The Extra Benefits of Study
Study is the process of learning what you need to know to pass a test or an exam. Passing the test or exam is a way to get the qualification you require to move forward in your goals and journey. Often the information learned is forgotten the next day or week as the learning focus shifts to the next subject or topic. The extra benefit of your study time is learning the executive function skills important for life beyond the classroom. Below is a list of the skills that you learn through the process of studying and can be useful tools to enhance your learning.
What are executive functions?
Executive functions are a set of mental skills which are the management system of your brain. Studying gives you a wonderful opportunity to practice these skills which are highly intertwined and are important for great learning and success in life. Here are seven executive functions you develop through studying and are also success keys beyond school.
It is important to note you are not born with these skills, they are all learnable. You were, however, born with the potential to develop these skills. Emotional control is how you control and respond to your emotions.
1.Planning & Time Management
Whether you are planning an essay, your time, how to lay out a webpage, or a gaming strategy you are learning many smaller skills associated with planning. These include breaking a task into smaller manageable parts, estimating how long a task will take, using a system to keep track of projects and planning ways to use your time wisely. These skills are important not only in school but also if you are an office assistant, a lawyer, a truck driver or a professional sports player. If you find you hand in assignments at the last minute, forget to bring homework or materials to school, find tasks take longer than you think or get caught up in the details this is an executive function to work on.
This is your ability to start a task without procrastinating or external prompting. Linked with the executive function of planning, task initiation is about learning to break a task into manageable chunks, get started without being asked and with enough time to finish the task. People who have challenges with this often become overwhelmed with projects, are easily distracted and need someone to tell them to get started.
Keeping track of information, notes, resources, due dates and important tasks is imperative when working in a job beyond school. A builder needs to know where her tools are and a surgeon must stick to the schedule.
Develop a system to store your notes for fast and easy retrieval. Create a routine to record all due dates in the same place, a diary, online calendar, a digital sticky note etc. Designate a place to keep your belongings. This can be as simple as always putting your keys in the same place to having a place to study with all your resources together.
Interestingly, research clearly shows people who keep their surroundings clean and organised are more focused and can concentrate for longer.
Your ability to adapt to changing conditions by revising plans or changing strategies is a necessary skill in the workplace. Having a routine and a plan is great and being able to change direction or cope with the unexpected is a skill of the successful. Over the past two years, during a pandemic, we have seen the rules change many times and often without warning. Being able to revise your plans when you have a setback is crucial. Maybe you have a designated time to study and suddenly your parents say you are excepted to go out with them to a family occasion, or you are halfway through an assignment to discover you have answered the wrong questions. Your capacity to be flexible and change direction, pivot or pirouette swiftly without distress, will have you back on track towards success quickly.
Being able to keep track of what you are doing until task completion is called working memory. It is like having a sticky note in your brain to keep you on track. It holds new information in place so the brain can use it to connect with other information. Working memory is short-term, just to tackle the task at hand and helps the brain organise information for long-term storage. This is your ability to follow multi-step directions such as answering a 3 part question. It helps to minimise distractions such as social media, clutter and interruptions to keep your attention focused on your work.
Using memory techniques such as repetition, association and chunking can help develop your working memory during your study sessions.
Being able to self-evaluate and watch yourself from a different perspective is another key skill of adulthood. I call it parenting yourself. Studying and completing homework are great opportunities to learn to make your own decisions and make adjustments when required. It is also a great way to learn to check your work, correct mistakes and take and act on feedback. Being able to self-monitor also includes understanding your own strengths and weaknesses and monitoring your progress or lack of it and then self-correct as required. Reflection on your process is important. Ask yourself these questions. “Am I on track to get this assignment finished on time? What did I do that was helpful towards my success? How can I improve my process? Are there more effective learning strategies I could be adopting? In what ways might a streamline my study?” This executive function skill helps you to be more independent in school and life.
Studying and learning come with ups and downs, wins and failures. Being able to manage your positive and negative emotions and experiences is an important life skill to achieve task completion. Emotional control is how you control and respond to your emotions.
If you feel anxious, can you bounce back to achieve your goals? Maybe you do not get the mark you were hoping for on an assignment – can you recover quickly from disappointment? When a circumstance seems unfair can you keep sight of your goals, avoid overreacting and complete the tasks required? All of these emotions are normal and should not be suppressed, just controlled.
The next time you settle down to study, complete an assignment or practice a new skill, take a moment to think about which of these seven executive functions you are using or developing. Studying not is all about the marks you get. Study is a vehicle and opportunity to learn and practice the executive functions which help with long-term success.