What do you do when you study for hours and still don’t do well?

 

You change your strategy!

How?

Forget about quantity — don’t isolate yourself in a room and study 8, 10, or 12 hours every single day.

Instead, focus on quality — maximize each day by helping your brain absorb study material more effectively.

I still remember the way I studied during the month of exams when I was getting my undergraduate degree. Spending all day at my desk memorizing and re-reading my textbooks felt like torture! In retrospect, I realized how unnecessarily miserable it made me feel. That’s why I feel compelled to provide a better solution to students like you who find themselves in similar situations.

So what does it mean to change your studying strategy by focusing on quality instead of quantity?

Study tip #1. SIMPLIFY: Commit to reaching one study goal a day.

The best way to get your mind focused on what’s important to successfully pass your exams is to start the day with a question, “What is the ONE thing I am committed to completing today?”

  • Here’s why. This question will encourage you to think strategically about the day, keep you focused on your top study goal, and force you to prioritize the one goal that you want to reach by the end of the day. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have many study goals, but it does means that you can finish one today (read a certain number of chapters or practice exam questions, for example), so that you can concentrate better on your other goals in the days that follow.
  • Here’s how to practice it. Write the question in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on a wall. Pick a location where you can easily see the question as soon as you wake up (next to your bed or the bathroom mirror, for example). Then, read it out loud as you start your day. Take a few moments to think what you want to prioritize, and then come up with an answer and say it out loud too. Later, as you go through the day, make sure you’re working on completing what you’ve identified as your study goal for that day.

Study tip #2. PRIORITIZE: Do the most challenging cognitive task first.

Timing is everything! Doing complex cognitive tasks first means taking advantage of your circadian rhythm — your biological clock that dictates which activities you’re more likely to do best at certain times of the day.

  • Here’s what happens. For most people, your brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after you wake up. This is the time when your brain can focus on analytical thinking that requires the most concentration. For studying, this can be reading, writing, critical thinking, or problem solving.
  • Here’s when it should happen. If you wake up at 8, your peak times are between 10 and 12. And just because it’s noon, it doesn’t mean you have to stop; extend this time for another hour or so to maximize your peak performance and wrap up an important section, chapter, or lecture.
  • Here are the benefits. Doing your hard work early in the day allows your brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from your environment, and with a lot of energy that you’ve gained from a restful night. That’s a much better strategy than leaving your toughest studying for nighttime, when you are mentally exhausted.

Study tip #3. TIME IT: Use a timer to divide your day into short study periods.

For most efficient studying, you don’t need to be sitting at your desk for hours. Use a timer to better manage your study session. That way you allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. Here are some examples.

  • Review study material. Set the timer to 30 or 60 minute increments to maximize concentration; or, for really short bursts of study, try the Pomodoro technique which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks.
  • Practice exam questions. Use the review questions from your textbook or you can create your own questions based on the most important concepts from each chapter. Write the questions down on a sheet of paper. Then, use the Pomodoro technique to rehearse for the exam. Give yourself only a short time to answer each question.
  • Take frequent breaks. When you’re done with one timed segment, step away from your desk and do something completely unrelated to work: get some fresh air, stretch, have a snack, grab a cup of coffee or tea.

Study tip #4. IGNORE: Eliminate distractions that stand in your way.

If you’ve ever found yourself checking Facebook for a few minutes and then you realized that two hours flew by, you know what distractions can do to your day. No wonder you feel overwhelmed! After all, you don’t have a lot of time left to review or study. Here’s what can help.

  • Check email and social media apps only 2–3 times a day. For example, you can catch up around lunchtime, later in the afternoon, and in the evening.
  • Set your phone to Airplane mode. You can also turn off the volume and put the phone away for a few hours so it’s not within easy reach.
  • Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news. Leave these activities for later after you’ve completed all the tasks you need to cover.
  • Set expectations with other people. Humans can distract us too. Let your friends and family members know you won’t be available in the next few hours. You can catch up and chat over lunch or in the afternoon.

Study tip #5. TAKE NOTES: Write stuff down.

Don’t just sit and read the textbook passively. Taking notes as you’re reading improves your brain’s cognitive skills, makes retention of information easier, and boosts memory.

  • Write down what’s relevant. This includes key concepts, ideas, and topics. Don’t waste time writing every single word from a lecture. Instead, boost your critical thinking skills by identifying what is relevant to the topic. Don’t know what’s the best way? Try the Cornell Method.
  • Write in a list format. This saves time, enables you to skim the material when you need it, helps you locate information faster, and makes the review process easier.
  • Organize with color. Get notes more organized with multi-colored pens, markers, or highlighters to emphasize the most important sections. Use one specific color to highlight top priority concepts, then pick other colors to identify second level priority items such as examples and additional information. That way, all your notes will have a colorful structure which will be helpful as you’re reviewing for your exams.
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What are 5 habits that can strengthen willpower?

 

These are my top 5 willpower-strengthening habits.

Willpower habit #1. Make the most of your mornings.

For most adults, it’s common to wake up in the morning and feel overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do on any given day. As a result, we procrastinate on some of those things and postpone them for later in the afternoon. The problem with this approach is that we deplete our willpower reserves the more we let our day go by.

  • How can you strengthen your willpower? If you want to focus on priorities, work on them early. This means do them in the morning, and keep working on them until you take a lunch break. For example, I don’t put off tasks if I know they’ll accumulate within 24 hours. I try to write up a plan for the work week ahead of time, usually in checklist format. If I’m reading through some important material, I immediately take notes while my brain is still focused on what’s in front of me. That way I won’t forget the top-level information that I might need to use later.

Willpower habit #2. Practice baby steps.

Every positive habit we want to acquire needs a good dose of self-discipline, a bit of time, and a lot of repetition. But once you frame it that way, it may seem intimidating. Who has all that time? Who is disciplined enough? We won’t necessarily feel we have all it takes to build a good habit. But the trick is in simplifying a new habit to the point that it’s impossible to come up with excuses not to practice it.

  • How can you strengthen your willpower? To simplify a change you want to make, start with baby steps. Baby steps are exactly that — really small, short, and quick activities that anyone can do. For example, if I feel stuck starting a writing assignment, I’ll warm up my brain and my fingertips by typing a short paragraph of 2–3 sentences on that topic. If I am too tired to go to the gym, I’ll tell myself that I’ll just work out for 15–20 minutes, not more. If I feel like I’m not getting enough sleep, I’ll set a bedtime alarm to notify me it’s time to get ready, and I’ll move my bedtime up by 15 minutes.

Willpower habit #3. Say“NO!” often.

If you often feel like you’re running out of time to do what you need to do (and that’s probably all of us!), chances are it means you’re not using your resources in the most optimal way. The biggest and most valuable resource we possess is time. That’s why it’s dangerous to allow distractions of any kind take over, and use up, our most value resource. This can apply to spending hours on pointless conversations, watching TV for hours, or just sitting around waiting to be entertained by someone or something else.

  • How can you strengthen your willpower? Exercising your “no!” muscle means literally saying no in a variety of situations in your daily life. If there’s leftover cake in the fridge, I won’t eat a double portion for two days in a row just because it’s there. If I’m in the middle of finishing up a project and a friend wants to hang out, I don’t just drop everything and go — but I ask if we can reschedule the meeting. I believe it’s super important to know your priorities and always be aware of why you’re doing something to begin with — because it’s usually tied to a personal goal you set in the past.

Willpower habit #4. Declare war on distractions.

It’s next to impossible to focus on getting any work done if we allow our attention to move on to little things around us. Everything sounds tempting. New emails in your inbox—what if one is urgent? New Instagram posts you’d like to check as soon as you wake up. Or the news waiting for you to read on Twitter. Who can resist? I believe it’s important to learn how to tackle distractions head on. The benefits are huge — when you turn off distractions, you have a better chance to actually focus on things that matter.

  • How can you strengthen your willpower? First, turn off the digital distractions when you need to do your most challenging cognitive tasks such as studying, problem-solving, or writing. I often set my phone to Airplane mode and also turn off all notifications. I check email and social media apps 2–3 times instead of 20–30 times a day. If I don’t want to be disturbed while in the middle of trying to solve a problem, I let people around me know I’ll be busy for a few hours so they don’t interrupt. Finally, I put on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and listen to music that helps me focus.

Willpower habit #5. Create a plan B.

It’s very rare for things to run smoothly just because we want them to. Real life is quite the opposite — we start working on something, and sooner or later there’s an obstacle or a delay in schedule. What works best in these situations? I found that having a plan B in place gives me peace of mind for those moments when the day turns stressful, or I’m just tired and can’t keep my eyes open to finish reading the research material I’ve planned to complete.

  • How can you strengthen your willpower? If you’re stressed or overwhelmed about never-ending tasks, be aware that this is an emotional reaction and it will not last. I try to keep my emotions in check so they don’t rule my day (the key is to keep trying). Next, resist the urge to give up doing something that you know is good for you. Just because I don’t feel like going to the gym today doesn’t mean the exercise ritual won’t have a positive impact on my life. Finally, make a plan B. If something takes longer than expected, I’ll remove one of two unimportant items on my schedule to free up more time for a task that’s top priority for me.

How can I study and have more discipline?

 

Get strategic about studying.

This means:

  • You’ll be smarter about your time and what you need to do with it
  • You won’t procrastinate until one week before an exam to open your textbook
  • You’ll be proactive about reaching your study goals every single day

How can you do this?

There are 5 specific strategies that can help you be more self-disciplined about the way you study.

Strategy #1. Finish your most difficult study tasks early.

  • Why? Because you take full advantage of your circadian rhythm — your biological clock. For most people, the brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after you wake up: if you get up at 8, the peak time is 10–12. This is the time when your analytical brain takes over and you can focus better on absorbing new material.
  • What are the benefits? Doing your hard work early in the day allows your brain to focus fully on the material in front of you with fewer distractions, less inputs from your environment, and with more energy that you’ve gained from a restful night.
  • What about distractions? When you’re in learning mode, turn off your phone or at least the volume setting, avoid responding to calls and text messages, and ignore other distractions such as emails, reading the news or what’s in your social media feed. You’ll notice a big difference in the way and the speed at which you can absorb new material.

Strategy #2. Use a timer so you don’t waste time.

  • Why? Reading for hours on end is probably the worst approach you can take when studying. It will zap your energy, decrease your motivation, and negatively impact your focus on what’s in front of you. Instead, use a timer to allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. Here’s how.
  • How to review study material? Set the timer to 30-60 minute increments to maximize concentration; or, you can also try the Pomodoro technique which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks.
  • How to prep for exams? Use your timer to simulate an exam. First, start by reading the review questions in your textbook or those provided your professor. Or, you can create your own questions based on the most important concepts from each chapter. Write the questions on a sheet of paper in a list format. Set your timer to the Pomodoro technique to give yourself only a short time to answer the questions, and go down the list until you’ve covered them all.
  • How to make sure you remember it? Write an outline of the basic points and then say each point out loud. You can take it a step further: tell a friend, family member or even your dog what you’ve just learned and why you thought it was interesting and important. This help you review, recall, and retain what you’ve learned in a much better way than just silently looking over the material and writing it out.

Strategy #3. Take notes as you read your textbook.

  • Why? Taking notes is a valuable skill to learn not just for the sake of giving your reading experience more structure. It’s also really good for your brain because it helps to amplify your focus and concentration, makes retaining and recalling information easier, boosts your cognitive skills, strengthens memory, and engages your critical thinking skills.
  • How?
    • Dedicate a notebook to your reading. Then, as you read through articles and books, start a note on each one by writing the title, author’s name, and date when you read it, which can be an added memory boost when you look at your notes later.
    • Focus on key concepts, ideas, and topics. Don’t make it a goal to write down every little thing you read. That will take forever and you won’t benefit from your notes. Instead, boost your critical thinking skills by identifying what is relevant to the topic. If you’re not sure how to begin, try the Cornell Method.
    • Write everything in list format. This saves time, enables you to skim the material when you need it, helps you locate information faster, and makes the review process easier.
    • Get creative with drawing and color. Use markers or highlighters to prioritize concepts (use one color to mark those that are top priority, and a second color for second level priority items). This helps important information stand out and makes it easier to find later.

Strategy #4. Talk to someone else about it.

  • Why? Telling a story is easy to practice because it’s not formal so there isn’t pressure to make it perfect. It also gives you confidence by strengthening your knowledge of the study material, and it boosts your memorization. You can review, recall, and retain what you’ve learned better and more effectively.
  • How?
    • Find your audience. It can be a friend, roommate, study partner, sibling, or parent. Embarrassed to ask? Get your pet to participate—they’re usually a loyal audience.
    • Find the right time. Don’t just assume everyone will want to pause what they’re doing and pay attention to you. Pick a time when they’re not in the middle of working or finishing up a task, so they can also enjoy the story. For example, you can talk while taking a walk together or just chilling out in the evening.
    • Make it concise. Nobody wants to sit through an hour’s worth of lecture, especially if it’s during their downtime and not an obligation to do so. Think about what is the main point of what you read that you’d like to share, and then explain it in a few minutes.
    • Encourage dialogue. You told your story. Now what? Use the opportunity to get your friend’s point of view. Ask them if they heard or read anything similar, and you might get a recommendation of what to read next. Turn it into a conversation so you can both benefit from the experience.

Strategy #5. Implement what you learned.

  • Why? When you apply the details of what you’ve read to your life, it means you are making a connection between learning something new and the way you think, study, work, or communicate with others. In other words, you are applying that knowledge to something concrete and tangible that can benefit you.
  • How?
    • Use every opportunity to review. When you are on your commute or walking or running errands, ask yourself what were the key concepts from the article or book you just finished. Go over them, remembering what you wrote in your notes and how you emphasized each point.
    • Generate more ideas. Sometimes reading something can give us ideas on how to do our job better or how to improve one area of our life. It can be about developing a new habit, practicing a skill, or going more in depth on a topic that we find fascinating. It’s an excellent starting point to do more research on what interests us.
    • Take one idea and practice it. Find one idea you liked, then come up with ways to practice it at work or school. It can be learning a few words in a different language or practicing a small habit to make your day more interesting. Pick something that can help you improve the quality of your daily life so you actually apply what you’re learning to something that’s tangible and real.

What is it that nobody tells you about adult life?

 

Here are 20 things nobody tells you about adult life, but I will.

#1. You have to promote yourself to CEO status. Not demote yourself to be a victim of life.

#2. You have to be in the driver’s seat. Not let other people make decisions for you and take you on a detour any time they feel like it.

#3. You have to do all the work. Not sit back and expect others to pick up the slack.

#4. You have to have a strategy for where you’re going. Not act impulsively.

#5. You have to make plans. Not live your life day by day.

#6. You have to keep your emotions in check. Not let them run your life.

#7. You have to grow your mindset. Not be rigid, inflexible, and set in your ways so much that it paralyzes you.

#8. You have to value your time. Not waste it on trivial things, pointless activities, gossip, and envy.

#9. You have to respect other people’s time as well. Not act as if every conversation is all about you — what happened to you, who is treating you poorly, and how the world is out to get you.

#10. You have to learn how to invest in the right people. Not seek attention just for attention’s sake, feed your ego because you feel you’re better or smarter than your “friends,” or ignore red flags like superficiality and weak character.

#11. You have to embrace being an adult. Not be stuck in childhood (and everything that went wrong in it) for the rest of your life.

#12. You have to adhere to a value system. Not reinvent what’s important (or not) every single day, depending on your mood or the situation you’re in.

#13. You have to learn how to be disciplined. Not lead an unhealthy lifestyle of binging on fast food, drinking uncontrollably, smoking like there’s no tomorrow, and sitting at your desk without moving a muscle.

#14. You have to roll up your sleeves and do the work. Not only because nobody else will, but also because you need to feel proud of your accomplishments.

#15. You have to take ownership and be held accountable for your actions. Not imagine that you will get by unnoticed for bad behavior — because believe me, people are watching.

#16. You have to be kind to others. You were not given the gift of life to waste it on being rude, disrespectful, and taking people for granted.

#17. You also have to learn how to play well with others. Not act like you don’t need anyone or you are better than everyone — because the quality of your life is directly proportional to the quality of the relationships you nurture.

#18. You have to say thank you. Not act entitled like the world owes you something.

#19. You have to keep learning new things. Not let down your wonderful, amazing brain by refusing to feed it continuously — which you can do by reading books, solving problems, and developing new skills.

#20. You have to maintain a good sense of humor. Because it will change the way you see your life, even the challenges you face, and most of all the opportunities you have in each moment of the day to do just one thing successfully and effortlessly— laugh.

How do I become the best in the world at what I do?

 

Great question!

Here’s what I suggest.

#1. Get laser-focused on your goal.

Having a specific goal (or several goals) is one of the most critical factors that drive success. When you have a goal you’re working towards, everything you work on in your daily life — from your career to building skills — has a greater sense of purpose. In other words, your actions will add up to something much bigger.

  • Make sure the goal is specific. For example, don’t just say that you want to get promoted in your job, have a large salary, or manage a team of five people. Make the goal as specific as possible. For example, if you want to get promoted, write down what are the areas where you need to improve: is it learning more, getting better at a specific task such as creating spreadsheets, or boosting communication skills? Next, write up a plan on how you are going to make progress. Finally, set milestones for yourself and figure out how to measure success.
  • Make every day count towards achieving the goal. Who is motivated to do anything if they don’t believe it matters in the long run? You can make each day count if you start your mornings with this question: what is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today? Asking it forces you to prioritize, helps your brain focus better, and streamlines the work you need to do so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

#2. Develop a strategy.

Of course goals are important if you want to become the best at what you do, but your strategy has to come first. What is strategy really? It means having a vision of the general direction in which you want to go, and understanding why you are going in that direction. So, as you’re focusing on what you want to do right now, you’re also keeping your eye on at least two steps ahead.

  • Consider different solutions. Maybe it’s not just having a plan, maybe it’s also having a plan B. And a plan C. Cover all the bases and look at your goal from different angles so you can assess its size, complexity, and entry points.
  • Don’t focus on short-term gratification. Doing something may feel great right now, but how will you feel about it tomorrow and the day after? Increase your awareness of the consequences of your actions, and consider the benefits of your actions in the long run.
  • Don’t think only of who you are today. You’re still growing and changing and becoming. This is true at every stage of our lives. Try adopting a different mindset: think of who you want to be in 5 or 10 years. By being strategic you will empower yourself to work on achieving long term results that your future self can benefit from.

#3. Master your environment.

In order to be the best at whatever you do, you need to master the essentials — know the environment that you are working in.

  • Develop a firm grasp of the industry and your field of expertise. Learn everything about it. Do the research. Find out who are the major players (the ones who are most successful), the influencers (the ones with the most followers), the competition, the qualities that are respected in experts, books, websites, and other resources that can help you understand the subject, industry, or environment.
  • Examine what successful people are doing in your field. For example, do you know what makes them different, why they’ve achieved a certain status in the community, and which traits they have in common? When you identify patterns in behaviors of others, it becomes easier to emulate them especially if we wish to develop the same successful traits in ourselves.

#4. Continuously develop your core skill set.

You can’t be the best at anything without a required skill set in your field of work, regardless of whether it’s studying for a PhD in economics, training to be a professional athlete, or mastering a programming language. How do you develop your core skill set?

  • Identify all skills that are necessary to succeed in doing your job. Brainstorm and then write down a list of all the skills you need. Don’t only think about building hard skills, but soft skills too.
  • Have a self-development plan. This of course is going to take some time. How about prioritizing? Start with skills you think will be most valuable to you, then create a plan to devote a certain amount of time each day, even if that means only 15 minutes in the beginning.
  • Practice each skill consistently. It’s not all about being focused on the numbers (how many hours you put in); it’s also about what you are doing in that time. Are you doing deep work? Deep work is focusing without interruptions on something that takes a lot of analytical thinking, and it is essential to mastering the skills you’re working on.

#5. Nurture your soft skills.

As you’re working on being the best at whatever you do, keep in mind there are different ways in which you can respond to your environment and what’s happening around you. Here are a few soft skills that can be beneficial to you:

  • Learn how to listen. Sometimes that means just staying quiet, and other times it’s picking up on non-verbal cues to fill in the blanks (observing people’s gestures, the way their eyes move, how they express their feelings through body movements). Listening is the #1 method of learning, so make the most of it.
  • Ask important questions. How can you gather more information unless you ask someone to tell you more about a topic, situation, or issue? Don’t just ask questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Ask questions to reveal more about the topic: what is the single most important issue, why do people think it’s important, how does it impact your environment, work, and interactions with others?
  • Be respectful towards others. If you want to be treated as a valued member of any social group, it helps to approach its members with the courtesy and respect you also expect from them. That can mean anything from addressing people politely to letting them express their views and opinions before you start speaking about yours.

#6. Create an original solution to a problem.

Being the best doesn’t necessarily mean mimicking what other people say or do, even if they’re successful. It’s what is your unique contribution, your own spin on things, that will make a difference. Consider these questions to gain a better understanding of what can set you apart from others:

  • What makes your work great? For example, how is it unique and in what way is it different from the work of others in your field or line of work? And if it isn’t, think of ways in which you can make it more unique.
  • Which problem have you solved that other people might benefit from? If you can’t answer this question, it’s time to think about ways in which you can contribute. This is where your individual contribution can matter the most.
  • What are areas that need improvement? It could be anything from moving from beginner to intermediate level of training, to changing your learning approach as you tackle a difficult cognitive task. Then, create a specific plan to make progress in that area and a way in which you intend to measure your success.

#7. Nurture a strong belief in yourself.

It’s not necessarily whether other people believe in you that is critical to your success. It’s simply you believing in yourself. This is a tough one because we are usually our biggest critic. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s just a matter of shifting your mindset a little bit each day:

  • Develop a growth mindset. Stop telling yourself (or letting others tell you) what you “should” be the best at and what you “should” give up. Chances are, you’ve been conditioned to think in this way from an early age. Expand the way you see yourself — grow your mindset.
  • Grow your critical thinking muscle. It’s about not taking everything you see and hear for granted, and learning how to think on your own. Take action so that you can develop your critical thinking skills every day.
  • Turn obstacles into opportunities. Instead of getting emotional when you experience a setback, work through the challenge so that you can get stronger mentally. It’s about developing Stoic habits to strengthen your belief in yourself and what you can do. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Make sure you leave ample room in your life to say, “I CAN.”

What are some of your best tricks for studying for an exam?

 

It seems like I’ve devoted many years of my life to studying, both during my undergraduate and graduate school days. Here’s what I learned over that period of time:

Quantity is not the same as quality. I used to study all day long, taking no breaks whatsoever and sleeping very little. This did not help my brain retain everything I needed for an exam.

Teaching and learning go hand in hand. If you want to learn and retain what you’ve learned, there’s a small trick to doing it successfully and it involves teaching. More on this later.

Timing is everything. There are certain parts of the day that are the most conducive to absorbing new information, particularly the most challenging cognitive tasks like problem-solving.

So what are the specific tips that made the biggest difference?

I’ve condensed them into these 5.

#1. Study new material early in the day.

  • Why? For most people, your brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after you wake up. This is the time when your brain can focus on analytical thinking that requires the most concentration. For studying, this can be reading, writing, coding, analyzing, critical thinking, or problem solving.
  • When? If you wake up at 7, your peak times are between 9 and 11. You can extend this time until lunch to maximize your peak performance.
  • What are additional benefits? Doing your hard work early in the day allows your brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from your environment, and with a lot of energy that you’ve gained from a restful night. It’s the exact opposite of what can happen if you leave your toughest studying for nighttime, when you are exhausted from the day.

#2. Use a timer to be more effective.

  • How? Forget about sitting at your desk trying to cram everything for hours. Instead, use a timer to manage your studying better. That way you allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way.
  • What about reviewing? Set the timer to 30 or 60 minute increments to maximize concentration; or, you can also try the Pomodoro technique which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks.
  • What about practicing exam questions? Use the review questions provided in your textbook or given by your professor. Write them down on a sheet of paper. Then, use the Pomodoro technique to rehearse for the exam. Give yourself only a short time to answer each question. Use each 25-minute block of time to cover several questions, and go down the list until you’ve covered them all.
  • What about taking a break? You should take not one, but many breaks. When you’re done with one timed segment, step away from your desk and do something completely unrelated to work: get some fresh air, stretch, have a snack, grab a cup of coffee or tea.

#3. Teach what you’ve learned.

  • Why? One of the most powerful memory techniques is recalling newly learned information by teaching it to someone else. This technique helps you review, recall, and retain what you’ve learned better than just silently looking over the material. Try these steps:
  • Who with? You can teach a close friend or family member. Too shy to speak to anyone? Pretend you have a couple of invisible students who really need to learn what you just covered!
  • Where? Create a private classroom. Take a large sheet of white paper (or tape together several sheets for a bigger writing surface), then tape it to your bedroom wall at eye level. Be sure you have some leg room to stand in front of it. Have a pen handy, and a thick black marker (or different colored highlighters) to underline important concepts.
  • How? Write an outline of the most important points in the chapter you just covered, then go over the concepts aloud one by one. Make your “lecture” come alive by drawing diagrams on the side and by providing a few examples. At the end, summarize key parts of the lecture and highlight these sections with a thick marker or highlighter. This helps you recall details better and solidify what you’ve learned.

#4. Get some exercise afterwards.

  • Why? Exercise is definitely important to boost memory, but the timing of it is key. Scientists found that people who exercised four hours after their study session retained the information better a few days later than those who exercised either immediately after studying or those who didn’t exercise at all.
  • What’s the science behind it? Brain scans from the study show that delayed exercising affects the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is important for learning and memory.
  • How? Take a walk for 30 minutes. Go for a bike ride. Make time to be at the gym for an hour. Or, stay at home and pick a YouTube exercise video to practice.

#5. Go to sleep on time.

  • Why? You may be studying for an exam, but in order to pass you’ll need to make sure your brain functions at optimum levels. Chronic sleep deprivation can reduce your cognitive abilities, can impact your concentration, and can even reduce your IQ. Don’t waste all that time you spent going over the course material.
  • How? Train your brain to wind down with these tips. Set a bedtime alarm to go off 30 minutes before going to sleep. Stay away from electronics (mainly your computer and TV screens) an hour before bed. Do something relaxing before hitting the pillow: read a few pages of a book, listen to some music, have a cup of hot tea.
  • What to do before falling asleep? Focus on your breathing. Try to do 10 deep breaths, slowly inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. For even more impact, go for another 10. Try to focus on the act of breathing and listening to your inhalations and exhalations. When you’re done, end your day on a positive note — tell yourself, I’m on my way to pass this exam just fine.

What are some life hacks to either quit or reduce procrastinating?

 

First let’s think about the WHY. There’s always a specific reason why we procrastinate.

Maybe we are used to being a straight A student, but we start taking a class that’s very difficult.

Maybe we feel dread to start studying for an exam because it seems like it will take hours, days, even weeks.

Maybe we want to avoid having an unpleasant conversation.

Maybe we’re not managing our budget properly so we ignore the electricity bill and it keeps piling up for months.

Maybe our to-do list seems endless and we feel overwhelmed by all of the tasks we want to complete.

Now that we’ve identified what’s behind it, let’s take a look at the HOW. What are specific ways to reduce procrastination?

Here are 5 tips.

Tip #1. Train your brain to help you, not deter you.

Before you start working on anything new, train your brain to help you out. When you do, you’ll feel more motivated to take action and become fully absorbed in what’s in front of you.

  • Instead of approaching what you’re doing as a chore, turn it into a choice. Tell yourself, “This is something I’m excited to learn more about.” What’s the benefit? It gives you a greater sense of control over whatever you’re doing.
  • Remind yourself of the importance of your work by asking, “Why am I doing this?” Make the connection with the initial reasons for working on something to begin with. It can be to learn a new skill, research an interesting topic, study for an exam so you can graduate, explore an entrepreneurial opportunity, solve a business problem, etc. Make sure that your why is as clear to you as possible.
  • Visualize what you’re about to do. This is a technique called building a mental model; you imagine in detail what you expect to learn, read, or do. To get started, think about all the steps you will be doing: covering a certain amount of material (chapters, paragraphs, sections), taking notes on important concepts, writing down questions to follow up on later. By telling yourself a story, you train your brain to anticipate next steps.

Tip #2. Instead of automatically saying, “I can’t do this!” ask yourself, “How about I try doing this?”

All of us as human beings sooner or later procrastinate on some things in life. It’s just natural, and a little bit of a default reaction to a problem we find challenging or difficult. Still, there’s something you can do about it.

  • Think carefully if there is something else hiding behind procrastination. Maybe it is fear of not being able to do something successfully, or not being better at it than someone else. In many cases, it an be your pride or ego that get in the way.
  • Next time you feel like procrastinating, ask yourself where the resistance is coming from. Be honest with yourself. Get to the root of the matter. Find out what it is so you can do something about it.
  • Think about the biggest benefit to facing procrastination head-on. Every time you say “How about I try?” you win over fear. There is something powerful when we are open to possibilities, instead of shutting the door and never finding out what those possibilities can turn into. It’s an attitude shift that can make a big impact in your life.

Tip #3. Gain better focus by asking yourself, “What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?”

This is a simple, 5-minute technique that helps train your brain to focus on goals that are important to you right now. It forces you to prioritize the goal you believe is the most relevant in this moment. Here’s how to practice it.

  • Write the question down. Be sure to write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall.
  • Read it out loud as you start your day, and come up with an answer on the spot.
  • Follow up by taking action and by reminding yourself throughout the day about the commitment you made.

Tip #4. Prepare your workspace ahead of time.

It’s easy to make excuses for not doing whatever is on your agenda for the day. That’s why in order to boost focus it’s important to declutter your workspace. Before you start your day, here’s what you can do to have everything ready.

  • Gather your materials the night before so you don’t waste time looking for them. This applies to your books and notebooks, reference materials, and your daily plan (a checklist of tasks you need to complete for that day) if you’re working or studying. Or, it can mean packing your gym bag the night before so that you can keep up your fitness routine.
  • Pack some refreshments when you need a pick-me-up. Bring with you a bottle of water, an energy snack such as a power bar, banana, peanut butter, or a mix of dried fruit and nuts. If you know you’ll be away from home, prep a sandwich and pack a side of veggies so you’ll have food ready when you need it.

Tip #5. Organize your activities by the time of day.

To help you do this, try one simple technique. For one week, keep a log of all activities you perform in the morning, midday, afternoon and evening. You will notice a pattern in how your brain works at a certain time of day. Then, adjust your schedule depending on what you need to do first.

  • Mornings can be ideal for doing deep work, i.e. work that requires a lot of your concentration. Some scientists call this the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s roughly 2-4 hours after we wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 7, your peak times are between 9 and 11 a.m. Block this time off for your analytical brain to perform the most complex tasks that require a lot of focus.
  • Early afternoons are optimal for collaborating. This period is around 12-4 p.m., when you take a lunch break and right afterwards when you are more likely to socialize. It’s a good time of day to schedule meetings, brainstorm ideas with others, and work together on group projects with colleagues or classmates.
  • Evenings can be scheduled for strategic thinking and relaxing. If you’re contemplating big goals and where you want to be a year from now, it’s a good idea to go for an evening walk and think about how you’ll make it happen. Once you’re done with work for the day, treat yourself — make a nice dinner, watch a movie, or complete the next chapter of the book you’re reading. When you make the time to acknowledge how far you’ve come, you’re more likely to maintain your motivation and stay away from procrastination.