Is there an optimal study plan?
At Task & Time we believe that planning is a need for every student and an activity that is part of building strong study habits. We set out to create a planning algorithm to organize the studies of everyday students and we asked ourselves how it should plan, what rules would be the most appropriate. We sought to find the optimal way to plan how students study.
The idea was to build an app that in one click would transform a set of diverse tasks into a concrete, objective plan, ready to be followed and that favours the decision-making and learning processes. That app is already a reality: STUDEAM. Indeed, this “smart” virtual agenda can organize study time and homework for a large majority of students. But how does it work? What criteria do you follow? We like to say that STUDEAM produces optimal study planning. That said, an explanation must be given.
Meaning of optimal study planning
Thus, at first glance, there are many ways of organizing a student’s study assignments or homework. Ultimately all planning should be personal. But it was clear that there are some common-sense planning principles, without which you cannot plan well to learn better and acquire good study habits.
We had the experience of having to help many students plan by hand for a full year and have understood how important it is to make good use of time as a resource and sustain attention during work. Planning study time meant organizing in order to study well. Therefore, the criteria are very pedagogical, but this also involves elementary time management.
Talking about an optimal solution sounds like the only solution and the best solution. It is an ideal, but when we reflect on the alternatives that make sense, a few basic criteria eliminate many possibilities, so that the range of options is very narrow. We are going to expose these criteria, budgets or conditions so that it is better understood.
Key Budgets for All Student Planning
Time is a finite resource
Time is finite for everything. Finite is the study time in which you can work, and finite must be the time dedicated to each task.
Try to plan everything
The tasks that you want to plan are tasks that you want to do (the planner should not choose to stop doing any of them from the start). This has its other side in the teachers who entrust these tasks to the students: they send them because there is time to do them all, not for the students to choose some and abandon others. In the case of compulsory educational institutions this basic criterion is even more necessary. In fact, before building STUDEAM we developed StudyTask to ensure that we measured the workload of the students to know when there were overloads (click here to see more).
When a student chooses to start with the task whose due date is far away (probably because it is the one they like the most), there are other tasks that are more urgent that they leave for later, and they are taking the risk of running out of time to finish them. The rule of the saying: “do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today” is a golden rule for STUDEAM. You must consider that tomorrow teachers will send new assignments that cannot be foreseen and will increase the risk of not finishing urgent assignments.
Immediate preparation for an exam
There are important tasks, such as preparing for an exam, that should not be organized on a purely urgent basis. Rather, they must be addressed on the dates closest to the exams ahead of time because many elements tend to involve short-term memory.
At the same time, it seemed to us that the student must assume that the exams should not totally interrupt other simultaneous activities. There must be some time to continue taking care of other tasks.
The distribution of long tasks
If there are tasks for which I have a lot of time available, and which are too long to run continuously, it is a good idea to distribute them over several days. It is the probable case when reading a great book. It does not make sense to do it all at once, but little by little, until the day when it is due. It is reasonable and appropriate for tasks of these characteristics to always be planned this way. And the break up of these tasks has “little” impact in each study session until the due date.
You must intersperse breaks
Tasks must be divided many times with breaks that regain attention and allow sustained work with performance. The time of these breaks should be incorporated into the study time itself. And STUDEAM manages them in a way that is the minimum necessary to meet the objectives. It is about making the most of the time available or planning will not be optimal.
We do not consider multitasking
Surely there will be some who can multitask well simultaneously, but we decided to rule out this unusual possibility. Each task needs exclusive time to be done well.
Having established the previous criteria, we had to set the objective customization elements. We are not talking about willingness or the specific ability to do some tasks or others. We refer rather to the study schedule, the length of breaks or the daily events that can alter our schedules.
All students will have a study schedule of their own, according to their own life circumstances. Likewise, each one manages better by resting in a certain way and, as is logical, every person has particular life events that take place and can alter their study sessions.
With all these elements, STUDEAM builds a proposal that makes the most of a student’s time, with maximum reliability before due dates. But it is true that there are a few parameters set by the tool to make it simpler, at the cost of losing flexibility.
We could have introduced more criteria or made those parameters user-configurable, but we deliberately opted for the minimum number that seemed reasonable and understandable to many users. We wanted the result of each STUDEAM planning guide to be recognizable, even predictable, for the user who requests it. And above all, we wanted this planning app to be educational and represent what should always be done at a specific time. We believe that it will be a powerful tool to help avoid procrastination. Did we achieve our goal? Judge for yourself by watching the video below and tell us what you think about the experience.
Luis Javier Álvarez Garrido
CEO at Task & Time