Quickie: 3 + 2 Study Management

“Quickies” is a new column on SotN for short or niche tips. These topics are interesting or important enough to warrant their own post, but are too short for a full length one. If you have a “quickie” you’d like to share, contact us! Enjoy! 

A while ago, I came across the concept of the 3 + 2 Rule for managing one’s to do list on Lifehacker. This “rule” is a way of managing one’s to do list to get stuff done. Since the original “rule” was for an office setting, I thought I’d show how it could be tweaked for university (or any other type of schooling). Compared to the original, the only real difference is in the length of each task. To implement the tweaked system:

  1. On an index card, write down 3 major tasks that you would like to accomplish. During the regular school year, each major tasks takes about 0.75 – 1.5 hours. During the exam season, when you have more flexible time, each task should take 2 – 2.5 hours.
  2. Write down 2 minor tasks to complete. These should take no more than 15 minutes each.
  3. At the end of each day, check to make sure all the tasks are complete. If there are unfinished tasks, slot them into another day.
  4. If 3 + 2 doesn’t work for you, try 4 + 1 or 2 + 5. Whatever combination works the best. If necessary, you can also divide it up by days (e.g. Monday is 4 + 1 and Friday is 2 + 5).

What kind of things count as major tasks?

  • Doing problem sets
  • Making cheat sheets
  • Going to prof’s office hours
  • Reviewing the midterm or attending an exam viewing
  • Doing practice/sample midterm or finals
  • Attending review sessions

What kind of things count as minor tasks?

  • Pre-reading
  • Printing off notes/PowerPoint slides for class
  • Doing course evaluations
  • E-mailing the prof about something you did not understand

As you may have noticed, these tasks are all academic. You can, should you wish, also include extracurricular, work, or volunteer tasks as well.

The beauty of this system is that it forces students to prioritize and prevent to do lists from becoming bloated.