Time management series: Effective studying for the non-traditional (or accidental) student. The 20/10 technique.

A wind-up kitchen timer that looks like a hamburger
I recommend a non-ticking kitchen timer for the 20/10 technique. From Flickr: pasukaru76

This past weekend, I had to complete over eight hours  of training for my work via online videos and online readings. Not my idea of fun, but very much needed. To survive this and to pass the required tests at the end, I dusted-off my old study trick from my cranial shelf.  I call it the “20/10 technique.”

20/10 technique

What you’ll need:

  • A comfortable, quiet place to study with no interruptions.
  • A kitchen timer (non-ticking type). A phone timer will work, but I don’t recommend using your phone because it can be it’s own distraction.

The steps:

  1. Organize your space and prepare to study. Have your computer turned-on, something to drink (coffee, water), etc.
  2. Set your timer for 20 minutes.
  3. Do your work for 20 minutes straight. DO NOT let yourself get distracted.
  4. When the timer buzzes, reset the timer for 10 minutes.
  5. Do whatever you want to do for that 10 minutes as long as you know it takes less than 10 minutes. Grab a snack, start a load of laundry, etc. I recommend something that will get you up out of your chair and moving. I don’t recommend something that is similar to your studying. So, if you’re studying is reading, don’t use that 10 minutes to read something else. If you’re working on the computer, don’t use your 10 minutes to pay bills online.
  6. Go back to step 2 and start all over again. Do this as many times in a row as you can.

Why it works:

  • Educators have been stressing for a long time that you need to study in short increments. Twenty minutes is a good amount of time. When I started using this technique, I found I remembered more and got higher grades.
  • If you have a full life outside of schoolwork, this still allows you to make progress on your other tasks without feeling guilty. You can still get the laundry done, the dishes cleaned, etc. during those 10 minute increments.
  • It provides a structure to your studying. When that timer goes off, it’s hard to ignore it and continue to play on Facebook.

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