Retain 50% More After Studying

It’s every student’s dream to be able to listen to one lecture or read the book or his/her notes one time and retain everything. While it’s a rare few who are actually able to do such a thing, others are left to rely on brainhacks to keep their memory buff and in tip-top shape.

Today’s smart strategy gives you one brainhack that gets you 50% closer to your ability to remember information after one sitting. In 2011, a study revealed that students who took a test (or quizzed themselves) following a study/review session were able to recall 50% more information a week later than those that did not test themselves.

What does this mean for you? Testing is an effective study strategy.

How can you implement this strategy into your current study plan? Easy!

Set out to review a specific set of material for your study session. Be sure you’ve already planned what you’re going to study for the week and/or day. Then, there are three different ways you can incorporate testing into your study session.

  1. Pre-test: start off by testing yourself over the material prior to reviewing it.
  2. Post-test: end your study session with 25-50 questions.
  3. Next day test: before your study session the next day, test yourself on the material you reviewed the day before. Take a quick but short quiz (maybe 15-20 questions). This further instills the information in your memory.

While the study only used one test at the end of a review session to find that retention was boosted, one can imagine that testing yourself on all sides of a study session can improve retention even more.

You might wonder how you are supposed to test yourself. Where will you get your questions from? There are plenty of question banks, testing books, and other resources available online.

If you’re interested in learning more about several of the resources of available to you, I’ve reviewed nine different resources for nursing students in my eBook, “Smart Strategies for Nursing School: How to Study, Manage Your Time, and Still Have a Life.” You can pick up a copy at amazon to see for yourself how these nine different resources compare to one another.

Otherwise, you can do a simple google search to see what’s available. Either way, there is plenty out there for you to use to test yourself  Testing is vital to being successful in nursing.

Happy testing,


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How to Increase Mental Agility with the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a unique strategy for approaching how long to spend studying per study session.

The length of time spent studying varies from student to student. If you have ADD, you might have short, snappy study sessions. If you’re a perfectionist, you might study for hours on end with no breaks. The Pomodoro Technique offers a sweet solution in the middle.

The technique was developed by an Italian guy while he attended university. As a means to increase mental agility, he set his tomato (pomodoro) kitchen timer to 25 minutes. At the end of 25 minutes he took a five minute break. That counted as one out of four short sessions.

When he tallied a total of four 25 minute sessions and three breaks he took a long break, about 30 minutes. Once the long break was over he restarted the tally marks.

In today’s smart strategy, I alter the original Pomodoro Technique from 25 minutes to 45 minutes. The increased length of time was better for my personal workflow. I felt like that gave me plenty of time to get into my studies. You might be different. Try different times, ranging from 25 to 45. If I felt like I was in a good flow, I kept studying for an additional 5 minutes. I lost focus quickly if I went longer than 50 minutes.

Use the Pomodoro Technique to your advantage to stay alert and focused during your study sessions.

On breaks refuel with water or a snack. Stand outside to soak up a few rays of sunshine while deep breathing to relieve stress. Stretch your legs, arms, and back to increase blood flow throughout your body. Do a few jumping jacks to increase your energy level.

After each break, get back to studying! You don’t need to go through four whole study sessions and breaks to reep the benefits of this technique. If you only have time for a short study session, then know that even a short amount of time is worth your effort!

What this technique offers is relief from the thought that study sessions have to be long and tedious. What a burden! If you thought you always had to spend a long time studying for it to count, think again!

Happy studying,

pomodoro technique



How to Create Long-term Memories Over Night

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of today’s smart strategy. Sleep is a hot commodity for nursing students. It’s such a hot commodity that students deny themselves the juicy reward of a good night’s slumber for a time when exams and clinicals are no longer looming.

Unfortunately, during the dark days of denial, students undermine their own success in favor of the perceived benefit of “just another hour or two” of studying. “Just another hour or two” quickly turns into a habit of less and less sleep each night.

You might be familiar with this experience. You deny yourself a good night’s rest, thinking that you can cram more in before your big exam the next day. You go to sleep at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning with an alarm set for 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. Running on a less than the ideal number of hours for sleep, you rush to school in a haze, still wiping crusties from your eyes.

You sit for your exam, unable to fully pay attention, yearning for your sweet, sweet pillow. The exam starts. Seventy questions. You’ve got this!

You rush through the test, excited to be done. Now you’re speeding home to sleep for 30 or 45 minutes before you start studying again.

This is the story of the average nursing student. Don’t be this student.

Despite the belief that you’ll “get more” out of “just another hour or two,” you’re actually undermining your ability to pay attention, remain alert, concentrate, and think critically. Sleep offers amazing benefits for the quality of our thinking, as well as our mental fortitude and attention to detail.

Now here’s an aspect of sleep I bet you’ve never considered… Sleep can be one of your best smart strategies for studying. How can this be so? Aside from the aforementioned benefits of sleep, sleep offers the opportunity to transfer information from short-term to long-term memory. Isn’t that a result you’d like to have!?

A recent study discovered what are called “sharp wave ripples.” The presence or absence of these sharp wave ripples determines one’s ability to transfer information from short-term to long-term memory. How do you get these sharp wave ripples, you might ask!?

Easy – you sleep!

You’re more likely to experience memory consolidation during periods of deep sleep. On average, deep sleep makes up 20% of a person’s sleep cycle and occurs mostly in the first third of sleep.

The more hours you spend sleeping leads to a greater amount of exposure to sharp wave ripples. The study indicates that even a minimal amount of sleep is healthy for memory consolidation. So, naps are effective study strategies, too!

Happy sleeping,


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Smart Strategy: the Need to Know

The “need to know” information is exactly what it sounds like – the need to know! It’s the information that requires your attention. When you focus on the “need to know” you are studying what you need to do well on your exams and as a nurse.

In comparison, “nice to know” information is detail. If you find yourself deep into the “nice to know”, you’re in the weeds. It’s nice to know when you’re in the hospital, specializing in cardiovascular, neuro, or endocrine. It’s not nice to know in nursing school when all you want is the need to know. In fact, I don’t even know why it’s called “nice to know.” It’s more annoying than it is nice.

An example of “need to know” information would be lab value ranges such as blood sugar, hematocrit, hemoglobin, RBCs, or WBCs. These are basic lab values that will never go away and you’ll always need to know. A lab value that you don’t need to know, that’s “nice to know,” for example, is gastrin levels.

During nursing school, you’ll always be guided towards “need to know” information. NCLEX makes it easy by giving a guide towards the “need to know” lab values and other information important to study for the exam on their website.

Your instructors will teach over topics they’d like you to focus on. Don’t get distracted by dense material available in textbooks. Instead, focus on what your teacher directed your attention towards. Dive deeper into topics you find interesting or need clarification on but don’t worry about memorizing every little detail.

It’s best to have a quality yet general idea over each topic rather than a detailed understanding of one topic. Remember that it’s not about memorizing  during nursing school. It’s about applying information. That’s why Anatomy and Physiology are so important. It creates the basis for which you’ll be able to think your way to the answer, not just regurgitate information.

A high level of stress and confusion, as well as a lack of focus, is a good indicator that you’ve ventured into the weeds. When you realize you’re in the weeds stop, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate what you’re studying. Perhaps all you need to do is shift your focus back to the main topic. From there you should see the top points that are the need to know, skip the rest.

For patho/pharmacology, you’ll focus on the disease, signs or symptoms, causes, medications, and interventions. In other classes, you’ll focus on basic care and human needs based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, as well as the nursing process. I discuss Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs and the nursing process in my up and coming eBook, “Smart Strategies for Nursing School: How to Study, Manage Your Time, and Still Have a Life.”

Happy Studying,


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Nursing School and Nursing Students

Welcome to Nursing School!

Nursing school can be difficult. But you’re in the right place.

Welcome, nursing students (or pre-nursing students). You’re taking a look at the up and coming eBook, “Smart Strategies for Nursing School: How to Study, Manage Your Time, and Still Have a Life.”

As a former nursing student and current registered nurse, it’s my belief that you can be successful and happy throughout nursing school and into your nursing career. All too often, I see nursing students running ragged, anxious, and overwhelmed by their course load.

Students fear the worst after every exam. They run around like a chicken with their heads cut off, unsure of how to study, with papers falling out of their binders, and a planner marked all over but with zero continuity or knowledge of what’s coming up.

I personally experienced not knowing how to study in my first semester. I spent countless hours talking about how to organize all the assignments, readings, exams, classes, and clinicals. I wanted to know how on earth I would be able to do everything nursing school asked of me on top of spending time with my loved ones and generally taking care of myself, i.e. exercise and nutrition.

I knew nursing school would be heavy. I watched my step-dad go through it right before me. What I saw was a man in his office almost all the time. And I didn’t like that. I was bound and determined to find a way to study, manage my time, and still have a life throughout nursing school.

Now that I’m on the other side of nursing school, I can honestly say that I was successful. I was so happy to discover that it’s possible to experience nursing school and still have a life that I wanted to share that with other nursing students. My hope is to shift the paradigm around nursing school. I want to eliminate the old, worn out beliefs that it’s an all consuming two years of your life and that you have to be fat, lazy, and unhealthy throughout it.

This is simply not true.

On early August, I’ll be launching my eBook, “Smart Strategies for Nursing Students: How to Study, Manage Your Time, and Still Have a Life.” Up until that point, you can return to this blog to get snippets and previews of the book as well as extra hints and tips!

In addition, I’ll be posting videos to my YouTube channel. Stay connected via email to be one of the firsts to find out of the book’s release.

Talk soon,