Do More and Do Less Studying

Hello, this is my first post on the forum. I wanted to discuss an idea I had about beeminder!

Students are often searching for ways to be more productive; they frequently experience akrasia and fall victim to procrastination. Students often also feel anxiety about tests. One feeling that I often had was that I should always be studying more even if I was doing something productive. For example, maybe I’m at the gym–something I want to do more–but I am anxious to get home to study. This creates a feeling of consistent anxiety and would reduce my quality of life.

Some students probably study enough for their courses but they do not do so in an efficient way in order to retain the information. A lot of students cram, which is effective for getting a grade the very next day but does not help the student to retain the information long term. Cramming is also very stressful and anxiety inducing. Some students even harm their body by totally depriving themselves of sleep.

Afer cramming for one exam, students will often understudy until the next exam is approaching. This is not efficient but it is extremely common. Even after I was familiar with effective learning techniques, I would still do this sort of thing. This leads to fluctuating from low level anxiety to high level anxiety and makes college an unenjoyable experience.

My proposal is to create two goals, one is a do more goal and one is a do less goal. Thanks to the help of @larsivi on discord, I know you can automate this using IFTTT. Create an applet to draw data from beeminder when you enter it into the do more goal to fill in the do less goal.

So, one example is my statistics course I am in. I do not want to cram, and I do not want to fall behind. I also do not want to fall behind. I would create a goal of having a minimum of 60 minutes per day with a maximum of 120 minutes per day. Within this range would be enough to be successful. This helps prevents me from having the anxiety of feeling the need to study–a sort of guilt–while also being sure to stay on top of things.

This is also a better way to learn. Consistent repetition is better than nothing and then cramming, nothing and then cramming. But it is very difficult to bring oneself to study when an exam is a month away using sheer willpower. Averaging things out will likely reduce stress and possibly reduce the total time spent studying.

Something unfortunate about the structure of school is that cramming actually is effective at attaining the short term goal of a getting a good grade the next day. Maybe you could leave weekends open to cram the weekend before or something if you felt it was necessary. I’m not sure. But I know for long term retention, it is better to spaced things like spaced repetition software does.

Thoughts on this proposal?


Welcome to the forum!

My first thought is that we’ve argued against having something like this as a built-in feature: “(Never)Minding Both Sides”. Which is not to say it’s unreasonable to set up two goals like this, and I love the ideas for automating feeding the data from one to the other (that’s something we intend to make easier hopefully sometime this year). But that blog post does also try to argue that what you’re proposing shouldn’t generally be necessary. Like most people can probably just beemind the lower bound for studying and just follow reasonable heuristics for the upper bound, ratcheting away excess safety buffer if needed.

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You might find that the do-more goal is sufficient, exactly because it will encourage you to keep up with the consistent repetition, so that there’s never any need to cram.

Obviously, if you’ve been following the ‘nothing’ pattern on a subject, you might also want the do-less goal initially while you get back up to speed.

Personally, I find do-less goals tricky because they mean I have to remember not to do too much of something. Usually by the time I remember, it’s too late!

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