Focusing on What REALLY Matters

Information overload, infobesity, infoxication, etc., are all aptly termed words that describe a preeminent issue in today’s society. The overwhelming amount of information presented to us has led to an undeniable problem. Technology’s expanding role in our world has facilitated this issue by producing larger quantities of information, easing circulation, and reaching a vast audience. Consuming extensive amounts of news has led us astray; it is harder than ever to formulate decisions because our brains are overworked from trying to process so much information. Therefore, pairing down the amount of data that bombards us and attending to the pertinent ideas is a skill necessary for members of our society. 

Extracting useful information helps us formulate opinions and learn relevant material, traits which prompt academic success. Discovering tools that shape our focus in unique, beneficial ways is necessary for us to capitalize on our education. My notes, my weekly planner, and online learning sites mold my attention in order to better prepare me for school. However, the benefits provided by these artifacts reaches far beyond the breadth of education. As Mike Rose posits in his book, Why School, shaping my attention on relevant information is helping me “develop a sense of myself as knowledgeable and capable of using what I know.”

Planners: The Key to Organizing Time

In my experience, at the foundation of filtering information comes organization, a skill we as students often overlook but is crucial for us to take advantage of our education. As a result of the fast paced nature of college in the quarter system, I find it integral that I govern my time and work efficiently. A weekly planner allows me to take command of my schedule, focusing my efforts on what I need to accomplish during the week. 

As evident from my planner, I encounter a lot of information in my classes, leading to a hectic schedule with many assignments, deadlines, difficult tests and accompanying studying. Although these all cause stress in a student’s life, the common denominator of issues is being overwhelmed by information. Utilizing a planner enables me to stay on track with individual assignments and not get lost in thinking about everything as a whole. Instead of stressing over the magnitude of tasks at hand, planning ahead directs my energy at the most important things. Mike Rose maintains focusing our attention as crucial because it puts our efforts “to use in substantial and meaningful ways so that they become more powerful.” Directing our time towards relevant activities makes goals all the more attainable because we can formulate coherent plans which specifically address how we need to accomplish those tasks. Planning your course of action additionally serves as a way to evaluate your progress towards a certain goal by illustrating whether or not you are staying on schedule. 

However, being so regulated does not always lend itself to be useful. If you are constantly enforced by a set plan, unexpected obstacles can cause a great deal of stress. Obstacles, however minor, can throw off your daily and weekly routines, threatening the achievement of your goals. Curveballs such as unexplained sickness or uncompromising fatigue (both of which I am currently attempting to deal with) can cause you to lose sight of specific goals and become overwhelmed by all there is to do. Strict planning can thus neglect room for error, a common human reality which can be overcome on the path to attaining our goals. In fact, Rose claims that dealing with mistakes and stressors proved to him that he “could figure things out and act on what I learned.” This unanticipated benefit is left out by rigorous planning, a downside to a highly-regulated schedule. However, planning as a whole is necessary to combat becoming engulfed by everything on your plate, allowing you to focus solely on the components essential to success. 

The Value of Note-Taking

Note-taking is another aspect of our education that I believe is sometimes taken for granted, but helps me attend to my academic and intellectual growth. During lectures, professors inundate us with information, some of which is unnecessary and distracts us from what we actually need to know. How we as students collect and retain the information provided to us is therefore an integral part of our learning and can augment our confidence and competence. To support this claim of mine I come again to Mike Rose, who states that “acquiring and using knowledge brings its own pleasures. It just feels good to know things and use what you know.” The more useful information we amass, the more informed we feel and therefore the better our ability to deal with what is occurring around us. How I achieve this sense: my notes.

I begin my procedure by typing a word-for-word transcript of lectures every day, ensuring I have all the raw information provided by my professor, no matter the relevance. After class, I go through the accumulated information, tangents and all, copying down the important pieces in a concise, organized manner. 

Although my personal method of notetaking seems unconventional, the process allows me to better absorb information, strengthening my comprehension of the topics taught to me in class. Furthermore, Re-writing my notes facilitates the memorization process and allows me to siphon out insignificant material, leading to better overall retention of the pertinent topics presented in lectures. Rose also sees learning to “search for and synthesize” information crucial to our development. Note-taking in class can be a somewhat absent-minded procedure, but recopying notes applies semantics because you can extract the information that resonates with you. Remembering and giving meaning to these facts better organizes your thoughts by attending to only the paramount information. 

The consolidation of material also has its drawbacks. Since you are deciding for yourself what information is meaningful, it is easy to omit information if you do not initially see it to be relevant. My note-taking process is also a time burden which increases the possibility of transcription error as I often get tired and overlook details. In addition, this means of focusing attention on valuable information is not as widely applicable as a result of its unorthodox and time-consuming nature. I do not personally know of many people who would willingly engage in this seemingly redundant process in order to better filter and retain information. However, I find notetaking to be the best way of shaping my attention and it has proved to bring about academic success.

Applying Knowledge Through ALEKS

The selective information we collect in school that I have spoken so much about is fruitless unless we implement it and use it to our advantage. The knowledge we possess can be ephemeral; we must practice and apply this information in order to fully commit it to memory. Our technologically progressive society has many online educational resources that help us solidify the information we learn and view it in a broader context. ALEKS, an adaptive online homework site I use for Chemistry 1A, not only helps cement the material I learn in class, but gears my focus towards the topics I have difficulty with. Through formative assessments and knowledge checks, ALEKS is able to identify the topics I struggle in and presents questions which allow me to attend to and learn what I do not already know. ALEKS offers immediate feedback, helping me to recognize my strengths and weaknesses, providing me with an individualized study plan to reinforce my knowledge. 

Thus, ALEKS focuses my study time on the most beneficial information for me to succeed in chemistry, preventing me from becoming overwhelmed. Through concentrating my efforts I save time and energy, applying my knowledge on what is truly important, a skill Mike Rose holds as imperative. Rose emphasizes “the principles of implementation” to be “an ethics of practice, a right and wrong way to do things.” Determining how to apply the information we collect is a critical skill in school; we frequently need to recall information for tests or class discussions in order to succeed. However, applications of the knowledge we learn extend far beyond education. In a world filled with colossal amounts of information, it is vital that we can employ our own experiences to our benefit. Rose also finds it necessary to apply our education in a broader context in order to make decisions, formulate arguments and opinions, and advocate for ourselves. Therefore, discovering tools that shape our attention to what is meaningful is a skill we ascertain in school but take with us for the rest of our lives. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *