Exam season is upon us.
It is the peak time of procrastination, dread and the most infamous fear response of them all: cramming.
If you still have enough time before your exams and essay deadlines, use these hacks to get ahead. If you are behind, use them to catch up and then excel.
I use them as often as I can and most come from world-renowned productivity machines such as Tim Ferriss and Jocko Willink. This post is also shorter than normal, because I know that we both have work we should be getting on with…
1. Create a Distraction-Free Environment
You already know what’s 1st on the list, don’t you?
As soon as you switch your phone off or to airplane mode, magic things start to happen.
It’s tough I know, but there is nothing really gratifying or useful about refreshing the social feed every 2 minutes. Your mam’s friend is still on her hen-do, your childhood classmate is whining about how long the bus is taking again and your little sister is still sharing 1 like = 1 prayer posts.
There’s nothing there for you, it’s time to get some work done. It doesn’t even have to be on airplane mode, just make sure it is more than an arms length away and you’ll notice the difference.
Find your designated workspace and work there. This is where you go to work and only to work (beds / sofas aren’t ideal) so your brain knows it’s work time!
2. Stop multi-tasking
This is a particular struggle living in 2018.
We multi-task all of the time and it isn’t always a bad thing. Are you scrolling on your phone while you ‘watch’ a TV show? Playing videogames while eating your dinner? Finishing off an essay for one subject while in the lecture for another?
I’m guilty of all of those things and while it does help us to get things done, it doesn’t help us to get things done well, and that’s kind of important.
Start focusing on one thing at a time and not only will your productivity and quality of your work drastically improve, but also your attention span and enjoyment of things will too.
3. Implement the 80/20 Rule
Also known as the Pareto Principle, this concept was first introduced to me in the book ‘The Four Hour Work Week‘.
In a nutshell, it says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
80% of spoken language comes from 20% of the words.
80% of sales often come from 20% of clients.
You probably wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time.
The list goes on…
So what about exams, work and productivity?
You guessed it; 80% of your results are going to come from 20% of your (concentrated) efforts. This is where you need to realise that Working Efficient is better than Working Smarter, which is better than Working Harder.
Just working hard isn’t going to get you to where you want to be and will only induce more stress. Working smarter can mean more things get done, but if you are working smarter on the WRONG things then you are still in the same situation.
Therefore try to work efficiently. Working smart on the things that are going to give you the most bang for your buck. For me, that is usually past exam questions, understanding main topic points and concepts. These are usually the 20% of all possible work that will get you towards that 80% mark of returns.
4. Get out of your mind and into your body
This is a concept that is still relatively new to me but it is surprisingly quite powerful.
Your mind and body are connected. Like really connected. If you spend days on end sat at a desk, studying and doing cartwheels in your mind about what you should write, what might come up on the exam, how much do you need to just pass then you are going to feel extremely overwhelmed and a little bit agitated. If you feel like that, your productivity will be affected, your motivation too and your overall wellbeing won’t be great.
That’s when it is time to leave the mind and enter the body.
Head to the gym, lift some weights, go for a run. Do some yoga or even just go for a walk around the block. Whatever you choose, the goal is to get the blood pumping and to escape your stressed-mind and get back into your body. Not only will your body thank you for giving it some attention after being sat working for so long, but so will your mind after getting a much needed break. You can then get back to being productive.
Your mind and body both need lovin’, so show them some.
5. Disconnect, Sleep and Recharge
Very similar to point number 4, disconnecting, sleeping and recharging are so important during stressful times and to maintain your productivity. You might feel you need to pull an all-nighter to be able to study for that exam but you are far more likely to perform badly if you are tired and groggy.
Sleep time is brain-reset-and-digest-all-of-the-information-I-have-learned time. If you take that time away, your brain will be working on overdrive and will most likely reach burnout. Nobody performs well when burnt out.
Sleep is king. Make sure you get enough.