Posted September 12, 2006 by thepotentialblog
Categories: Uncategorized

Sorry about the lack of posting recently. I’ve been having some family issues which have left me preoccupied and unable to think of things to write. It’s nothing too serious but it’s something that is hard to ignore which makes it hard to sit down and write a coherent blog post. Expect me back sometime late this week or early next week.


Study… aragh! And a question for the readers.

Posted September 11, 2006 by thepotentialblog
Categories: Uncategorized

My exam timetable was released this morning and logging on I see that I’ve got what amounts to a pretty rotten one. I’ve got one exam on the Wednesday in the first week of the exam period, another on the Thursday and then my last one is two weeks after that! Horrible! Having all three in the first week would be worse but it doesn’t seem right to have two close together then ages and ages before the third. Anyway, this means I have to start studying. For my law subjects I’ve got open-book exams. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I’m horrible at exams and a curse because it means they expect a much greater standard of work.

Over the next few weeks I’ll make an effort to post a blog about organising notes for exams – whether they be open or closed-book but in the meantime I’d love some suggestions about how to go about studying. Any ideas?

So, my question for the day: how do you study and revise for exams?

On Juggling

Posted September 11, 2006 by thepotentialblog
Categories: fun

When I was about 10 or so I taught myself to juggle using my dad’s Juggling for the Complete Klutz book. At the time I just wanted to be able to juggle like my dad and didn’t realise how much fun and practical it would be. Quite aside from being a useful party trick and excellent time waster when shopping, standing in the kitchen or in another location close to three similarly weighted things, it’s a great relaxation and focusing device. When I’ve been sitting at the computer for many hours or reading a book or something similar I like to stand up, put on some music, and spend five or ten minutes juggling away. I’ve never meditated but I imagine the feeling is quite similar. The throwing and catching get very rhythmic and soon the repetitive action and the sound of the catches just blanks your mind. It’s great!! Perfect if you need something to take a quick break from some serious concentrating. Another benefit is that all you need is three balls/bags/oranges and not very much space (although I wouldn’t recommend trying this in the library).

If you can’t juggle then check out Juggling for the Complete Klutz and The Complete Juggler – both books which I have found very useful. Also have a look on the web: Juggling Information Service, Internet Juggling Database and the International Jugglers’ Organisation all seem to have good sites although I haven’t used them extensively myself.


Posted September 9, 2006 by thepotentialblog
Categories: Uncategorized

Hi, I just wanted to make a quick post about comments. It’s great to see people getting involved on this site because me rambling on about what works for me isn’t any where near as interesting as a whole bunch of people talking about what works for them. I read all comments which are posted on this site and I’ll make an effort to reply to those which ask a question but I can’t promise to personally respond to each comment. I will reply to e-mails, however ( ). If you post a comment on this site then assume I read it and think “thanks very much” because it’s pointless for me to respond to each comment with another comment thanking the commentor for their comment. I just wanted to let readers know that I do read and very much appreciate the comments – keep them coming!

Cornell Note Taking System

Posted September 9, 2006 by thepotentialblog
Categories: law, Productivity/Tools, Tips and Tricks

In my lecture notes post reader Ryan posted a comment on the usefulness of the cornell note taking system with a link to TheFlyerMan’s notebook page generator. This reminded me of a post I had intended to write about both these things. I too use the cornell method and the page layout generator (found here).

The Theory

For the uninitiated the cornell note taking method is just a way of organising your notes by dividing up your page. You rule a 2.5 inch (6.25 cm) margin down the left-hand side of your page and a 2 inch (5 cm) margin at the bottom of the page. This makes the page look something like this:

————————– [You’ll have to excuse the bad text “image”. I’m trying to cater

|     |                        | for those on dial-up and other slow internets and I’m also

|     |                        | having trouble inserting images into blog posts – I’m sure

|     |                        | I’m doing it all right but for some reason it’s just not

|————————-| working]

When you’ve got your page set up like that then, according to the letter of the system, after your lecture you go through and put your key words, things to note, questions and other important points/summaries in the left hand column (“cue column”) and summaries of what the page says in the bottom section. The website of the West Shore Community College has a good pdf document covering this and lots of other study skills – it’s worth a download and can be accessed from a link on this page.

My “Hack”

Now that you know the theory, I’ll let you know what I do. I use the traditional note taking layout except that I print the lines onto lined paper (the kind that goes in ring-binders) and because the paper is thin I print the cue column on the left hand side on the front of the page and the right on the back so that the line matches up (otherwise the line shows through the paper – petty, yes, but it bothers me).

I use the cue column pretty much how it’s supposed to be used (although I have a habit of filling it out in the lecture rather than after – not a great technique but better than not filling it out at all) but the summaries row I use differently. Personally I find that it’s not that useful to summarise the contents of one page since often information goes across multiple pages. Being a law student we get lots (and lots, and lots…) of cases and statutes and in the bottom row I will write the names of all the cases which are first mentioned on that page and a summary of why I need to know about it (that means each case is only in one summary row per lecture). This might look something like this:

Donoghue v Stevenson – fundamental case in tort-law. Outlines new test for negligence – is there a duty of care? Is it reasonably foreseeable that harm would occur from the defendant’s conduct?

(Note: I’m going from memory for that so don’t take that as a reasonable summary of that case if you happen to be studying it). I also do a similar thing for statutes and sections in statutes. This means that when I’m going back through my notes I can quickly see which cases were covered and the key points the lecturer thinks I should know (which are sometimes different from the key points got from the reading). You might like to put names of theorists and their theories, equations or key terms in your summaries row. Write a comment if you’ve got a good “hack” for the cornell note taking system or if you know of another good system which works well for you.

Welcome to Procrastinators Anonymous

Posted September 8, 2006 by thepotentialblog
Categories: Productivity/Tools, Tips and Tricks

One BIG problem I have is “just checking that website” or “just seeing if I can beat by high score” or “just reading a chapter of that trashy aeroplane novel” when I’m going to start studying (I think it’s the grown up version of “I’ll do it when I finish this level, mum!”). Here is a list of five things I must stop doing when I really should start studying. I’m hoping that by writing it down and putting it out there for all the world to see I might shame myself into not doing them any more – think of it like Procrastinators Anonymous, if anyone else wants to air their dirty laundry and share with us all what they need to stop doing, go right ahead!

I’ll go first:

  1. The internet – big, dark, scary place with way to many things which seem interesting and important at the time
  2. RSS feeds – must stop obsessively checking every five minutes when should be studying
  3. Daytime TV – Dr. Phil, Oprah, bad American sitcoms with laugh-tracks and repeats of Blue Heelers (Aussie cop show) are way to distracting and really not interesting enough to waste an hour of my life on
  4. Any book by Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Dan Brown or Robin Cook (this is not an exclusive list) – no indictment upon the authors themselves, it’s just that their books are way too distracting
  5. Bubbles – this game is ruining my life. I play it on my Rockboxed iRiver H320 and I’m now obsessed with beating my high score (somewhere in the 4,000’s – a bad thing)

Now it’s your turn.

Ways to relax without wasting time

Posted September 8, 2006 by thepotentialblog
Categories: Productivity/Tools, Tips and Tricks

When I’m not studying I find it waaaay too easy to “kill” my spare time by doing one of several things – playing stupid computer games, random internet browsing and watching daytime TV. Recently I’ve been making an effort to avoid those things and I’ve come up with a list of things I can do which are relaxing and fun but at the same time productive:
– read
– listen to podcasts
– write
– listen to music
– exercise

I think the key is to find something that doesn’t just use the time up but fills it. Obsessively checking e-mail and RSS feeds is not a time-using activity it’s a time-wasting activity.