Hack Your Study to Success (Part 1)

Spoiler: This magical ‘hack’ doesn’t actually exist… Don’t believe everything you read kids

I want you to know that this post isn’t going to give you some magical technique that you can use to ace your studies with little to zero effort. I know that’s what you want to see but trust me, this easy way out simply doesn’t exist.

Instead, I’m going to teach you how to develop the right mindset and knowledge to persist through mountains work. A lot of the things I tell you will not immediately be practical and it involves a change in mindset which requires time and patience.

That being said, I will also tell you about some study techniques which can be incredibly useful. However, keep in mind that these will only be useful if you have the correct mindset and motivations.

Think about this in terms of the following example — a person that knows a lot about nutrition (this being your technique) will never become healthy if they lack the motivation and mentality to stop eating fast food. However the moment they fix this issue, the knowledge of nutrition suddenly becomes very powerful.

So with all that out of the way, let’s get straight to it!

‘Hack’ 1: Start with why

Out of all the things that I’m going to tell you in this post, this is by far the most powerful one. Basically, you need to understand why you should study so hard for a year. Find your purpose and it will drive you through your studies.

If I told you that you’ll die by not meeting a certain ATAR, I’d bet a good amount of money that a lack of motivation and procrastination won’t be an issue you face. Fortunately for all of us, we don’t live in this sadistic world and the stakes aren’t this high. However, the challenge you face is for you to find this ‘why’. This provides you with a compelling goal to work towards and it will be the strongest source of motivation you ever need.

Now, everyone has goals and aspirations so why are so many HSC kids not working as hard as they should be? I think there are two reasons for this:

1. Your ‘why’ isn’t compelling enough or it’s not actually what you want

For example, your ‘why’ might be that you want to get into a particular degree at university. However for a lot of students these days, simply getting into a uni degree isn’t a purpose which is compelling enough. The only way to solve this issue is to do some soul searching and be brutally honest about what REALLY motivates you. As I said before, this takes time but if you get it right, it will be the most powerful ‘hack’ you ever need.

2: HSC and high school education is not the only path to success or a fulfilling life

You might have an extremely compelling ‘why’ but doing well in HSC simply doesn’t help you achieve this purpose. For example, if entrepreneurship is your passion, getting a high ATAR won’t get you very far so of course you’re not going to be motivated to study. If you’re in this situation, my honest advice for you would be to spend less time studying and more time on the things that really drive and motivate you.

Hack ‘2’: Understanding willpower

I’m sure all of you want to know how to stop procrastination. Whilst there is no immediate way to do this, understanding how willpower works will go a long way in helping you to minimise the time you spend procrastinating and avoid ‘burning out’.

Willpower is the force that restrains your impulses and makes you study. A good way to think of it is like fuel in a car. It depletes over time as you go about your day and it takes time to recharge.

You use up willpower when you force yourself to wake up in the morning, avoid eating that extra chocolate bar, force yourself to study, force yourself to stop checking facebook, avoid going out every night and so on.

Almost everything you do hacks away at your willpower and once it’s depleted, this is what leads to procrastination. This is why you’re recommended not to study too much at night because your willpower would’ve been depleted throughout the day and you’re not going to be productive at all.

So how can you make use of this concept and apply it to your study patterns? Here are some techniques that you can use:

1. Treat the HSC like a marathon, not a sprint

There is definitely such a thing as ‘studying too hard’ which drains your willpower and causes you to burn out. When this happens, it’ll take a very long time for your willpower to recharge which means you’ll be unproductive for weeks.

For example, you might reach a sudden epiphany to work hard and you manage to put in 60 hours of study over a week. However by doing this, you’ve now completely drained all your willpower and it may take up to months to recharge. This is what ‘burning out’ is.

Instead, the system of the HSC favours students that put in CONSISTENT effort over the year. So following on from my previous example, it would be wiser to study maybe 10 hours a week and maintain this number consistently over the course of the year.

By studying less each week, you exert less willpower and recharge more quickly which is what allows for consistency. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is much more effective than pumping out 60 hours a week and then burning out for the next month (keep in mind that these numbers are just random examples — it’s up to you to find the hours that’s right for you).

2. Alter your environment and take away the things that hack away at your willpower

For example, you’re exerting willpower every time you force yourself to avoid checking that phone or Facebook notification while you study. To avoid this, stop yourself from having to exert willpower in the first place. Alter your environment and turn off your phone/block your Facebook while you study.

If you’re a very social person and you like to study at the library, you might expend willpower from having to avoid socialising with other friends at the library. Again, alter your environment and perhaps try studying at home or at a library without your friends.

3. Minimise the willpower you expend when you decide to start studying

This is done by making it as easy for yourself to start studying.

Something I recommend is that every time you finish a study session, write a quick note which outlines what you still need to work on. This allows you to quickly pick up where you left off when you next decide to study and is especially useful for keeping the train of thought when writing essays. By doing this, actually starting to study won’t seem like such a monumental task and you expend less willpower so you can stay focused for longer.

Found this article useful? 
Read Part 2 here

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