The Prediction Principle – One rule to make everything you write easier to read

hand writing with pen

One of our most effective survival mechanisms as humans is our ability to predict. We’re doing it all the time, making a series of presumptions about what a particular situation is going to be like before we step into it. Sports scientists observing baseball players have noticed that a batter can’t actually see a ball in flight – they predict where to swing based on a series of signals that they pick up from the pitcher. The better they can predict, the better they perform.

It’s not just true for baseball players.  The more we can accurately predict about any situation we find ourselves in – be it going to work, participating in a seminar or even watching a movie, the more comfortable we will be and the better we will be able to complete whatever task we are trying to perform.

So how does this relate to writing?

The answer is to put yourself in the shoes of your reader. The more that they can predict about your writing, the more they will understand, process and remember whatever you are writing.

Prediction makes life easier, and the best writers are those that make it easy for the reader to make predictions about what is coming in the text. Notice we haven’t said the best academic writers – this prediction rule is true for almost all writing, from emails and text messages to reports and newspaper articles.  (The one exception might be fiction, where much of the art involves leaving the right information out to keep a reader guessing)

So how can you make it easier for your readers to predict what’s coming next?

A few key pointers (for academic writing) would be:

Introductions and Abstracts – make sure these clearly outline your argument and the route you will take to get there. Don’t hold back information for the conclusion – after reading a good introduction your reader should know exactly where you’ll be taking them by the end of the essay.

Paragraph Headers – Also known as topic sentences. The first sentence or two of your paragraph should clearly outline exactly what the reader should expect over the following few sentences. So, for example if I started a paragraph with ‘Swansea is a better place to live than Cardiff for three reasons’ you would be very clear what to expect within the coming paragraph. In fact, it should be possible for a reader to read just the introduction and ‘topic sentences’ of your essay and follow your argument.

Sentence level – The prediction rule works at a sentence level too. Simple linking words such as ‘however’ ‘furthermore’ or ‘therefore’ help your reader to predict the type of information that will come next: is it contrasting with what’s come before or backing it up; is it introducing a new point or confirming one that you’ve already made?

Important

One key thing to note here is that you need to deliver on your promises. If a reader is waiting for those three reasons and you only give them two, it can be as confusing as not being given any direction at all.

Leading the Blind

One analogy we often give for this idea is to imagine you are guiding a blind person through a busy building. You might take them by the hand and offer them constant guidance such as ‘We’re going to take three steps forwards and then stop. I’m going to open the door, we’ll walk through and turn left.’ Learn to think of your reader in the same way. At every step they should be sure where they are going and what they are going to do next.

Away from Academia

As we have already identified, this does not just apply to academic writing, but the majority of writing and communication you have to do. Give your emails clear subject lines that summarise the content and your friends and colleagues will thank you. Start your reports with a concise abstract and your readers will be far more likely to understand the results.

Use this principle in everything you write, and watch how other writers – from newspapers to bloggers to academic journals – do the same.

Looking to improve your Academic Writing? Sign up to our Undergraduate Essay Writing Course here.

Or see PASS for more tips on improving your writing.

Advertisements

What is rhetoric and why is it important?

microphone

Put simply, rhetoric is the art of persuasion. It is present in every aspect of our lives (when cajoling a prospective partner to join you for dinner, when asking to borrow your parents’ car, when convincing a child to go to bed, or when campaigning to remain in/leave the European Union).

Recently, rhetoric has come to be used in a pejorative sense; however, it has not always had negative associations. It is often prefixed by terms such as ‘empty’ to describe the often equivocating, glib answers that politicians provide to seemingly straightforward questions.

It is important to know that rhetoric is much more than merely a style of speaking, and it is not an innately negative phenomenon. In terms of the formalisation of the study of rhetoric, we owe much to the ancient Greek philosophers.

The development of rhetoric is often traced to two Sicilian figures names Corax and Tisias. The story goes that Corax (Greek: Crow) was an orator of great renown – he represented people in judicial disputes and was among the first to devise a system whereby the art of persuasion could be understood. Being aware of Corax’s fame and fortune (as he was paid for his efforts), Tisias was keen to learn the skills of rhetoric so that he too could turn his hand to legal representation. As such, Tisias approached Corax with a proposition, saying: ‘teach me the skills of rhetoric and I’ll pay you for the course after I’ve succeeded at my first trial’. The pair agreed on these terms. Later, however, there was a dispute when Tisias refused to pay Corax , saying that Corax’s teaching was so inept and incompetent that Tisias had failed to learn a thing. The dispute made its way into the ancient Greek court. Both Corax and Tisias had to prepare their arguments.

Tisias, bringing the case, put forward the following argument: he should not have to pay Corax for the course because the teaching was so poor. If he should fail to convince the court that he was right, then they should also find in his favour as his poor performance would be evidence of his lack of skills in rhetoric – and proof that Corax was a rubbish teacher. If Tisias managed to convince the court (and display rhetorical skills necessary to convince them) then his argument went that these skills would have been developed in spite of Corax’s teaching rather than because of it.

On the contrary, the basis for Corax’s argument was that if Tisia lost, it was down to his own incompetence and if he won, it demonstrated that Corax’s lessons had been effective. As it happened, the case was rubbished and thrown out but the story serves to highlight that rhetoric as a discipline can be traced at least this far in the past. As well as this, it shows that as a subject, rhetoric could be divided, taught, studied and learned. Indeed, this study of rhetoric used to make up part of a classical education. The syllabus was known as the trivium – and comprised formalised lessons in three main areas: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

Although the formal and commonplace teaching of rhetoric had stopped by the time that I was old enough to attend school, that doesn’t mean that the phenomenon has any less prevalence or importance in our lives. Indeed, the study of rhetoric today may be more important than at any previous point in our history. It is everywhere. In the information age of 24-hour news coverage, where arguments can be condensed to 140 characters on Twitter or memeified, rhetorical understanding is, in effect, information literacy. I don’t think that it’s hyperbole to state that our democracy depends on such literacy. As well as equipping you with the skills necessary to deconstruct and evaluate arguments, rhetorical literacy enables you to build your own convincing arguments: a skill that will serve you well both in and beyond university.

Sign up to a future courses on rhetoric here.

Designing a Presentation: Guidance on Structure

In the ASP presentation skills classes and appointments people often ask me for quick tips to improve their presentations. My most frequent response is ‘think carefully about the structure’. Most people try desperately to cram their presentations full of interesting facts and information without thinking about a framework to deliver that information to the audience. This is a problem, because unless the structure is very clear, people quickly get lost and can’t interpret the information you’re presenting in a useful way.

silhouette of man presenting

In my mind I often make analogies between constructing a building and designing a presentation. For buildings, the architect first has to design a strong and appealing framework before the builders apply the materials. If the builders stuck the materials together before the architect had a chance to come up with anything, then you’d just be left with a messy pile of wood, bricks and cement. In the same way, a presenter needs to have designed a framework for the information before sticking it all together for the messages to be clear and memorable.

Of course, designing a framework for a presentation is much simpler than designing a building. Really it is just a question of having obvious sections with clear signposting between them. Typically, well-structured presentations give an introduction that introduces the speaker, describes the issue and importantly has an outline statement that describes what the main points of the presentation will be. The speaker will then move onto the main points, which normally number around three for a 10-15 minute presentation, although there may be some sub-points too. Finally, the speaker will have a conclusion that recaps the main points and offers something to think about at the end, hopefully reaffirming why all this information is useful in an interesting way.

Between the introduction, each of the main points and the conclusion, the speaker will use clear transitions. These normally consist of a few sentences that summarise the previous information and guide the reader onto a new main point. To make another analogy to a building, if the main points are the building’s floors, then the transitions are the stairs between them: they allow the speaker to take the audience from one point to another. Transitions between sections in a presentation are just like trying to link paragraphs in an essay so the information is clear and easy to follow. Without clear transitions, the audience can get left behind. If you are not sure what kind of language to use, don’t worry, there are loads of ‘stock transition phrases’ that speakers frequently use to keep their audience on track as they move between sections. You can look here to start: http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/speech-transitions/

The things I’ve talked about here aren’t rocket science, they’re really quite simple, but it is surprising how many people fail to follow these simple rules when speaking and instead deliver a heavy mass of indiscernible information that leaves their audience frustrated. So next time you design a presentation, take time to think about your main sections and transitions and you’re presentation will probably become a lot clearer.

If you want to know more about giving presentations or would like some practice of delivering a presentation to a group, then come along to the ASP Presentation Skills class.

Confidence Tips for Speaking in Class

boy skateboarding

by Dean Hochman @ flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As a student, what’s your greatest fear? Failing exams and assessments would probably come at the top of the list for many. But what about anxieties in day to day student life? Perhaps one fear that would be quite common is speaking up in class, whether it’s answering or asking questions. This was certainly true when I studied in university, the fantastically awkward silence during question time in our chemistry lessons being a testament to this. And although I think most lectures aren’t likely to be an overly intimidating place to be, I think it is still common that many people are nervous about speaking out. This is a shame because asking and answering questions can be a useful part of a lecture. Questions give you the opportunity to clarify anything you don’t understand. Speaking up in lectures and interacting with the lecturer can also make the lecture more enjoyable and help the lecturer get the point across to the audience.

So what can you do to feel more confident about it? On the ASP presentation skills course we discuss how to gain confidence and reduce nerves when presenting. Some of the actions that can be taken to reduce nerves when presenting can also be applied to asking and answering questions in a lecture (after all, this is just another form of public speaking). One useful action is to see the question time at the end of the lecture as an opportunity and not a threat. You’ve worked hard to get to university, why not make the most of it? There may be few other times in your life when you are able to question and learn from an expert in a subject area you’re interested in. Preparing a question in advance might be a useful action to take. Also, it’s important not to worry too much about how a question will be perceived. The maxim of ‘dare to be dull’, which I’ve borrowed from Matt Abrahams talk on communication techniques, is perhaps appropriate here. Although we often feel threatened by the risk of saying something silly and being judged as foolish, it is likely to be more useful for most of us to ignore this risk and ask a question rather than to stay silent. What’s more, even if you do say something a bit off topic, don’t worry, we are all human, and everyone gets a bit lost at some point. ‘The School of Life’ video on ‘how to be confident’ talks about human error and confidence in a bit more detail.

Another thing that may help you answer questions is to have some sort of framework for structuring an answer. If the answer requires an explanation, a good way to structure your answer could be to make it like a paragraph: introduce the topic; provide an explanation and/or evidence; conclude. Following this structure should help you produce a coherent answer.

Once you start to ask and answer more questions, you’ll probably start to see more clearly the opportunity you have as a student in a lecture hall, and you’ll probably start enjoying lectures more. It is also likely that the more you speak out the more confident you will feel, a benefit not only for your studies, but for your professional life too.

That all said, one final point to mention about attending a lecture and asking questions is to listen. The best questions come from the people who are listening and have prepared for the lecture most effectively. If you’re going to make the effort to attend, you may as well make some effort to prepare and listen too.

If you want to learn more about presenting and speaking in public, or if you want to practise giving presentations in a supportive environment, then please sign-up for the ASP Presentation Skills Class.

The Power of Spaced Learning – How One Simple Trick Can Help You Learn More in Half The Time

Sounds too good to be true right? But science has proved time and time again that spacing out your learning sessions over a period of time is a far more effective way to study than trying to do it all at once.

A History of Learning and Memory

Picture of Ebbinghaus

Back in the 1880s a scientist called Ebbinghaus began conducting a series of experiments on the effect of time on memory. To do this he wrote out hundreds of ‘nonsense syllables’ into lists of 12 and tested his ability to recall them. What he found, unsurprisingly, was that over time the nonsense words became harder to remember. He plotted his results on a graph and called his findings The Curve of Forgetting.

Now if Ebbinghaus had left his experiments there, he probably wouldn’t have been remembered – we all know instinctively that we forget things over time. But throughout his research he actually came across what is still one of the single most important discoveries in learning science to date.

Ebbinghaus wanted to know how much work it would take before he could reliably remember something. He found that it took 68 repetitions of a list of nonsense syllables before he could score 100% on a test that he gave himself a week later. Again, probably nothing new there – we’re all familiar with the idea that the more we repeat something, the more likely it is to stick in our minds.

But he also found that he could score 100% on a test with just 38 repetitions, if he spaced these repetitions out. So for example, he might do 13 repetitions one day, 13 the next and 12 the day after. That’s nearly half the time studying, for the same result – something that should be attractive to all of us!

Ebbinghaus had stumbled on something we now call Spaced Learning. Science has looked further into this discovery and found that there are actually optimal intervals for spacing out your learning. Say you want to learn a set of new vocabulary in a new language. For optimal performance, come back to material you want to learn at intervals of one day, one week, then one month.

Why it works

You might have heard before the idea that the more you think a thought, the more deeply engrained it becomes in your mind. You could see these thoughts like pathways through a field of grass – the more you walk down them the more deeply engrained they become.

As far as learning is concerned – let’s say you need to remember the dates for a number of important law cases. If you revisit the information every day, well, it’s like your walking down that same path every day. The path doesn’t change too much, because it was there yesterday as well. But let’s say you leave it for a week. When you come back to it the path has nearly overgrown and you’re going to have to work a bit harder to get through that grass. Perhaps you’ll have to get a machete out, or at least some bigger boots. But at the end of that hard work, you’re going to have a much deeper pathway – one that’s easier to get down next time you come along. The harder you have to work to retrieve information, the longer it will stick in your mind.

This is the basis of a theory of learning developed by Professor Robert Bjork called ‘Desired Difficulty’. Essentially, the harder you make learning for yourself, the more effective it will be. By spacing sessions out, you are naturally making it harder for yourself to remember the material. (To do this most effectively, give yourself a test on the material rather then jumping straight in and reading it again. More on the power of testing in future posts).

Action Point

Whenever you study something new, make a note in a calendar or diary to revise that material at a later date. Remember, the first interval should be fairly short, then gradually make them longer. 1 day, 3 days, 1 week, 1 month is a good ratio to try first. You don’t have to follow these exact ratios – any spacing is better than none.

If you’re not the sort of person that keeps a diary or calendar there is some great software that can help you stay organised.

https://www.supermemo.com/ helps you schedule your revision calendar.

http://ankisrs.net/ is another one that’s been recommended – I haven’t spent too much time looking at this, but I think you can schedule your flashcard reminders.

Interested in finding out more about how learning works? Sign up for our Study Hacks workshops

3 Quick Tips to Make the Most of Presentation Images

Images can add to a presentation by helping to explain a point or making it more memorable. They also make your presentation more attractive and interesting to look at. However, at times images can detract from a presentation due to things like poor placement or poor image quality.

There are a large number of resources available online that give information on what makes a good PowerPoint slide and how to best present images, but here are three quick and easy tips to make the most of the images that you decide to use.

 1: Consider putting images in frames

Putting a line and/or shadow frame around your image can help it stand out more.

 

Pres img1

  2: Consider using the image as a background

This can make your slides look more attractive and professional. It may also be useful if the image is representing the point on the slide in a more abstract way. However, you have to be careful to make sure the text is still readable. One option to help you make the text stand out is to add a transparent rectangle in-between the background image and the text. You can alter how transparent the rectangle is to make the text stand out more from the background.

Pres img2

 3: Align the image to draw attention

Photographers often frame their images by splitting them into thirds and situating the main object in the picture along one of the vertical or horizontal lines. You can do the same for slides. The points where the lines cross gain most attention.

Pres img3

Slide design is subjective, but I think these tips can help you use images in a better way. Try them out on your next presentation and see how it changes.

If you would like to learn more about designing good slides and delivering presentations then please sign up for the ASP presentation skills class.

 

5 Free Websites and Apps to Help You Learn English (or any other language)

5 Free Websites and Apps to Help You Learn English (or any other language)

There are so many useful resources on the internet that can help you learn English, but when I speak to many learners I find that not many people make the most of what’s on offer. Below is a list of five useful websites and apps that can help you improve your skills in English.

  1. Quizlet – This is a website and app that allows you to create ‘flashcards’ for words or phrases. A flashcard is a card that has the word or phrase on one side and the meaning on the other. This is useful to help you remember new vocabulary. You can download the Quizlet app to your phone. When you find new vocabulary you can enter it in a vocabulary list and do different activities to test yourself. The activities can test understanding of meaning, spelling and pronunciation.

quizlet

 

  1. Evernote – When you read or hear new vocabulary it is useful to write it down in a notebook. Instead of using a paper notebook you can now use Evernote, a notebook for your phone. The Evernote app allows you to make notes by writing, speaking or taking pictures. You can then easily look at your notes on your phone to revise the new vocabulary.
  1. Lyrics Training – This is a website that can you help with listening and spelling. It has lots of songs in English (or other languages).  You can listen to the songs and read the lyrics (the words for the song) at the same time. However, there are gaps in the lyrics where words are missing and you have to fill in the gaps by typing the missing words. If you can’t fill in the gaps then the song stops. This is a fun way to practise listening.
  1. LibriVox – This is a website that has free audio books that can be used to practise listening. You could also look for the text version of the book and read and listen at the same time. Reading and listening at the same time can help you to learn how to pronounce words and help you better understand the structure of the language.

Librivox

  1. 6 Minute English – This is part of the BBC’s learning English website. It has lots of recorded discussions that are around 6 minutes long. The discussions are designed to help you learn new pieces of vocabulary. You can download the podcast and listen to it on your phone. Each discussion also has a transcript, so you can read and listen at the same time.

All these tools are free to use and download. It may take some time to get into the habit of using them, but once you start making the effort to use them they will probably become part of your routine and help you improve your vocabulary and skills. Make it a goal to try using one regularly for a week or two and see what happens!

If you’d like to practice your English then sign up for one of our ASP courses for international students and students whose first English is not English here.

Exam Time – Productive Revision

open pen on notebook and book

With exams approaching, revision is paramount. But when it comes to revising, you need to aim for quality, not quantity: revising effectively, rather than revising excessively. Rather than moving into the library for the next few weeks and revising for 10 hours a day, it is important to set yourself realistic revision goals, while also having time for yourself. Below are some tips for how you can achieve this.

  1. Make a list of what you need to revise for each exam. You should have access to a practice exam paper and/or past exam papers which will help you to determine this.
  1. Determine which topics you need to revise more. You could “traffic light” the topics:

Green – topics you feel comfortable with / have already revised

Amber – topics you need to re-familiarise yourself with / revise more

Red – topics you lack confidence with, and need to spend time working on

  1. At the beginning of each week, determine when you are going to revise. If possible, rather than putting aside whole days for revision, put aside a few hours each day, spread out as much as possible. Rowena Murray talks about writing snacks rather than writing binges – writing is more productive in short bursts (even just 30 minutes) than when we put aside time for a writing binge of multiple hours in one sitting. The same applies to revision – putting aside 8 x 30 minute revision slots a day is more productive than 1 x 4 hour session. Make the most of 30 minute revision windows.
  1. Once you have identified times in the week you are going to revise, commit to revising in these times. Put them in your diary / calendar, and treat these times as immovable. If someone asks you if you want to go for a coffee in these times, say no, and arrange an alternative time.
  1. Allocate topics to each of your revision slots. Ensure that the time allocated to a topic is proportionate to how much of a priority it is. For instance, topics that you have colour-coded red should be allocated more time than those allocated green.

pomodorotechnique-logo

  1. If you have put aside a long time for revision in one sitting, have lots of mini-breaks. For instance, divide a two hour revision session into 4 x 30 minute slots, with 5-10 minute breaks in between these half hour revision bursts. This is the Pomodoro Technique, which is really useful for time management as well as boosting productivity. It involves setting a timer to work for a given amount of time (usually 25 or 30 minutes) – each one of these is called a Pomodoro. You have a 5 minute break after each Pomodoro, but after 4 Pomodoros you have a longer break – traditionally 30 minutes. You can amend these times however you like, as long as the principle of having short breaks and a longer break after four Pomodoros stays the same – for instance, working for 40 minutes with 10 minute breaks might work for you, with a long break of 50 minutes (so you can watch an episode of a TV series, or go for a walk). Make sure you have planned what you are doing during each Pomodoro before you start. You can buy tomato timers to help you with this (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato!) but there are also online versions or downloadable apps that have this function. Finding the timings that suit you might require a bit of trial and error.
  1. Make sure that your revision goals are realistic – don’t try to fit too much into a 25-30 minute session. Finding the right balance might take some time. For more about getting SMART goals, see our earlier ASP blog post on goal-setting.
  1. Once you feel more prepared, do practice exam papers in timed conditions. This will help you to identify if there are any areas you need to revise more, while also giving you practice answering within the time limits ahead of the real exam. After doing this, you could return to the traffic-lighting task (Step 2 above) and amend the colours according to how prepared you now feel.

screen grab from swansea university page explaining essential, permitted and non-permitted items for exams and rules for coats, bags and valuables

  1. Before exams, make sure that you familiarise yourself with the examination guidelines at Swansea University. One of these is taking your student card with you to exams. You can read about Essential Examination Preparation here and about DOs and DON’Ts for exams here.
  1. Finally, after the exam try not to worry about your performance, and avoid talking to your peers about the paper. You can’t change your answers, and as long as you did your best, that is all you can do. How you revise constantly changes and improves with practice, so it is important to reflect on how you learn, and what does and doesn’t work for you in order to revise more effectively in future years.

Heidi Yeandle

Another successful Gower trip

Due to popular demand, the Talk Club instructors organised another trip to the Gower. What better way for international students to practice speaking English, meet new friends and enjoy new scenery?  Like last year, the weather was absolutely stunning and the group was comprised of students from all over the world. This year, we decided to take advantage of public transport and hopped aboard the 8 then 118 buses to Swansea Airport.  We then trekked up a winding road to the Rose Hip Tearooms at the Wildflower Cafe where we enjoyed a delicious high tea while sitting in the sun.  It was fun discussing what each of the items were and how one is meant to eat them (scones for example, are best when lathered with clotted cream and then topped with jam).  As is usual for the ladies at the Cafe, the food was outstanding and plentiful.

After eating, we walked back down the road and hopped back on the 118 to Penmaen.  Once there, we walked along the tops of the cliffs and enjoyed breath-taking views of Oxwich Bay, Tor Bay and Three Cliffs Bay.  After surveying the view from up top, we decided to head down to the beach at Three Cliffs.

After two hours of fresh air, sun, exercise and tons of sand in our shoes, we returned on the 118, then 8 bus to the University.  It was agreed that once a year is not often enough for Talk Club trips, so make sure to look out for emails from the Academic Success Programme for information on future trips.  For more information on Talk Club and all the courses offered by ASP, go to our website.  Until then, we wish all our students who are in exam revision mode the best of luck on your exams.

Nicole Chartier

Better Time Management #1. The Power of a To Do List

Richard Branson has spoken many times of the one tool he could not have built his business empire without. It doesn’t cost much. It doesn’t need to be plugged in. And you can take it with you anywhere.

If you haven’t guessed yet – or you didn’t click on the link – it’s a notebook, carried with you at all times and used to write down any ideas, new appointments or commitments and random thoughts. Successful people the world over swear by this simple system – and anyone can use it to become more productive.

Before we look at how to use it, here’s why using a notebook is so effective.

writing-1209700_960_720

In his brilliant book ‘The Organised Mind’ Daniel Levitin tells a story of the time he met the presidential candidate Jimmy Carter:

“He spoke as though we had all the time in the world. At one point an aide came to take him off to the next person he needed to meet. Free from having to decide when the meeting would end, President Carter could let go of those nagging inner voices and just be there.”

The nagging inner voices he means are the constant worries you’ve forgotten to move that dentist appointment, the idea you’ve just had for a better way to write that report, trying to remember whether it was 7 or 7.30 that you said you’d meet your friend for a drink.

The less of these kind of thoughts you have to deal with, the freer your mind can be to focus on what’s important. As David Allen, author of getting things done says in this brilliant talk:

“Your brain is for having ideas, not holding them”

Imagine how much clearer your thinking would be if every little decision you had to make through the course of a day was taken care of by a team of staff. If you never had to look at your calendar because someone would always tell you where you needed to be.

Unfortunately, not all of us can justify a team of staff to run our diaries. But we can take one important concept from this, and apply it to our own daily routines.

Externalise

This simply means taking the items occupying your mind out of your head and into the world.

Here’s Levitin again:

“When we have something on our minds that is important – especially a To-Do item – we’re afraid we’ll forget it, so our brain rehearses it, tossing it around and around in circles in something cognitive psychologists actually refer to as the rehearsal loop… The problem is that it works too well, keeping items in rehearsal until we attend to them.”

Writing things down solves this problem. One of the first steps to great time management is to write down everything.

By writing down your thoughts as soon as they come to you, you are telling your mind that you will come back to them when you choose to. You’re reassuring it that it doesn’t need to worry about holding onto them for you.

One of the reasons we feel stress is that our minds are trying to remember too many things at once. Psychologists have found that we can only effectively hold around 4 items in our working memory – any more than that and we start to become overwhelmed.

Almost all of us encounter more than four things we need to remember throughout the course of a day. Writing them down is the first step to becoming less stressed and more productive.

Of course, the system only works if you come back to your notes. So make it a habit once a day to return to your notebook and deal with all the things you’ve written down. Add those dates into your calendar. Call back the dentists. Spend some time expanding on the idea for the lyrics you had for that song.

Aim to make this a habit over the next month and keep note of how you feel. Possible effects might be that you feel less stressed. That you become more on top of your work. Or that you have an idea that launches a multi-billion dollar business.

time

Want to improve your own Time Management? Our popular Time Management workshop is running at different times throughout the term. Book here: (then write down the date!)

 

Ben Martin