over and over again. Yet I began to
    make progress only when I started taking them apart, noticing that they often consist of Bowen, FACE Reading: Work Habits of Creative People
    several characters, each with its own meaning. I set about making up stories with them,
    and learning other tales that native speakers and readers have passed down for
    generations. The character that means the same thing that the English word “cry”
    conveys, now looks to me like a stick figure of a person with two large eyes and a single
    tear dripping from the corner of their left one. The character for forest consists of
    three smaller stick drawings of a tree. The one for “good” contains the characters for
    woman and child.
    3. Repeat, repeat, repeat. No matter how much I try to associate, I can
    remember some characters only after repeated exposure. But how often should I
    repeat them? Does it pay to repeat endlessly the night before the big examination, or to
    stretch the same number of repetitions over days and weeks, and perhaps actually
    spend less total time on drills if I space them out? Diligent students will often spend
    hours trying to memorize dates and names, parts of the cell, or other details. Recent
    research has discovered, however, that some of that traditional process can be a waste
    of time.
    Consider how the brain works. When you encounter something new—let’s say a
    new word—you will begin to forget it almost immediately, and a day later you might not
    recall it at all. But a second exposure will extend the time you can remember it. And so
    will a third, fourth, and so on. Each time you hear it, you can wait a little bit longer
    before encountering it again and still not forget it. If that next exposure catches your
    brain just before the word falls out of mind, you can restore its freshness. But what is
    the ideal space between exposures, both for immediate recall on an examination and for
    how it will influence the way you will subsequently think, act, and feel?
    While research offers no definitive answers to this question, it seems clear that the
    empirical studies reinforce the patterns I saw among the people I interviewed. In
    general, they spaced their repetitions, (think of this and the idea that great artists
    often take naps or practice in intervals!) and perhaps, most important, did them in the
    context of making connections with other things. Several people have tried
    to work out exactly how long you can go before you need another injection, with the
    general notion that each time you encounter something, you can go longer and longer
    before the next exposure. Popular language learning programs like the Pimsleur series of
    audio tapes are based in part on this principle. Each time you hear a new word, you will
    meet it again within a few seconds, but the third instance might be a minute later, the
    fourth, several minutes on, and the ninth time could be the next day. Millions of
    language-learners have found great success using carefully spaced repetition techniques.
    Supermemo and other similar programs have become increasingly popular among
    students in translation schools in Europe and second-language learners in China.
    All of that suggests that you will benefit most from spacing study over several
    weeks rather than just massing it right before a big test, although a last minute brush-up
    after weeks of study could help insure more accuracy on the examination.
    Can you spend too much time reviewing? Probably, especially if all of that time
    comes massed right before an exam. If you space it out properly over many weeks, you
    can most likely spend less total time and achieve more then you will in an all night cram
    session. Computer programs like Supermemo and Anki can help focus attention on the
    hard to remember items, giving less but still enough time to the items you remember
    Yet repetition will pay its greatest rewards if done in the midst of meaningful and Bowen, FACE Reading: Work Habits of Creative People
    elaborated work. Thus, I remember more from my Pimsleur tapes in which I’m engaged
    in conversations that seem authentic then I do from flipping through flashcards, even
    though the latter sometimes help polish up my skills, rescuing a word or two that may
    be in danger of falling off my mental table. I recall characters that I see frequently in
    interesting passages that I read, rather than those I meet only on the backside of my
    study cards.
    4. Testing (think making, playing or performing for artists) is better
    than rehearsing. A growing body of evidence strongly suggest that if I test myself on
    that vocabulary, even when I get it wrong, I will learn more than I will simply going over
    and over the same material. Something happens in the brain when we force it to dig
    something out its deepest barrels. The act of searching, trying to recall, piecing together
    something, builds strong and stable connections that just never emerge from repeating
    the item again and again. That may be one of the reasons that explaining a concept to
    someone else helps you to remember what you understand. In that environment, you
    test your ability to recall. When I listen to my language tapes, I benefit most if I stop the
    player and try my best to remember some phrase rather than waiting for the narrator
    to give me the answer. Humans construct their memories each time they bring them to
    mind, and those repeated constructions when I test myself make it easier to rebuild
    them the next time. We heard repeatedly stories about students who studied together,
    quizzing and probing one another, each person taking a turn at teaching the others.
    Suppose you begin by just guessing and getting everything wrong. Will that help as
    much as trying to recall correct answers? Shouldn’t you at least study first before
    attempting to remember something? If you just guess wildly before somebody tells you
    the right answer, you’ll undoubtedly get it wrong, and won’t that practice of incorrect
    information diminish your learning?
    Quite the contrary, argues some recent research. In experiments at the University
    of California at Los Angeles, psychologists gave students two different ways to learn
    some material. Half of them had to guess the right response first before seeing the
    correct one. The others studied first. So who did better on a subsequent examination?
    Those who had first generated possible answers, even though they were all wrong,
    scored significantly higher than the students who had spent their time reviewing the
    material first.
    In another experiment, the researchers gave students a scientific article on vision.
    Half the subjects just read the article then faced a test on how much of it they
    remembered. The others took a test before reading. Later, they took another exam to
    see how much they could recall. Even though those who read first had copies of the
    article that highlighted and italicized all of the material that would be on the exam, and
    those who speculated first didn’t, the speculators did significantly better on the final
    5. Don’t always study (work or practice!) in the same spot. If you study in
    different places, that apparently helps create variety, and that rich experience can help
    to reinforce. Numerous experiments have found that if learners simply study in at least
    two different places, they are more likely to recall the material. In one of the first such
    trials, two different groups studied a list of words. Some students returned to the same
    room twice while their counterparts spent the same amount of time divided between
    two locations. When asked to recall as many words on the list as possible, those who Bowen, FACE Reading: Work Habits of Creative People
    had moved around did far better. Variety creates rich association, even when those
    connections form in the background totally outside of what we are consciously
    6. Don’t multi-task but do study more than one subject at a time.
    That probably sounds like contradictory gibberish, but it’s not. Watching television while
    reading history, or playing a computer game while trying to write a paper both keep you
    from concentrating. Numerous experiments have found that with the exception of a
    very few routine tasks that we’ve done repeatedly over many years, the human brain
    can’t really perform two different tasks simultaneously. Thus, we can walk and talk at
    the same time, but we can’t really read a book and watch television simultaneously.
    Instead, we will, at best, switch constantly between the two, taking twice as long to
    finish the book, and getting less out of it.
    Try this experiment. First, write each of the letters from A to Z. Then do the same
    for the numbers 1 to 26. Next, write the letters and numbers alternatively, 1, A, 2, B,
    and so forth. If you timed both trials, you’d find that alternating between the two takes
    far longer then doing the numbers and then the letter. Multitasking doesn’t work.
    But we also have evidence that students remember far better, and understand
    more deeply when they constantly integrate subjects together, even ones as different as
    chemistry and history. Thus, studying two or more subjects almost simultaneously can
    help create that integration. That might mean alternating between the two in ways that
    constantly look for connections, and find ways to think about one in the context of the
    other. Dudley Herschbach saw links between research on polymers and the outcome of
    World War II. The chemistry research allowed the United States to develop artificial
    rubber at a time when Japan sought to conquer all of the rubber tree-growing areas of
    southeast Asia.
    7. Find a quite place with few if any distractions. Or maybe two or three
    of them.
    8. Exercise physically. Recent years have produced considerable evidence that
    the brain and learning benefit from regular and steady exercise, adequate and scheduled
    sleep, and healthy and balanced diets. Studies have found, for example, that regular
    aerobic exercise can help increase the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that
    contributes to memory.
    Wendy Suzuki, a professor of neuroscience at New York
    University, found that students who did aerobic exercise for an hour before listening to
    a lecture did significantly better than did students who didn’t.
    Paul Baker gasped
    something similar long before the medical research accumulated. Prior to each of those
    classes in the Integration of Abilities course, students did both vocal and physical
    9. Active learners speculate, sometimes wildly, about possible
    solutions and connections, even before they know anything. When they
    encounter a math problem or that historical puzzle, they begin to suppose this and that,
    playing with possibilities, and developing tentative hypotheses, but always recognizing
    that anything they might conjure up out of their imagination has to be tested. They don’t
    just wait for someone to give them the answer.Bowen, FACE Reading: Work Habits of Creative People
    These research and strategies are from Patty O’Grady, “The Twitter Generation: Teaching
    Deferred Gratification to College Students,” #61 National Teaching and Learning Forum
    Newsletter, Vol. 21, Number 3, March 2012. I have, however, reworked the implementation
    from teacher to student strategies:
    Independent research on deferred gratification and the neurodevelopment science of
    education both conclude that there is a strong correlation between deferred
    gratification—defined as self-regulation—and current and future academic, artistic,
    social, and emotional success.
    Deferred gratification—also referred to as impulse control, self-regulation, self-control,
    self-discipline, patience, and will power—is the ability to delay reward. Goleman (1996)
    suggests that self-regulation is a key factor in emotional intelligence, predictive of
    artistic, academic and personal success across multiple assessment variables. New
    neuroscience research suggests that deferred gratification is a brain process that
    activates the frontal cortex to manage the impulses and emotions of the amygdala.
    The Marshmallow Effect
    The famous Stanford University “marshmallow experiment” offers some background
    indicating that good impulse control seems to be important for academic achievement
    and life success (Mischel et al. 1989). In the 1960s and 1970s, Mischel and his colleagues
    studied 651 preschool-aged children examining the mental mechanisms that affect
    cognitive and emotional self-regulation (Mischel et al. 1989; Mischel & Ayduk 2004). The
    children were given a marshmallow and advised that if they waited to eat a marshmallow
    until the experimenter returned from an errand after 15-20 minutes, the experimenter
    would give the child two marshmallows to eat. One-third of the children ate the
    marshmallow almost immediately. One-third of the children waited some period of
    time, but ate the marshmallow before the experimenter returned. One-third of the
    children waited long enough to earn the second marshmallow. In a longitudinal followup study, the same children were tested at 18 years of age (Mischel, Shoda, & Peake
    1989). The children who ate the marshmallow immediately, labeled the low delayers,
    were compared to the children who waited to receive the enhanced reward, labeled the
    high delayers. Across a range of measured variables—including behavioral measures,
    cognitive measures, attention measures, social and relationship measures, physical health
    measures, stress measures, school attendance, school completion, early pregnancy,
    truancy, drug use, and criminal activity—low delayers performed less success- fully.
    Most significantly, the high delayers (610-625) scored, on average, 210 points higher on
    the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) in mathematics than the low delayers (524-528).
    The predictive variable was deemed the “strategic allocation of attention” or the ability
    to self-distract (Mischel et al. 1972; Mischel et al. 1988). As children, these adults
    exhibited the ability to self-moderate and modulate emotions using cognitive strategies
    (e.g., singing to self, covering eyes). The findings are stable across cultures. Based on this
    research, ability to self-regulate is a better predictor of SAT score than Intelligence
    Quotient (IQ) or parent education or even economic status (Goleman 1996).Bowen, FACE Reading: Work Habits of Creative People
    Neuroscience of Self-Regulation
    Goleman (1996) advanced the theory of emotional intelligence summarizing the
    research that students who are emotionally competent, recognize and manage their
    feelings, exhibit empathy and tolerate frustration are less impulsive, more focused, and
    concentrate better. Goleman further argued that emotionally intelligent students
    manage their impulses and tend to find rational solutions to problems. Goleman’s
    propositions are perfectly aligned with Mischel’s claims that self-regulation is a key
    determinant of future success across multiple variables and that a lack of self-regulation
    is associated with increased academic, social, and behavioral difficulties.
    Improving Self-Regulation
    Recommended approaches from the literature.
    1. Sensory and Sensory/Motor Experiences — Increase personal and physical
    attention to self and body movement in space holding positions for prescribed periods
    of time, as occurs in yoga. Use music, smell, touch, and emotion to focus student’s self
    and sensory attention, discussing the amount of time the sensory experience takes, how
    long it lingers, and how immediate the need is to recreate pleasant sensory experiences.
    Encourage all artists to take experiential classes in movement.
    2. Projects— Increase complexity of task and challenge of task through longer
    structured projects. Work on essential questions and pose multiple solutions. Take the
    time to think about the amount of time needed to investigate a problem thoroughly or
    finalize a project.
    3. Stress Reduction — Stress has a negative impact on neurodevelopment. Record
    and chart antecedent conditions associated with stressful situations and report amount
    of stress time experienced daily. Understand how you work and put yourself in the best
    situations to be creative.
    4. Affiliation — We learn in context. Connect what interests you inside and outside
    of the classroom. Curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities are all part of
    your education, but they are also part of your life. An artist’s life is part of his/her art.
    5. Goal Setting —Generate self-directed plans that include written goals and an
    implementation timeline. Then monitor and evaluate progress. Identify ways to improve
    6. Strategic Time Allocation — Generate daily/weekly/monthly schedules with
    specific times to complete tasks and assessments. How long do specific tasks take?
    Revise schedules as needed based on data analysis.
    7. Positive Distractors —Identify your personal positive distractors (e.g.,
    headphones with music, work time in library, exercise breaks) that increase persistence
    to tasks. Bowen, FACE Reading: Work Habits of Creative People
    8. Reward Systems – Identify you personal reward systems. Do you work
    better/faster/harder when you know you have a vacation or a deadline coming up? Some
    people need deadlines, while other need rewards. Test how you work.
    9. Second Chances – Give yourself lots of second, third and fourth chances.
    Citations for Reading 1:

    Kornell, N., M.ºJ. Hays, and R.ºA. Bjork. “Unsuccessful Retrieval Attempts Enhance Subsequent
    Dudley Herschbach, in contrast, told us that he always studied in the same nook in the library. Find out
    what works for you, but for Psychonomic Bulletin & Review some of the research see, Smith, S.ºM., and E.
    Vela. “Environmental Context-dependent Memory: A Review and Meta-analysis.” 8, no. 2 (2001): 203–
    220; Smith, S.ºM, A. Glenberg, and R.ºA Bjork. “Environmental Context and Human Memory.” Memory &
    Cognition 6, no. 4 (1978): 342–353. For a different kind of finding, see Fernandez, A., and A.ºM. Glenberg.
    “Changing Environmental Context Does Not Reliably Affect Memory.” Memory & Cognition 13, no. 4
    (1985): 333–345.
    Rubinstein, J.ºS., D.ºE. Meyer, and J.ºE. Evans. “Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task
    Switching.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 27, no. 4 (2001): 763.
    Kirk I. Erickson et al., “Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory,”
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, no. 7 (February 15, 2011): 3017–3022.
    Elizabeth Mo. “Studying the link between exercise and learning—The Chart— Blogs”,
    accessed January 22, 2011.
    Citations for Reading 2:
    Goleman, D. (1996). Working with emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. London, UK:
    Mischel, W., Ebbessen, E., & Zeiss, A. R. (1972). Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of
    gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21, 204-218.
    Mischel, W., & Ayduk, O. (2004). Willpower in a cognitive-affective processing system: The dynamics of
    delay of gratification. In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Editors.), Handbook of Self-regulation: Research,
    Theory, and Applications (pp. 99-129). New York, NY: Guilford.
    Mischel, W., Shoda Y., & Peake, P. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool
    delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 687-696.
    Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, M. L. (1989). Delay of gratification in children. Science, 244, 933-938.
    I would add this brand new book: Paul Tough, “How Children

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