No More Monkey Business!

The first full week of my study plan is in motion. That means no more monkey business. Although the ‘Hundredth Monkey Effect’ is an apt metaphor for devising study plans. In a nutshell, the ‘Hundredth Monkey Effect’ postulates that a behavior or concept will be adopted by a group once it has reached the point where it is practiced by a certain number of the group.  For example, if sixty or seventy out of one hundred monkeys wash their sweet potatoes, then the remaining thirty or forty monkeys will wash their sweet potatoes too, even if they do not know why they are doing it. They accept the behavior as valuable and adopt it. To me, it seems that, from the monkey’s point of view, adopting a behavior practiced by your trusted group in order to benefit from the outcomes is sensible, low risk, maximum reward scenario.

The hundredth monkey effect is very interesting from the monkey’s point of view. I work with prosimians, (really, I do) and have seen them adopt the use of a new tool after seeing that the tool has value to them. They will also selectively choose tools based on superior form and function over any other characteristics. From the prosimians’, or monkeys’, point of view, there is an upside to observing and modeling behavior. Maybe you can see where I am going with this idea. There is a certain correlation to creating an effective study plan.

This term my daily study plan has evolved from watching talented friends who’s achievements I admire and want to emulate. All year I watched them and made notes about what ‘tools’ they use, which ones I would benefit from using too, how they organize complex sets of information, and what the results are. I incorporated several strategies into my daily study practices.

Questions like why am I going about this task in this particular way, and what am I going to get out of this study behavior are important as I look at the work I want to do on one side of my desk, and the academic and professional outcomes I want to achieve that are literally stacked on the other side. By January I want to have already mastered specific material and be ready to effectively study with a more narrow focus.   I have often studied in a particular way because I did not really know a better way to go about it or what very specific things I needed to achieve. It is easy to feel frustrated by work that expands to fill the time, or wondering how to break through an academic or intellectual plateau. I can become impatient with repetitive work that does not seem to be advancing my abilities. I though about this a lot while deciding the best way to proceed this term.

By comparing my study experience in past terms with how my talented friends excelled in their respective fields I realized it all comes down to details and organization on a daily basis. My notes and binder system is adopted from one friend. A process for remembering details of texts is adopted from another. For example, I have a binder for the 2012/2013 Term, and another binder for each course I am reading. A few particular authors that I have studied in multiple units have their own binder – like Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. The 2012/2013 Term binder helps me keep organized about overall goals like reading schedules and learning literary or linguistic terms. The individual unit and author binders hold my notes on primary texts and secondary critical reading. Memory exercises include writing detailed summaries after every reading session, and planning reading carefully. I find some comfort in being the hundredth monkey. It is certainly more comforting than trial and error, and eliminates all the monkey business!

3 thoughts on “No More Monkey Business!

  1. This is a very interesting piece to me; I have been working as well on improving my study strategy. I have always been a good student and I guess the way I am receiving my education now (International Programmes) without instructor, classroom, or even classmates, made it a bit confusing to me! I am searching for the best technique to help me get better grades and the most benefit from my studies and MBA program,So I will do my best to eliminate all the monkey business.


  2. The idea behinde monkey business is fantastic, but I think it all depends in the environment we operate. If you operate in area where everybody around you are prdominatly students. the monkey business might best for you. You will need to classes when the other are going to classes. You will be forced to go to he library when every body is going to the library.

    In short,at the end of the year you will all smile at the result of your cooperate monkey business called graduation.


  3. Hi – thanks for reading! My wonderful friends, who have been observed so closely, are not students, though their professional work habits are very inspiring. In distance learning, we are self directed and don’t go to class. It’s a great opportunity to learn about structuring our own environment, and being selective about what works and what does not. Happy Studies!


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