Studying the Bill Gates Way (Even If You Prefer Steve Jobs)

“We all learn best in our own ways. Some people do better studying one subject at a time, while some do better studying three things at once. Some people do best studying in structured, linear way, while others do best jumping around, ‘surrounding’ a subject rather than traversing it. Some people prefer to learn by manipulating models, and others by reading.” – Bill Gates

Last time I checked, the term “how to study” generated 1.23x10^8 (that’s 123,000,000) hits on Google, and they all tell you different approaches to study. The visual method, auditory method, right-brain, left-brain method, late-night cramming, low-stress, quiet, musical, structured, random…the list goes on and on until you’re more confused than when you began. And your original question still hasn’t been answered – how should I study?

Now here’s where I say something controversial, so hold on to the nearest stable object. NONE OF THOSE METHODS WORK. That’s right; absolutely none of the study approaches you’ll ever encounter will work 100% of the time without fail. There is no magic pill you can swallow that will make you study and ace your tests. That’s because every person is different and we have unique personalities and perspectives; just because I personally operate best in a non-library environment doesn’t mean that you have to avoid the library at all costs. Perhaps you enjoy studying in the nearest café enjoying a latte (no whip soy, please), while your roommate must not be distracted by anything. Bill Gates figured that out. He realized that everyone is different and has to study and learn his/her own way, even if it seems crazy to the rest of the world. But if it works for you, then go for it!

So how do we find out the best way to study and learn for us? The most important thing to do is “to thine own self be true” (Shakespeare). Take some time to assess yourself. When you learn, do you prefer the professor’s lectures or reading the textbook? Do you prefer being indoors or outside? Does writing something out help you or do you talk it through? Check out this learning style inventory if you really want to dig deep.

After you’ve completed your self-assessment and have determined your learning style(s), start experimenting. Look at Bill Gates’ quote again – he describes focused, multi-tasking, logical progression, big pictures, kinesthetic, and visual learners and they are all perfectly acceptable approaches! How do you think you’d best learn? Pick out the few that are most appealing, try them out during your next study session, and let me know how it goes!

P.S. I’m not saying that you can’t find any good study approaches on the Internet; there are a lot of good resources out there. Just make it your own, something that works for you, and don’t expect to have a perfect day every day. And look forward to a post about my study habits sometime in the near future!

Image: Salvatore Vuono /