How To Focus On Homework (And Get It Done FAST)

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got a pretty straightforward one here

for you today you know all the problem

sets that you get for class the ones

that take hours and hours how do we get

them done faster

Ashleigh writes I wish I had the ability

to know enough after lecture to solve

the problems and was fast enough to

complete my assignments and problem sets

on time and generally most students that

you come across want to figure out how

to spend less time on homework and more

time on things that actually matter to

them so how do we do it is it just a

matter of getting organized and having a

homework space and just sitting down to

do it like websites like this recommend

homework is usually not fun but you can

make it much more bearable if you follow

Nikes advice and just do it oh now I get


it makes sense now you just have to sit

down and do your work please so here's

my two-pronged approach how I would

approach it that will actually get you

results in terms of getting your work

done faster a quick caveat Before we

jump in there are no magic bullets

you're not going to be able to

understand everything right away coming

off of lecture and jump into your

homework sets and bust through them like

some sort of finely tuned supercomputer

yes a limitless was a very cool movie I

know but this is reality you're going to

need to put in the work but I'll show

you how to do it so that you can get the

biggest bang for your buck and not waste

your time okay so here we go first off

Ashley I think a lot of the time we get

caught up in sort of the process of what

we should be doing when it comes to

studying in college you do some reading

before class you go to class you take

the notes you finish up the notes you

come home you start your homework you

review your notes you read the textbook

and then you do that over and over and

over again until you get to the exam and

you know cross your fingers I can

actually solve the problems on the exam

and more often than not

were pretty much lost when it comes to

solving difficult problems and it takes

a ton of time to do it that way the

problem is this formula that we're used

to is incomplete it takes you directly

from hearing information for the first

time and then somehow magically

remembering how to do it to you know

being thrown far into the depths of

difficult problems getting stuck and

frustrated and it doesn't really leave

us with any high-quality understanding

that we can then take to the exams let

alone save us time by being able to

solve problems more efficiently so

instead of spending all your time

jumping through all these hoops my first

recommendation is to jump into solving

problems as quickly as possible

now I cover this briefly a couple of

weeks ago in my how to not fall behind

in school video which you can check out

here if you want to take a look at that

but let's establish this as our sort of

one baseline thing that we can do right

off the bat to start getting our

homework problems done faster don't feel

like you have to read through your notes

or you have to perfectly understand

exactly what quit

equations to use what assumptions to

make before starting to solve problems

because as a general principle the

quicker you start on solving problems

the faster you're going to be able to

get them done plus as a side benefit

like I've talked about before the

research shows that the quicker you

start testing yourself by jumping into

solving problems even if you're not

doing it right

even if you don't get it right the first

time around it's going to help you

remember it better the next time you do


so that's saving us time more in the

future now that's the first thing but

now I know the the immediate next

question is well what the hell do I do

when I sit down to do my homework and

I'm just completely stumped and I have

no idea what to do then I spent all this

time trying to go back through my notes

or try to look it up online trying to

figure out how to actually solve this

problem this ends up taking forever and

you know it's pretty much what I end up

doing anyway with my homework that makes

it take so long so ok yes that's a fair

point but here's where we get into a

little bit more nuanced view of how to


the problem-solving process when you're

actually doing your homework so like we

said a lot of the time we get stuck and

then we continue to sort of bang our

head against the wall trying to work

through these problems that maybe we

don't have that good of a sense of how

to do them yet but we're trying to sort

of power through and grind through if

you get stuck and you type in the

problem to Google and you pull it up on

a forum or something that gives you a

you know step-by-step how to solve it

and hey this is the answer so we go

ahead and you know take that problem

solving method plug it into our problem

we get some sort of answer and then we

move on to the next problem and then the

cycle repeats itself because we get

stuck again because we don't really

understand what we did the first time

around so this sort of like shallow

level understanding that we get from

trying to shortcut the problem-solving

process actually makes it so that we

take longer to get our homework done

when we're actually going through all

these problems in this way okay so to

combat this the other thing that we want

to keep in mind when we're doing our

homework problems is this idea of

slowing down so that we can go fast now

I'll repeat that because it sounds

completely counterintuitive but we want

to slow down so that we can go fast what

does this mean it means that when we hit

that point in the problem where we get

stuck we have no idea what to do don't

try to work it out quickly we want to

stop pause take a step back and switch

into questioning detective mode to

figure out what's going on here that I

don't understand so when we start off a

problem initially we're kind of in this

answer focus thought process we're

trying to remember what to do what

equation to use what to plug in how to

get to the next step and we're just very

focused on finding the answer but the

problem is when we hit the point where

we don't know the answer this answer

focus actually prevents us from figuring

out what to do so this is why we want to

switch into this sort of questioning

mode of trying to understand why it's

the case that we don't understand it

what we're missing things of that nature

so this questioning mode is actually the

basis of

this whole reverse learning thing that I

talk about all the time and what we're

doing here is asking questions that lead

us in the direction of understanding

what concepts are at play or what these

variables mean in this situation what do

they apply to and then what equations am

I using what what is the math that

applies and why am i using these things

in this particular situation and so this

is what you need to spend your time on

when you get stuck when you're solving

your problems during homework and it's

going to allow you to develop a deeper

understanding of what's going on which

will then allow you to go much much

faster when you jump back into solving

your problems because you'll actually

understand the principles at play

instead of just memorizing some you know

specific answer to a specific problem

for example take this integration

problem I could be going through it I

could get stuck have no idea how to

solve it because I've never done this

u-substitution thing before and then go

over here and type it into Google and

look at Yahoo Answers for the specific

type of problem I'm working on and then

move on or I could really dig in and try

to understand okay

what are we doing when we're

substituting this you know section of

variables for you and then doing all

this other calculus on the side and then

plugging stuff back in what is it that

we're actually doing how do I pick what

the U is and what the D U is and how

does this help you in different

situations so maybe I have two exponents

or maybe I have an exponent and a trig

function or maybe I have a natural log

so on and so forth like I said this

deeper understanding will not only

benefit you long term so when you get to

the exam you'll actually be able to deal

with those curve balls that get thrown

at you but it's also going to help you

short term because chances are the next

five problems that you have to do on

your homework set are going to involve

the same principles that went into

solving that first problem and so the

better you understand how to do those in

this this particular integral it'll help

you to knock through those next

for integral problems that much faster

so that's my recommendation Ashley to

get your homework problems done faster

first jump into the problems themselves

as quickly as possible and don't spend

too much time rereading through your

notes or going through the textbook

examples before getting started then

once you have started doing the problems

as soon as you get stuck apply this idea

of go slow to go fast to the problem

that you're working on and put in the

time and the work now to develop this

deep high-quality understanding that

will help you solve the rest of your

homework problems faster and help you

solve future homework problems faster