Study Less, Study Smart: A 6-Minute Summary of Dr. Marty Lobdell’s Lecture


If you’ve spent any time at all on YouTube looking for study advice, then you’ve probably come across this video called Study Less, Study Smart. This is a recorded lecture from Professor Dr. Marty Lobdell, who is a former psychology professor at Pierce College, and he wanted to give his thoughts on how to be an effective student.

This article simply condenses the main points of Dr. Lobdell’s talk into a easy to absorb form.

1. Chunk Your Sessions

Break your studying into chunked sessions. The reason for this is that the average student can only really pay attention for about 25-30 minutes. This applies across the board, from lectures, to reading, to studying.

After about 25-30 minutes, your efficiency starts to really taper off, and that's why the advice to simply study more is not effective at all. Instead, you want to break your study sessions into about 20-30 minute chunks, and after those are done, take 5 minute breaks where you do something fun, or at least away from your studies.

Once your study sessions are done for the entire day, you want to give yourself a real, tangible reward for doing it

As Dr. Lobdell says in the lecture, reinforcement of positive things builds good study habits, and as an added benefit, you’re training yourself to study.

As you keep doing this, you’re going to able to study for longer and longer on each session.

2. Have a Dedicated Area for Study

Create a dedicated study area. The reason for this is that our environment, the context that we’re in, largely determines our behavior.

Think about when you're in class. When the professor presents a question to the entire class, you instinctively raise your hand. But if he asks you specifically, you're going to give a verbal response.

This is automatic. You're conditioned to do it. Well, your studying area is the exact same. If you do it in a place where you're conditioned to do other things, like sleep, or play video games, or hang out with friends, it's going to be really hard to get into your studying.

What you want to do is find an area that is specifically used for studying, so the context of the situation makes it easy for you to get into your studies.

3. Study Actively

Dr. Lobdell’s third tip is to study actively, and it’s best summed up with this quote, straight from the lecture, “The more active you are in your learning, the more effective you’ll be.”

The best way to do this, rather than going through rote memorization, or reading and rereading chapters from your book, is to first ask yourself, before studying, what is it that I’m learning? What you’re learning is going to fall into one of two categories; either facts or concepts.

A concept is something like, what does this particular bone in the human body do? You have to understand it.

A fact is just something you need to remember. What the name of this bone is.

Concepts are more important than facts, because once you learn a concept, once you truly understand its inner workings, it’s with you forever. You’re going to remember it.

Facts, on the other hand, can sort of drift away over time, and the good thing about that is that we have Google. We can look up facts very easily.

Unfortunately, in a testing situation in class, you have to remember both facts and concepts, and you don’t have access to Google, usually, but still, concepts are going to be more important to learn first.

The best way to learn these concepts and to be sure you know them is to put them in your own words. Test yourself and learn actively. There’s one thing that Dr. Lobdell gives as an example, which I think is one of the most important parts of the entire lecture, and it’s his example about highlighting.

Most students know not to highlight entire sections of the book, because if you do that, you’re basically highlighting nothing at all.

If you highlight really important terms, and then you go back after your first read and highlight session, and study them, and just simply recognize the thing you highlighted before, and say, “Oh, I know it,” then you’re getting into this dangerous territory where you don’t know whether you’re actually recalling something, or simply recognizing it.

The human brain is very good at recognizing things. We can recognize people's faces, even if we haven't seen them in a long time. But the difference between recognition and recollection is that recognition requires an initial trigger, a cue.

If you’re in a test, there is no trigger or cue. You have to actually pull it forth from your memory. To test and make sure that you’re actually recalling something, instead of just recognizing it, you need to quiz yourself.

You need to do active studying and active learning.

4. Take Effective Notes

Take more effective notes. Basically, Dr. Lobdell says, after class, as soon as possible, and truly as soon as possible, flesh out your notes a bit. Add some more to them so you can actually solidify the concepts on your mind.

If you’re fuzzy on something, ask another classmate who also took good notes, or go to office hours, or wait until the next lecture and ask the professor before he starts if he can clarify something that you don’t really have a good grasp on.

5. Summarize or Teach What You Have Learned

Dr Lobdell says the best way to actually learn something is to teach it. The reason for this is two-fold:

  • Firstly, it’s a great form of active studying, because you’re forcing your brain to recall all the information so you can basically summarize it for somebody.
  • Secondly, you’re really making sure that you fully understand the subject. If you’re explaining it to somebody who has absolutely no idea about the topic, and they’re coming at it from a beginner’s perspective, then you’re really going to have an easy time of pinpointing gaps in your own understanding.

6. Use Textbooks Correctly.

In this part of his lecture, Dr. Lobdellgoes over the SQ3R method, which stand for:

  • Survey,
  • Question,
  • Read,
  • Recite, and
  • Review.

I think it’s important that you take individual portions of these systems and see if they’re worth it for your studying methods. As an example, the survey portion of SQ3R, surveying the chapter before you read it, and especially going to the end and looking at the review questions and the vocabulary, can really prime your brain for picking out the most important information when you actually do the reading.

7. Use Mnemonics

Dr. Lobdell’s 7th and final tip is to use mnemonics when studying facts.

Now, facts, as opposed to concepts, are a lot harder to tie actual meaning to, and as a result, a lot of students often turn to simple rote memorization to remember them, but a better way to go about it is to use mnemonics.

A mnemonic is really any system that facilitates recall, but he goes over 3 specific types of mnemonics. Those 3 are:

  • Acronyms, things like Roy G. Biv for remembering the color spectrum,
  • Coined sayings, things like, in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and
  • Image associations, which memory experts use to remember huge lists of facts.

Another way to think about image associations are just interacting images, including the thing you’re trying to study, that create a ridiculous picture or story in your head.

Becoming Smart!

It is said that with age comes wisdom. As a "senior" I would candidly say that were I able to live my life over again but retain all of the lessons that I have learned in my life, then the new, young me would enjoy a very different life than that which I have enjoyed. Experiences (good and bad) teach us life's lessons if you apply them. My intention with this blog is to provide a constant source of wisdom to you, gentle reader, in the hope that you can avoid some or more of life's mistakes and thus enjoy a better quality of life. My sources are global because applied wisdom is what counts.

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