Last week I provided the first five steps. This week I’ll discuss the last five!
Schedule breaks and rewards. Most people only schedule their tasks and activities, but this takes it the extra mile. Absolutely everyone needs to take breaks. And, in fact, never taking breaks can lead to decreased productivity through burn-out. Besides, planning to go out on Saturday night if you get all of your homework and studying done on Friday night can help motivate you. If you’ve never tried the Pomodoro method, this can help you build breaks into your study routine. You work for 25-50 minutes [find what works best for you] then take a five minute break and repeat. After a few rounds of those, take a longer break of about 15 minutes. Knowing that you only have to work in chunks of as short as 25 minutes can help make study time less overwhelming.
Be honest with yourself; use a Work-Progress Journal. This is a very simple concept, but it can work wonders. No need for any fancy notebook; feel free to go for a nice Moleskine, but even a dollar store notebook will work. All you do is write the date on the top of the page, then add your to-do list. At the end of the day, check off everything you completed, and evaluate yourself. Be specific. Many people think reflection is unnecessary or overrated, but don’t doubt it until you try it. Keeping a notebook specific to this allows you to look back on what you’ve done. If you see pages and pages of, “Didn’t get anything done,” it starts to make you uncomfortable and motives you to do better. If you see pages and pages of, “Got almost everything done!” it motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing, or to get even better. I’ll go into more detail about this topic in a future article.
Find an accountabili-buddy. I did not coin the term. But especially if you’re extroverted or need a little extra motivation outside of yourself, this could work for you. Just as it sounds, this person will help keep you accountable. Something like Snapchat is great for this; you could either post your to-do list to your Story or send it over text to your accountabili-buddy [so they can reference it later if needed], then snap your progress to him or her throughout the day. Even if there is no intrinsic reward or consequence built into this method [though perhaps you can come up with something], it can be embarrassing if you slack when someone else is there to keep an eye on you. This only works if you can find someone as serious as you, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Make it non-negotiable. There are some things in life that have become non-negotiable to you, such as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. You have it in you to extend this idea to something like your own self-discipline. Whether it’s your worst day or your best, force yourself to do even just five minutes. This isn’t about stressing yourself out over always getting everything done on your to-do list. Rather, it’s about creating a solid habit of discipline. In the words of Abraham J. Herschel, “Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” Do it for yourself. Have pride in yourself and what you can accomplish.
Forgive yourself and move forward. Some days will not be as productive as others. That goes for everyone, including the most productive and self-disciplined people you know. Acknowledge your mistakes and your shortcomings, then move forward. Beating yourself up over what you have or haven’t done and wallowing in the lingering frustration, guilt, or feelings of inadequacy is not productive. So the best thing you can do is make note of what you need to improve on, evaluate how you can improve, and then go for it again tomorrow. Realize that your past is not your present or future. No matter what has happened to you [or even what will], you have the ability to excel. Sometimes it just takes some time to figure out what works best for you.
Good luck and happy studying!