Gaming the System: Finding Your Own Homework Method

Jan 31, 2024 | Adult Toolbox, Counselor's Corner, Newsletters

Chase Myers, LMHCA
BYS Therapist

If you often find yourself struggling to finish or even start assignments, a good question to ask yourself is “How am I approaching it?” It’s important to remember that brains work differently and sometimes problems can arise when we try to do things that might work well for others, but just don’t work for us. One of the most helpful things you can do when considering a new approach to homework is to find out the ways you learn best. Some of the more generic tips for studying are well known for good reason, they typically make sense and when properly practiced, produce results. Taking detailed notes, highlighting important information, or having scheduled ‘work’ time in your days can all be incredibly helpful. But what if you have tried those tips and you still find yourself struggling? Does that mean you are not trying hard enough, or maybe that you’re completely helpless? It’s true that tips such as these take effort to implement, but for those who find them helpful, it is likely because they play into their strengths in some way. If these things have never worked for you, it does not mean you are broken, it simply means you have not found your preferred method yet.

It takes time to figure out what your strengths are, especially if you have only ever learned one way to approach things like homework or studying. A good way to gain greater awareness is through thinking about how you respond to other things in your life outside of school. An example of this could be to reflect on what kind of video games you are drawn to. Games engage our interest because they stimulate creativity and allow us to cultivate accomplishments within a structured and understandable setting. We can compare games that tend to be more universally popular like Mario or Minecraft, to the more ‘typical’ approaches to homework. They are relatively easy to understand and tend to resonate with a wide range of people. Maybe you like to play those games from time to time, but what if they don’t work for you anymore or never did?

Think about the games you like and what you specifically like about them. Do you prefer co/op games that allow you to work with a team to accomplish tasks and beat others? It could be that you are a social and verbal learner who would benefit from study groups which allow you to share ideas and process information in a way that makes more sense to you. Or do you gravitate more towards solo games like RPGs? This could mean you are a visual and text-based learner. Your brain likes to have structured and attainable goals that feel more like finishing quests. Instead of telling yourself, “I just need to do my homework,” try taking some time first to map out a clearer path toward accomplishing specific goals. Prefer strategy or puzzle games? You may be more of a logic-based learner who responds better to figuring things out for yourself rather than hearing it from someone else. Try creating your own patterns and formulas for approaching the assignments that don’t engage your critical thinking skills on their own. Rhythm games? Maybe flashcards and mnemonic devices work better for you. Sports or fighting games? It could be that direct competition allows you to tap into motivation more easily. Try challenging a friend to see who can get an assignment done first, even before it is due.

If video games aren’t your thing, not a problem. Thinking about the types of books, music, or TV shows you are interested in can all provide helpful hints into what may work best for you. These examples are just a few of the many potential ways you can begin to better understand your preferences and styles of learning. Just as there is no ‘right’ type of game, there is no ‘right’ way to learn. The games you like may be completely different from what your friends do, but that doesn’t make them any less fun or engaging. The same is true for how you approach homework. Figuring out what works best for you creates a greater opportunity for success while also bringing more of your authentic self into the work you are doing.