Why Students Should Turn the Internet Off When They Study

By Stefanie Weisman

[Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on the Freedom website and has been re-posted with their permission.]

Okay, I admit it.  I’ve been having a little problem in the self-control department lately.  No matter what I tried to do – write an article, do research, read a book, etc. – I found myself typing the url of some distracting, time-wasting website, with Facebook being the worst offender.  It was a rather bizarre feeling, as if my fingers had acquired a mind of their own.  Before I knew it, I had been sucked into an internet black hole of silly videos and mindless trivia, which used up a good chunk of my time and energy.

My situation is hardly unique.  In my experience as a high school and college study skills expert, I’m constantly reminded of the problems caused by excessive internet usage.  On average, teens spend nine hours a day using media for entertainment – that’s more time than they spend sleeping and far more time than they spend studying.  Many students use social media and other “fun” sites while they’re studying or doing homework.  They may think such media multi-tasking doesn’t hurt their concentration, but study after study has shown this not to be the case.  According to a pioneer in this field, the late Stanford professor Clifford Nass, “people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking.”  In a 2012 study, researchers found that using Facebook and texting in particular were associated with lower GPA.

But as we all know, it can be hard to give up things that are bad for us.  The instant gratification we feel from sending a Tweet or getting a Like on our Facebook post creates a dopamine loop in our brains that makes us hungry for more.  We can all use a little help in the fight against bad habits.  Which is why, when I was given the chance to try Freedom, a program designed to eliminate distractions on the web, I jumped at the opportunity.

After downloading Freedom, the first thing I did was set up a recurring block of Facebook and other sites I have a weakness for, such as YouTube and Netflix, during the work day.  I was struck by how freeing it was to know these sites were off-limits.  My need to check on my friends seemed to evaporate, and my productivity increased.  At times when I needed complete concentration, I chose to block all websites – easily done on Freedom by checking a box.

freedom_full_view_cropped

A view of what the Freedom dashboard looks like on my computer.

I quickly discovered that Freedom has many features that make it superior to, say, disabling the wi-fi on your computer.  While shutting down wi-fi is an all-or-nothing solution, Freedom helps you fine-tune your internet consumption.  You can create multiple Blocklists, allowing you to block as many or as few websites as you want with the click of a button.  Freedom conveniently lets you choose from a list of the most commonly used (or should I say abused) social media sites, and you can manually enter any other sites you find distracting.  You can put these Blocklists into effect at any time or schedule them for recurring Sessions, which is great if you know you want to avoid certain sites at the same time every day, and sync your Sessions across multiple devices.  Perhaps most importantly, Freedom can keep you from giving in to temptation.  The problem with disabling your wi-fi is that you can easily turn it back on again.  With Freedom, you can select Locked Mode, which makes it virtually impossible to access the internet (or specific sites) for up to 8 hours.

This software would clearly be a great tool for students.  Those who use their PCs to take notes could set up a recurring block of all websites during class time, thus avoiding the distractions associated with in-class laptop use.  Similar blocks could be set up when studying for exams or writing papers.  And when students need the internet to do research, they can block social sites that would keep them from their work.

I used Freedom on a Windows PC and an iPhone.  Here are a few tricks I learned on how to use Freedom most effectively on these devices:

  • When I had a Session going in Locked Mode, I realized I was still able to end the Session by selecting “Quit” on the Freedom desktop icon. To fully enable Locked Mode, go to Options on the desktop icon and select “Disable Quit During Sessions.”  Developers will be syncing this to Locked Mode to eliminate confusion.
  • Having multiple Sessions going at the same time may cause unintended consequences. At one point, I had to restart my computer to regain access to the internet after a Session had ended.  To avoid this, select “Sync Freedom” on the desktop icon.
  • You may still be able to access the Facebook app on your mobile device during Sessions that are supposed to block the site. Developers are working on a way to block the app, but in the meantime, use this work-around.

I’m especially looking forward to the time when Freedom has a whitelisting feature, which developers are hard at work on.  This means that users will be able to block all websites except the ones they specify.  I would love to be able to access my email and a few other sites while blocking the rest of the internet.

I’ll leave you with one last thought, which in my view is pretty amazing: I haven’t checked Facebook once while writing this article.


Want more study tips?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Do Sweaty Students Make Better Students? The Connection Between Exercise and Better Grades

By Mathew Jade

It’s no secret that college students have jam-packed schedules. There are classes to attend, assignments to submit and socialization to be done. It’s hard enough to find time to sleep, let alone squeeze in regular exercise. You may ask why it’s important – there will be plenty of time to get fit once college is over, right?  However, what I was taught during my MBA, and what has long been taught in all top-notch business schools, is now being backed by scientific evidence: Regular exercise does not just keep you physically fit but also provides important cognitive benefits that can help you perform better in class – or in pretty much any setting where you need to use your brain cells.

Healthy Lifestyle Seamless Pattern

So how exactly does exercise help? Let me elaborate

  • Exercise acts as a stimulant for brain cell development

For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence on how exercise affects brainpower. Recent experiments have proved that there is a definite relationship between exercise and improved cognitive abilities.

For example, the New York Times published the results of a study led by Justin. S. Rhodes, a psychology professor in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. His study involved running experiments on four groups of mice. The mice who were given exercise wheels had marked improvements in brainpower. Mice exercising had more neurons – that is, brain cells – than those which did not.  In addition, the mice exercising regularly had developed more complex connections between neurons, meaning they could think faster.  Substitute a treadmill for a hamster wheel, and there’s a good chance you’ll see better grades over time.

  • Exercise will help you be more focused

A Canadian school that caters to learning-disabled and ADHD children carried out an experiment in 2009, in which children exercised for 20 minutes on treadmills or exercise bikes before starting math lessons. Teachers noted a marked improvement in students’ concentration levels, information retaining capabilities, and their overall motivation to study.

  • Exercise relieves stress

We all know college is a stressful time. It’s a challenge to get enough sleep, and there’s tons of work to do. Exercise, even if it is 15 minutes a day (high intensity, enough to jack up your heart rate and breath) leads to the release of endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that keep stress at bay. So exercise can reduce stress and help you work your way through college more effectively.

Exercise is very important in college. Not only will it keep your brain sharp, but it will also help you stay physically fit. It’s common for students to suffer from the “Freshman 15” – that is, the 15 pounds freshmen pack on in the first year due to limited exercise and unhealthy diet. And following an exercise regime is something you should do for life. For example, Hong Kong business magnate Allan Zeman does 90 minutes of exercise every morning without fail; Zeman once made a U.S. president wait so he could complete his daily exercise routine.

About the author: Mathew Jade is a passionate blogger who loves to write on Economics and finance-related topics. For further updates follow @Mathew_Jade


Looking for more mind-brain study tips?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Liberal Arts Student’s Guide to STEM

Even if you’re a liberal arts / humanities student, you will probably have to take a course in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) at some point in your college career.  Check out this new article I wrote on how to succeed in STEM, even if you think you’re “just not good at math.”


Want more tips on college success?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students.

 

Quick Tips Part 6: How to Study Actively

By Stefanie Weisman

Did you know you learn better when you study actively?  Next time you have a test, instead of passively reading and re-reading your textbook, try the following active study techniques:

  • Explain concepts in your own words, to yourself or someone else.  Remember: it’s okay to talk to yourself!
  • Make review sheets/ Write out the main points.
  • Join a study group in which you and the other members test each other on the material.
  • Write and re-write things — like names, dates, formulas, vocabulary, and verb conjugations — from memory.
  • Draw out/ diagram complex concepts.
  • Do practice problems — and don’t look at the answers until you’re done!
  • Take practice tests provided by your teacher.
  • Think up potential test questions (and answer them).
  • Test yourself with flash cards, lists, etc.

For more study tips, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 5: How to Come Up with a Thesis

By Stefanie Weisman

If you’re a high school or college student, you probably dread having to come up with a thesis.  A thesis is the argument you make in your paper based on research and/or your own experience.  Sometimes a thesis will come to you very quickly, in a flash of inspiration.  But most of the time, it takes a lot more work.

When writing a research paper, consider yourself part of a scholarly debate.  It’s perfectly acceptable – even encouraged – to challenge the ideas you read in a book or heard from your teacher.  A thesis should be your own unique, original contribution to the debate.

To come up with a thesis, think critically as you read books, articles, and other sources.  You should constantly ask yourself questions such as:

  • Why did a person or character do something?  What motivates him/her?
  • Who/ What is responsible for an event or action?
  • What is the cause of something?  What is the effect of something?
  • What is the significance of an action or event?
  • What are some potential flaws in an author’s argument or idea?  Are there other possible explanations?
  • What do you think about an issue?  Do you agree with the given interpretation?  Why or why not?
  • How did an event or action take place?  Why did it take place the way it did?
As you do research, try thinking like a reporter – always ask “who, what, where, when, why, and how?”

Do you have any tips for coming up with a thesis?


For more tips on writing papers, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 3: Common Grammar Mistakes All College Students Should Avoid

Make sure you know the difference between . . .

  1.  Your vs. You’re
    • “Your” is the second person possessive adjective and describes something as belonging to you.
      • Ex.: Your paper is written very well.
    • “You’re” is the contraction of “you are.”
      • Ex.: You’re going to do very well on this test.
  2. Its vs. It’s
    • “Its” is a possessive adjective meaning “of it” or “belonging to it.”
      • Ex.: I love that bakery.  Its bread is to die for.
    • “It’s” is the contraction of “it is” or “it has.”
      • Ex.: It’s also got amazing coffee.
  3. There vs. Their vs. They’re
    • “There” can indicate a place, introduce a noun or clause, or be used for emphasis.
      • Ex.: I’m going to be sitting over there.
    • “Their” is the third-person plural possessive adjective meaning “of them” or “belonging to them.”
      • Ex.: I don’t like our new neighbors.  Their dog was barking all night.
    • “They’re” is the contraction of “they are.”
      • Ex.: They’re buying a house.
  4. Who’s vs. Whose
    • “Who’s” is the contraction of “who is” or “who has.”
      • Ex.: Who’s going to the baseball game tonight?
    • “Whose” is the possessive form of “who.”
      • Ex.: Whose baseball bat is this?
  5. Who vs. Whom
    • “Who” is a subject, the person performing the action of the verb.
      • Ex.: Who wants ice cream?
    • “Whom” is an object, the person to, about, or for whom the action is being done.
      • Ex.: To whom should I send this letter?
  6. Then vs. Than
    • “Then” can mean “at that point in time,” “next,” “in addition,” “also,” “in that case,” “therefore.”
      • Ex.: The man opened the door.  Then he turned off the light.
    • “Than” is a conjunction used in comparisons.
      • Ex.: He is taller than his brother.

For more tips on grammar and writing, check out The Secrets of Top Students.