Effective Study Tips: Teddy Roosevelt’s Guide to Academic Productivity

“I never won anything without hard labor and the exercise of my best judgment and careful planning and working long in advance. I had to train myself painfully and laboriously not merely as regards my body but as regards my soul and spirit.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1913.

Often it is not how much you study but how you study that matters. The best way to study is not the most time consuming but the most effective. Strategic learning, or deep work, can boost productivity so that much more can be accomplished in a shorter time frame. Theodore Roosevelt was, of course, America’s 26th President. Yet he was also an author of forty books, a sportsman, naturalist, soldier, and even a New York City police commissioner. Learning how to be productive was the key to his success. As Edmond Morris wrote in Time, “T.R.’s mental processor moved so fast as to fuse thought and action.” Despite all of his achievements, he was still able to have ample free time while simultaneously developing and producing as an intellectual and leader. A great amount of work can be actualized with the right kind of focused determination. A brief overview of Teddy Roosevelt’s study tips and techniques may help you on your own academic journey.

Study on a fixed-time schedule.

Roosevelt was a man of action, with a wide range of personal interests and activities. In college, he spent a great amount of time sporting and socializing. He also read voraciously on other topics of personal interest. As he became a political leader, he delivered speeches, attended meetings, and met many other obligations. Yet his personal diaries and letters show that he would block out time during each day for certain intellectual tasks.

Work only on high-priority tasks.

Identify what tasks are more important than others. Clarify what needs to be done first and focus your energy on those. Do not obsess about next week’s term paper when the algebra test is tomorrow morning. Recognize that some priorities must be realized first. Others can wait.

Focus on one task at hand. 

Because you are working within the parameters of a fragmented time schedule, it is imperative that you focus all of your effort and energy on your work. Do not take a break or check your Facebook status. Do not fidget with your phone or stop to take a snack break. Do not multi-task. Give it all of your mental energy now, and remain in the moment through the duration of this time period.

Set a specific goal, or solve a problem.study tips_set a goalDetermine a goal, whether this is solving a problem, writing a certain number of words, or reading a number of chapters. Do not go into a study session without having something clear to accomplish. Setting a specific short-term goal will motivate you and allow for a sense of accomplishment.

Create a deadline for “Roosevelt Dashes”

Cal Newport notes that “Roosevelt dashes” were short periods in which artificial deadlines helped Roosevelt to systematically increase achievement. Newport calls such dashes “interval training for the attention centers of your brain.” The idea is to exert your mental faculties to the max in short intervals. Set a timer where you can see it and push yourself to finish your established task within that time frame. This will take some practice. Stick with a set time period to accomplish your goal and meter yourself to the minute.

Read with a purposestudy tips_read with a purposeRoosevelt read a prodigious amount of books. It has been said that he read five books a week during his term in the White House. Yet he also trained his mind to identify the important aspects of the literature instead of getting bogged down in words and details. Some details are important. While some literature needs to be carefully read, strategic reading of certain texts improves efficiency.

Take time for personal growth

Realize that you are not a robot. We all live full and busy lives. We need time for friends and loved ones. Countless obligations will compete for your attention. Yet it is important to set aside time to nourish your soul. Take time for personal enrichment and pursue interests beyond school. Often just claiming some time every day to meditate and reflect can relax the mind and rejuvenate you. Downtime energizes and leads to insight.

Diversify your interestsstudy tips_interestsRoosevelt entered Harvard wanting to become an “outdoor naturalist and observer of nature.” His career turned to the business of politics. Yet he also took up boxing and bodybuilding, dancing and poetry, horseback riding and hunting, swimming and polo, and remained a lifelong nature enthusiast. He had a curious mind and treated everything he did with utmost enthusiasm and passion.

Make learning a life habit

Cultivate a passion for learning and work to constantly expand your mind. The big picture is more than a collection of short-term tasks. Maintain a love for intellectual growth and personal development. This will serve to carry you through the inevitable minor frustrations that arise along the way.

Good study habits need to be developed so that they become a habit. Roosevelt always claimed that he was not the smartest nor was he the most capable of men. What he achieved was done through sheer determination, planning, and strategic thinking—a combination of diligence and prudence. He may have said it best when he explains how he developed his skill as a marksman. He writes, “There are men whose eye and hand are so quick and so sure that they achieve a perfection of marksmanship to which no practice will enable ordinary men to attain. There are other men who cannot learn to shoot with any accuracy at all. In between come the mass of men of ordinary abilities who, if they choose resolutely to practice, can by sheer industry and judgment make themselves fair rifle shots.”

References

McKay, B., & McKay, K. (2009).How to Speed Read like Theodore Roosevelt.The Art of Manliness. Retrieved 15 August 2017, from http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/10/18/how-to-speed-read-like-theodore-roosevelt/

Morris, E. (1998). Theodore Roosevelt. TIME.com. Retrieved 15 August 2017, from http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,988150-1,00.html

Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

Roosevelt, T. (2009).The autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt.Seven Treasures Publications.

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