I was about ten years old when my mom and dad would say: Go to your room and play the piano for one hour. And for some reason, I would go to my room and be so mad! I didn’t realize it back then, but I was upset with being tasked with a certain time to get a certain task done. I unwittingly realized that if I took too long to accomplish something then it might mean I’m not good enough or that I am somehow less than others. If I didn’t take as long, does that mean I was more advanced than most people? I never really understood this… and till today I am still not a fan of anything timed. 🙂 I wonder what your thoughts are on this.
So instead of saying I will do this for 30 minutes — I use the following rules instead:
- Make a plan
You shouldn’t walk into anything blindly. Not a project, not an exam, not a meeting. I can’t think of a situation where preparation ever played against me (except maybe during improv…?). Making a plan will help you outline a clear path to the completion of the project/exam. Having established the right communication lines with your professors, coworkers, managers, etc — you make sure that as you get closer to completing your project you have the resources to contact people when you get stuck.
- Think about the end goal
It’s obvious that when you make a plan you have to end somewhere. But really think about the end goal. What questions can you ask yourself that will make you understand how you should be approaching this idea — how quickly you need to work — how many micro-steps do you need to complete… Do you need help?
- What is the goal of your project? Why are you doing it?
- Why are YOU on this particular project?
- What happens if it doesn’t get done in time?
- What are you studying for?
- How does it fit into the grand scheme of things?
- How many units are there?
- Should you sit in the library till 2 am?
- Are the lecture material primary or supplemental?
Asking yourselves these questions will help you frame your approach to the project — and hopefully ease some of the anxiety you might be feeling as the clock inches closer to the deadline.
- Set the goals and stick to it.
I don’t believe in studying for 2 hours. What if you didn’t get anything from those two hours? What if you didn’t finish your project during that time? Then what? I believe in setting realistic goals.
Pro Example: I will sweep, dust, and do the laundry tonight.
Con Example: I will spend 30 min cleaning.
Time restrictions are only helpful if you are juggling — but they are not helpful for accomplishing your goals. You might be faster, or slower than you thought. Breaking your projects/studying up into definable chunks that can be easily mapped will make your life so much more helpful.
- Eat and Drink a well-balanced meal
Before I dive into any of my studying or project tackling, I make sure I have a coffee, eat a balanced meal, and have a bottle of water next to me at all times. It’s hard to work when all you are thinking about is food! You start getting irritated, and you start to lose your concentration. A balanced meal should take you through your day for about 3-4 hours. That’s about the time I get up and go poking around my refrigerator for snacks. Carbs — protein — fats should be present in your diet to help follow the routine digestion one has to go through to stay satiated.
Water is super important as well. I like to keep a lot of water near me when I am concentrating because I can take “mini” breaks while taking a sip of my water. I can pause, think, gulp, and return back to my work. Also — I’m staying hydrated. As DJ Khaled says — H20.
Coffee. Some people hate coffee and others love it — or have a caffeine alternative such as tea. When I need to be at a peak of productivity I have a special drink I make at home that turns me into a productivity machine. My mind is alert — my brain is ready to absorb — and I am awake — what else do you expect from a stimulant. 2 shots of espresso and one 14 oz of oat milk. It makes for an amazing cold drink that has the right amount of kick to take you through your session.
- Turn off all distracting notifications
You knew it was coming. Turn off all notifications. As a rule in my life, I have all my notifications turned off. It’s something I don’t like just dinging randomly in the middle of the day, and taking me from what I am doing. I believe in being 100% present in your work. We don’t half-ass things here at Simply Prepared. So don’t half ass yourself!
Simply turn the Do Not Disturb setting on, and work. People will understand that you need some time to get things done and if they don’t… Well, it might mean you need to evaluate your circle.
I also don’t recommend checking your phone in the middle of your breaktime sessions while studying. I suggest going for a walk, taking a stretch, having a snack, listening to some soothing music. Once you turn that DND off, you might fall into a rabbit hole of notifications and time wasters! And then all that planning you spent so much time doing, is down the drain. Let’s not go there please. 🙂
- Respect the end
Working more than you need to… or longer than you have to will only hurt you. Your brain is a beautiful organ that also needs rest and recharge. Trust me… you’ll need to learn a little bit about sleep and long term potentiation. Either way, know when to end so you can continue to optimize on that productivity train.
Whether you are tackling house chores, meal prepping, a huge foreign project at work, or trying to prep for an exam around the corner, always remember that you need to keep in mind the purpose of what you are doing first, and then move on how you are going to tackle it. You might be quicker than you thought — and end up with a couple of hours on your hand to spend tackling another problem, or catching a couple of extra zzz’s at night.
Happy Goal Reaching!!