Hi ! Here is an old article I wrote about a theory I have. I figured that it might be interesting for Mariana's readers, so why not post it here since it's just waiting on my computer desk. I hope you'll enjoy !
We’ve all had those times when we feel full of energy and motivation, and when think that from now on on, we’ll seriously get to work. Our efforts usually last for few days or weeks, but then we go back to our starting point, tired. One of the reason is pretty simple : if we don’t define what’s work, we find ourself in front of a kind of giant, that we don’t know how to “attack”. Therefore, we need to divide it into smaller notions, on which we can truly make personal improvement with the aim of getting ahead in school work. I’ll explain how I consider “work”, and advices that helped me and might help you too. You can then keep in mind what is relevant for you, and apply it in your own life.
- What is work ?
The definition of the word “work” depends on people, and you’re obviously free to envision it however you want. Yet, I define work with 4 main pillars : organization, motivation, focus en self-discipline. Intelligence and eases have nothing to do with it, and it’s the way that you use them that’s important. Any students can provide the work and efforts required to be excellent, or at least to reach their goals. If you’re like me, you should consider writing those four pillars down on a piece of paper that you keep with you (on your bujo or notebook for exemple),
and get back to them when you feel kind of lost or overwhelmed.
1 - Organisation
This part is often forgot, but is super important ! If you’re messy, or if you lose your sheets, you’ll lose a lot of time and energy, and your productivity will decrease a lot. Here is few things that are overriding to get organized on :
- lessons and notes : from the very start, you want the material that you study on to be organized and correctly frameworked, and it will help your review for your tests. Some thinks that it’s a lost of time, but that’s just a habit you need to get ! It quickly becomes natural, and if your method is effective, you should in fact not lost any extra time in class and save time at home. But if it’s not the case, just take some time to think about what might be wrong in your way of doing it, so you can later work on it and try new methods and layouts !
- sheets of paper : the older you get, the less teachers give you indications on how to organize your materials for each class. If you use binders for example, you can easily get messy and lost ! It’s crucial to put your older lessons in binders at home as and when. I also advise you to use paperclips to keep together papers and notes from the same chapter or practical work. you can make a chain with them on put them in a purse in your pencil case, so you can access to them whenever you need it ! you can also make a summary of the differents chapters title that you have in a binder or a book, or use dividers or post-its between each chapters or subject.
- Work at home : There is no secret, you need to write down all of your homeworks, assignments and due date in an agenda, planner or bujo, as well as your coming out tests, so you don’t begin studying the night before ! You can also use daily and weekend to do lists, on paper, or on apps like Todoist… Find what works the best for you !
- the trape you should be aware of : don’t confound organization and aesthetism, I know that it’s tempting and satisfying, but don’t waste time in useless flourishes, instead of actually studying. Before writing exta long and difficult lists, trackers, or spreads, ask yourself it it will really help you, or just slow you down. In my personal opinion, the simpler and more minimalist you’re organisation is, the more useful it is.
In France, we usually have more than 10 differents classes and teachers a week, so it’s really important to be well organized, and manage your study materials and notebooks so our backpacks aren’t too heavy (we don’t really use lockers as in America). High School’s teachers encourage you to be as organized as you can, but don’t really give you any advices, so each student have to quickly find a way to manage his lessons and notes. That’s a way to see which students are struggling to manage themself, and which ones managed to be on top or their things and assignments.
2 - Motivation
This one is pretty obvious : if you’re not motivated, you’ll never reach anything ! You first need a big final goal : getting your dream job or dream college… I already hear the students that don’t know yet, but it’s ok ! Succeed in life is already a goal, and you’ll probably not have a really good career if you don’t make efforts to get it, in any domain.
Something that really helps me is to spend some time by myself, whenever I need it, is to follow this path in my head : I spend few minutes thinking about who I am, objectively and then, still objectively, I “grow up” step by step to imagine who I’ll be if I don’t change anything in my life. Next, I compare this person with who I would dream to be, and I go back to the present to know who I need to be in order to become my “dream self”. This way, I know what habits I need to take and what I need to improve. This is really hard to explain, but I hope you got what I meant. It has to be a positive thing to do tho, it’s not meant to make you depreciate yourself ! And if you don’t succeed to do it on your first try, it’s okay, it’s hard for your brain. Just take your time, and try again later. Writing your thoughts or doodling while doing it may also help you.
Obviously, a goal that “far” isn’t really useful as it : you need goals that are closer to you. You can divide it into smaller goals, that you know you can work on. Let’s use an example : imagine your chemistry grades in the first semester were disappointing. You can think something like : “Well, I want to go the college xxx. In order to do that, I need a good average grade in all of my scientific classes. So I have to get a good chemistry average grade this semester, and I have a good mark on my coming up test. Even tho I’m tired, I should have my lesson’s summary done tonight, and I’ll do practise questions tomorrow !”
Of course, that’s just an example, but it gives the overall idea.
But of course, I would take a huge amount of time to apply it to each one if your homework. If you already feel motivated, just do anything you need to get done, and that’s it !
A good short time goal needs to be :
- be specific : divide your tasks into smaller tasks. For example, “going the maths assignment” becomes “understand the method to use to solve the problem, doing the calculus, checking the calculus and writing the assignment.” This way, each task looks easier and quicker, and you can do your assignment one part at a time for few days, which is nicer and more productive.
- be quantifiable : if you can, add number, like the amount of time you want to study your material, the number of pages you’ll read, the number of practise question you’ll do... If you don’t write it, you might do less, because of slackness.
- be achievable : don’t have unachievable goals like always having an A+, and don’t write endless to do list. You will not pull it of, and that’s really discouraging. Know what you can and can’t do, and act accordingly.
- be controllable : you goal shouldn’t be having a definite grade (because your teacher choose and not you), but working a certain time and a certain way for the test.
Finally, you can use the reward system, which is really good for your brain. If you reach your goal, eat a snack that you like, or watch netflix after working for two hours straight, for example. If you don’t feel very good, watch inspirational videos or post. I personally love watching the following youtubers : Mariana's study corner, Thomas Frank, studyquill, and many others
3 - Focus
If you’re not focus, there is no way you can be effective and productive. Here is a list of advices that might help you focus better :
- On weekends, try to work before 5 pm. Then, it’s harder for your brain to focus, so just rest (you probably deserve it anyway), or work on easy tasks like copying stuffs or doing summaries.
- The most important is to take breaks. Your brain just can’t study for hours and hours straight, and it’s counterproductive to try. You can use the Pomodoro method : 25 minutes of working, and a five minutes break. Personally, I feel like it’s too short for me, and I prefer working for one hour or 90 minutes, and then take a 10 or fifteen minutes break. Try different things, and you should find the schedule that works the best for you, but make sure to define specific amounts of time, so your short break doesn’t turn into a 2 hours nap. Every 3 or 4 breaks, you can also take a longer break, kinda like a reward.
- If you are easily distracted by your phone, you can also use the app called “Forest” : You plant a virtual tree, that grows for the amount of time you chose, and die if you open one of the app that you put in a “black list” (like social medias and youtube). On a computer, you can use “SelfCntrol”, that basically has the same purpose. The logo is a bit frightening, but I swear there aren’t any virus !
- If it helps you, listen to music ! This is definitely not for everybody and some people prefer silence, but if you do, privilege chill, calm and instrumental musics. There is a lot of pre-made playlists on Youtube and Spotify.
- Hydratation is key ! It’s really good for you brain, as well as pretty much your whole body. So, keep a water bottle on your working area ! Also, try to avoid sodas, or any other drinks with a lot of sugar in it, if you want to stay healthy. You should walk outside too, so you get some oxygen and exercise.
- Speaking of working area, keep yours clean and tidy. In addition, your room isn’t always the best place to work, because there are a lot of distractions. If that’s your case, try working in other rooms, or in a library. See what works !
4 - Self-discipline
I don’t have much to say about it, as it’s really personal and it isn’t really a struggle for me. Some of the previous advices can also apply to this concept, and remember that the harder part is always to get started. After 10 or 20 minutes, you just get into the thing you’re doing, and you don’t even think about distractions and laziness anymore. The more you procrastinate, the more your brain gets into a “rest state”, and the harder it is to start working. For example, when you come back home, do your homework right away, because the way back home is usually a break long enough for your break. Furthermore, it’s so much nicer to rest when you’re not stressful about school work !
Also, and despite everything I said before, don’t push yourself too hard, cause the goal isn’t to get sick, and too much stressed out. Would you stay friend with someone that only gives you order and blame you for every single bad grades ? probably not. So apply it to yourself. Listen to your body, rest, do things that you like, and never push yourself too crazy.
I know that I write all of it from my 16 years old point of you, but I really tried to make this post as relatable as I could, and I feel like any student can apply most of those things to their life. I stayed pretty "two-dimensionals", but if you want me too, I can go further for the subject I talked about, so if you want more detailed posts, ask me !
Also, work is a personal journey, and not everything can work for you. Take little steps, Work on one pillar at the time. Habits take a long time to get usual, but it’s fine. Don’t discourage yourself and take your time, and I’m sure you’ll reach anything you want. Posts and videos are only here to help you, but each person has to find their own way to become productive.
If you have any questions, additions, or if you just need to talk, don’t keep from letting a comment, I’ll be very glad to help you if I can.