Tassen, cups, retro, studying, incentive

Studying vs. Soup Bowls

Having a study routine is all nice and good, but you also need the discipline to sit down and actually study.

Some of us love the pressure of a looming deadline. Nothing like the “Last 60 Minutes” to type that 10-page paper. Others can keep to a routine until they get distracted and completely derail their train of thought. Yet someone else might be all for studying, but finds the subject hard or boring, and is, therefore, less inclined to study for it and give it the attention it needs.

Last night, I spoke to my dad about my M.A. Cross-Cultural Communication course I’m currently studying for online. And dad actually had a pretty cool study tip up his sleeve from his own experience.

In the late 1970s, my mum and dad were already together and they were both students.

Mum did mathematics by distance learning, on top of training and working at Inland Revenue. At the time, she was still living at home.

Dad had moved away to a different state to study civil engineering at a University of Applied Sciences. These days, he uses statistics all the time in his job, but as a student, he had a hard time getting his head around it all.

They were each other’s Study Buddy.

So mum set dad exercises.  Her distance learning professor turned out to be dad’s lecturer and she had more extensive study notes than him. They also used the same books and mum had spent her teenage years giving maths extra tuition.

She’d go through their maths books and pick out 7 problems for dad to solve every week. Should he not be able to produce those 7 problems when they see each other at the weekend, or tell her the answers over the phone if he can’t get away, then he had to buy a soup bowl.

That was his incentive. Study or pay money for a soup bowl. And it worked. Most of the time.

I can now say that the mystery of the three odd soup bowls has finally been solved.

Why they decided on soup bowls he didn’t say but I think I can make an educated guess. It’s something neither of them (him living in a furnished flat and her living at home) would need to buy. At the time, it would be a waste of money, and a soup bowl is not something you really reward yourself with.  Once they got their own flat the bowls would come in handy, but until then their sole purpose was the reminder of what a waste of money they were and how spending that money can be avoided by studying.

Fitness apps today take this motivational idea one step further. Some donate a set amount of money to a charity of your choice for every day you do not check-in at the gym. Those who really need the motivation to exercise (or study) can set it up so that for each session missed money is donated to their RIVAL football club. That usually gets people fit in no time!

Now, I currently don’t have a significant other who could act as my Study Buddy. I do, however, have a friend, the same friend who urged me to enroll on this course, who’s willing to go for a coffee and study update every week.

Every Monday (so I have the whole weekend to study) I will show her a paper I’ve been working on and the progress made. I will also show her two pieces of writing for ROW80 or NaNo, just to be sure I’m keeping up.

Now we just have to decide on my tardiness-purchase….


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