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11 Quick Steps to be a Super Productive Student

11 Quick Steps to be a Super Productive Student

Now that the first year or second year of university is coming to end, a lot of students are looking at their productivity system and considering reviewing it. Being able to balance your social, academic, professional and personal lives is a task in itself, but if you have the right tools in place this becomes simple. This post focuses on the tips and steps necessary to becoming the student you want to become. Be a more productive student today!

The first three tips: the top tools for your student life

There is a basic, three-part system to keep you organized: actions, information, and visualization.

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  1. TD-mac
      Actions. Keep your actions (or tasks) up to date and assign deadlines to a task. Todoist is an online to-do list program that allows anyone with a mobile device, computer, tablet or email account to start managing their tasks. The benefit for students are that it is very easy to use, it is compatible on many devices (iPhones to Android Tablets) and has a great collaborative tool for when you are working on projects with others in your classes. The system is very easy to start up and everything will be explained about functionality when you download it. Todoist. Free (Premium available)
    • evernote_logo_center_4c-lrg
        Information. Keep your resources nearby all the time. Evernote is a service that allows you to remember everything. It is a great place to store and create information that will be useful for classes, meetings, events and more. Evernote is accessible through smartphones and will allow you to keep organized with all the images, PDFs, documents, details, audio recordings and more that you use throughout your day. This is perfect for students as it meets their needs for taking class notes and sharing notes with others easily, and is available on all devices. Evernote requires a little more attention, but if you check out the Evernote YouTube tutorials, they will be worth your time and save you hours of organization in the future. Evernote. Free (Premium available)
      • Screenshot 2014-05-29 at 07.58.11
          Visualization. A calendar is very important for making sure that you can visualize the events coming up in your life. It’s especially important for the student who wants to keep track of events, classes, birthdays and more. I would recommend using Google Calendar because you can import your classes into this using the school calendar system, and it is easy to use and interact with. Google Calendar. Free (Find iOS Apps through store)

        The top three steps to follow with your tools

        1. Actions. With tasks, make sure that you keep actively focusing on one task at one time (don’t multi-task), and always make your actions achievable. E.g., “Make a cake” is too general, set smaller and more achievable actions like, “Get all ingredients for cake,” then “Prepare oven and equipment.” This will help you get to your goal more effectively.
        2. Information. As I said, I recommend Evernote because it is everywhere. Storing information and creating information becomes a lot easier when you are organized for events and classes, and preparing for something. By making sure all your useful information is coming from one location, it makes the whole process more efficient.
        3. Visualize. Add events to your calendar, try not to input general information like when you are free or busy because the calendar gets overwhelming. Start by adding key events and details etc. Classes can be added by following your college’s or university’s instructions. 
          Screenshot 2014-05-29 at 08.38.02

          Five steps to being a pro-active and productive student

          1. Take a break from academia. I’m not saying don’t focus on studies. However, many students finish university with a simple degree but have no work experience, experience of working with teams and groups, or connections that they can utilize. My big advice is to become a President or VP of a society that you are interested in or passionate about. This will give you some invaluable skills in leadership, teamwork and public speaking, and are something you can add to your CV.
          2. Don’t read too much fiction. Focus your time on reading books with a purpose. There’s nothing wrong with a good plot and immersive storyline; however, look to improve your personal development by reading some books that will get you thinking about your career path or improve your general skills.
          3. Model yourself on pro-active students. Find some students in the university with your interests who have been achieving more than just academic results. Seek their coaching. If you find those students and listen to what they have to say, they will help inspire you towards being a driven individual with your time.
          4. Kill Facebook. I understand that Facebook isn’t dead yet, but kill it for yourself. Download Newsfeed Killer and start taking advantage of not seeing what people are up to and getting distracted by this. This will be a golden feature during coursework and exam time. Over time you will reduce your usage dramatically. 
            Screenshot 2014-05-29 at 08.23.42

            • Keep that inbox empty. Bring everything of importance over to Evernote. Don’t let it cause clutter – it is very easy to start doing. If you have a choked up inbox at the moment, have a big clear out and get rid of everything.
              Screenshot 2014-05-29 at 08.27.45

              Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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              Last Updated on March 21, 2019

              11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

              11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

              Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

              You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

              But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

              To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

              It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

              “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

              The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

              In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

              Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

              1. Start Small

              The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

              Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

              Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

              Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

              Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

              Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

              It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

              Do less today to do more in a year.

              2. Stay Small

              There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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              But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

              If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

              When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

              I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

              Why?

              Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

              The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

              Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

              3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

              No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

              There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

              What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

              Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

              This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

              This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

              4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

              When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

              There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

              Peter Drucker said,

              “What you track is what you do.”

              So track it to do it — it really helps.

              But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

              5. Measure Once, Do Twice

              Peter Drucker also said,

              “What you measure is what you improve.”

              So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

              For reading, it’s 20 pages.
              For writing, it’s 500 words.
              For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
              For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

              Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

              6. All Days Make a Difference

              Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

              Will two? They won’t.

              Will three? They won’t.

              Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

              What happened? Which one made you fit?

              The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

              No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

              7. They Are Never Fully Automated

              Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

              But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

              What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

              It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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              The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

              It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

              It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

              8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

              Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

              Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

              When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

              The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

              Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

              9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

              The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

              Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

              You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

              But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

              So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

              If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

              This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

              The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

              Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

              10. Punish Yourself

              Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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              I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

              It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

              You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

              No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

              The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

              But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

              11. Reward Yourself

              When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

              Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

              The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

              After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

              If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

              Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

              If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

              In the End, It Matters

              What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

              When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

              And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

              “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

              Keep going.

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              More Resources to Help You Build Habits

              Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
              [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
              [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
              [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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