Why do you need to use a diary?
Let’s consider the limitations on our short memory for a moment.
Psychological research tells us that we can only hold on average only 4 (plus or minus 2) pieces of information in our short term memory at a time. Your brain cannot handle too much information all at once.
In order for you to learn new information effectively in class it’s going to make a difference if you can reduce the demands on your memory/mind. You need to reduce your mental load.
How can you reduce your mental load?
By far the easiest way to reduce your mental load is by using your student diary/organiser. You will be able to learn more effectively in class if you take things out of your head (e.g. “English essay due on Thursday” and “Swim trials on Monday”) and dump them into your organiser.
Tips for using your diary
1. Treat your diary like your school pants: Don’t go to school without it!
Think of your diary as being like your school pants or skirt. Would you leave home for school without wearing your school pants/skirt? Of course not, it would be ridiculous, incredibly embarrassing and stressful upon realising you were wearing no pants or skirt. In the same way, if you leave home without your diary and your teacher tells you to write something down in your diary and you don’t have it there with you, chances are you’re going to feel stressed out. If you don’t feel stressed out then you’ll most likely feel stressed out upon realising that you forget to do whatever the teacher told you to do (e.g. your assignment).
So bring your diary with you everywhere, every day!
2. Write it down then and there, or else forget it!
Imagine youâ€™re in class and the teacher says to you “Your science project is due in on Friday the 19th of March”, what should you immediately do? Write it down!
Another limitation of your short term memory is that you can only hold information there for approximately 20 seconds. If you don’t write the information down then and there, chances are you’re going to forget it.
So a good strategy is to have you diary placed next to you on your desk open to the relevant day or week.
3. Use colours
This is a map of Japan’s railway system. For a moment, I want you to enjoy the pretty colours of the different railway tracks on this map.
Now, have a look at a black and white version of the same map. You’ll notice that it’s really hard to separate out each track. The railway system becomes very confusing and overwhelming.
Likewise, I recommend that you use different coloured pens in diary to represent the things you need to do for each of your subjects. This will be more exciting for your brain than black pen on white paper and you’ll know exactly what needs to be done for each of your different subjects.
4. Use prompts to avoid nasty surprises
Imagine that you’ve had a busy week at school (see image above) – your art and health projects have been handed in and you’ve successfully completed your maths test. The weekend arrives and you just want to relax, so you hang out with your friends and don’t touch a single text book all weekend.
Now imagine this – the weekend is over and it’s Monday morning. You’re getting ready for school and you take out your diary, turn to today’s page only to discover that you have an english assignment due in today that you haven’t started! You start to stress out. There is no way in the world that you’re going to be able to get it done in the next 20 minutes.
This scenario could have been avoided by simply giving yourself a reminder the previous week in your diary (see below).
Alternatively, if you had used a wall calendar you would have been able to see in one glance what was happening for the entire month. For $2 and a little effort filling everything in, a wall calender is well worth it.
Do you have any tips on how to use your diary more effectively? Let me know!