My key takeways/notes on Cal Newports books on succeeding in college.

Defeat Procrastination:

  • Record failures/procrastinations on notebook to put pressure.
  • Eat well & drink plenty of water. Avoid drinking more than 1 coffee per 2-3 hours.
  • Go to coffee shop/bookstore/restaurant to start boring work.
  • Build a routine for working on task ( ex. 10am read chapter of textbook. )

When/Where/How Long to Study:

  • When: As early as possible. You less effective the closer to dinner time because of distractions and low energy.

  • Where: Isolation is key. Avoid loud and big busy places. Also, rotate spots often to avoid getting comfortable and procrastinating.

  • How long: 40-50mins of continuous studying max. Take 5-10 min breaks in between every 40-50 mins. Don’t spent 4+ hours on one task.

Basic Class Tips:

  • Always ask one question per class to keep engaged.
  • Don’t study at home.
  • Don’t schedule breaks in-between classes.
  • Join research programs!
  • Email professors constantly with questions. Get approval/feedback for project ideas ect.
  • Keep in contact counselors throughout the semester. Make several appointments.
  • Make friends with professor and keep in touch.
  • Become president of a club.
  • Be active in clubs/department events.
  • Apply to on campus jobs. Start looking early!
  • Jot down to-do’s and deadlines onto reminders app.
  • Every morning transfer to-do’s and deadlines onto calendar and schedule day.
  • Don’t stress out about quizzes. Following lectures and doing assignments should be all the preparation you need.
  • Always go to class. Missing out will set you behind on material.
  • Professors and TA’s love office hour visits.

Organization Tips:

  • One folder per class and one notebook per subject.
  • Date every page with a title before you begin taking notes.
  • With digital notes, simply do the same date/title, but place all class notes in its own class directory.
  • Go over notes immediately after class and clean them up.
  • Always underline phrases or key points a professor says in your notes, or if he chimes in and says its important.
  • Make sure to participate in class.
  • Put all Assignments/Quizzes/Exam dates on calendar as soon as possible!

NoteTaking Process for Non-Technical Classes:

  • Simply write down main ideas and not the whole lecture.
  • Follow a question/evidence/conclusion format.
  • Even if you don’t know the conclusion, write it conclusion down and fill it in later.
  • Read for Question and Conclusion. Then skim for evidence and mark everything that sounds related.
  • After, go back and summarize all marked points for the evidence portion.
  • Arguments are more important than things that describe an event/person, and those are more important that stuff that provides context.

NoteTaking Process for Technical Classes:

  • Write down all examples from lecture and practice them.
  • Don’t do assigned readings, instead learn in class and focus. Then if necessary read the readings for supplemental understanding.
  • Have readings open during lecture and follow along with professor.
  • Priority is to record problem questions and answer.
  • If you can’t finish writing down the steps, just write down the answer and go back to it after class.
  • When solving problems always annotate every step to make sure you understand how it works.
  • Always question the confusion or circle/bold and either ask after class or email the professor.
  • Always ask questions!


  • Take time to write answer once and only once. Don’t get in the habit of going back to finish up/touch up problems.
  • Start all assignments immediately and schedule it in 1 hour periods every day until it is done.
  • If you are stuck contact the TA/ professor/ Students. Do this at least 2 days before it is due.
  • Always attempt assignment problems before asking for help or meeting up in a group.
  • If you get stuck on a problem move on immediately. Don’t burn yourself out.


  • Always ask if formulas will be provided. Get info at-least 2 weeks before.
  • Spend a day creating mega problem sets with lecture problems and spread review through the week.
  • Do not review the day you make your study guide. The act of making the study guide already refreshes the content in your mind.
  • Create Mega problem set using graded problems sets and add lecture problems on a page for each problem set containing relevant problems.
  • Get problem sets for review from lecture and write technical explanations (what/why/how) while solving for each paper pertaining to each problem set assignment.
  • Don’t forget to annotate clearly all your steps and write technical questions to test knowledge on material.
  • Do a pass and mark those you struggle on. Keep doing passes until you nail all correctly. (Quiz-Recall-Method)
  • Always take a break in-between passes.
  • Study memorization content (formulas, ect…) with flash cards.
  • Don’t spend more than 1 hour at a time reviewing flash cards. Memorization takes time to digest.
  • Print out previous exams if provided, but only refer to it after studying your own notes.
  • When you have a previous exam and have completed your review, test yourself with previous exam unaided and review what you struggle with.
  • Don’t study your study guide the day you make it.
  • Read out-loud when you work out problems to better absorb the material.
  • Review quizzes you struggled on.

Test-Taking Strategies:

  • Review all questions on exam first to familiarize and and attack form easiest to hardest. ( gets rid of stress of unknown and boost confidence)
  • Budget time for each problem/page. Subtract 10 minutes from total time and then dived the rest by number of problems.
  • Write the time limit on each problem or page and stick to it.
  • Start from easiest to hardest questions.
  • Always stay calm.
  • Skip if you get stuck and go back at then.
  • Spend remaining time polishing questions you skipped.
  • Do not turn in exam early. Use all the time left to go back and check answers
  • True answers are more likely than false.
  • Previous questions’s answer is more then likely not to be the next answer.
  • Read exam question twice before looking at answer! Cover answers while reading.
  • Some previous questions may be answered later by other questions.
  • If you can’t remember how to solve a problem or get to the answer. Envision yourself in the area where you learned or practiced the problem, context-depended memories will help.
  • All of the above are 56% of the time correct
  • Biases:
    • ABC options have no bias
    • ABCD options have a bias toward b and less likely to be c
    • ABCDE have bias towards e
  • Go into the test with a sense of confidence that you will ace it, it has been showed that confidence and the right mindset increases your performance.
  • Take 10 minutes before the exam re-assure you that no exam will define your life. It is simply an exam.

Essay Question Strategies:

  • Create an outline.

Day of Test:

  • Wake up early and review hardest problems and go over notes to boost confidence.