Hack Your Study to Success (Part 2)

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

Before you go any further, make sure you’ve read the first part to this post because it goes through some of the important foundations of how you study effectively. Part 2 will essentially be useless without part 1.

Read Part 1 here

‘Hack’ 3: The 80/20 principle

Let me first start by explaining the 80/20 or Pareto Principle.

This principle essentially says that 80% of the effects or output come from 20% of the input. For example, 20% of beer drinkers consume 80% of the world’s beer. 20% of customers contribute to 80% of a company’s revenue. In terms of studying, 20% of study time contributes to 80% of your marks.

Many students think the best way of studying is to put in more hours. The problem is that the longer you study, the more boring it becomes and the less willpower you have (I talked about willpower and its implications in part 1 here:) As a result, you will get distracted much more easily during long periods of study.

As you keep on getting distracted, you’ll come to a sudden realisation that you’ve wasted too much time and then try to rectify the issue by studying even longer. By doing this, you’ll be trapped in a vicious cycle that repeats itself over and over again. Even though you technically ‘studied’ for 3 hours, only 1 hour of it was useful.

So how can you use the 80/20 principle to your advantage?

The implication is that you don’t need to cram in so many hours of study. However, the catch is that when you do study, you need to make sure it’s CONCENTRATED STUDY. This means you solely focus on studying and absolutely nothing else. What you will find is that in 1 hour of study, you will learn as much as your usual half-assed 3 hours. What makes this really awesome is that the other 2 hours can now be spent on other activities which helps you maintain balance in your life. (these numbers are only an example; they obviously vary for each person).

‘Hack’ 4: Accountability buddy

There tends to be two types of ways that people like to study — either alone or with a friend/group. However, there are cons to each of these methods.

For alone study in the library or at home, there is no one keeping you accountable which means that you are more likely to get distracted and waste time. For studying with a friend/group, the risk is that you’ll get distracted by people and end up socialising instead of doing work.

Here is where an accountability buddy comes into play. Firstly, the way an accountability buddy arrangement works is that you grab a friend and study with them in a quiet place. The both of you are responsible for monitoring each other and making sure no one gets distracted. Next you guys set a work and break time frame.

For example, you two might agree on 1 hour of work and 10 minutes break. In this 1 hour, the rule is that you two don’t talk to each other (unless it’s study related). After the hour ends, you have 10 minutes to take a break and have a chat before repeating the cycle again (find specific time frames that work for you and your buddy)

By setting these ground rules in place, it overcomes the con of studying with a friend/group where you guys won’t get distracted by each other in the designated work time. It also fixes the issue that comes with alone study where you’ll have someone monitoring you to make sure that you stay on track and don’t get distracted. It’s also just nice to have someone to talk to during the break time to remain sane.

Obviously, this hack only works when you find a reliable buddy that will be able to stick to these ground rules. If done correctly, this is definitely a very powerful technique that will make you much more productive.

‘Hack’ 5: Guard your time with your life

At the start of this post in part 1, I told you that the most important thing to develop is your mindset. All these fancy study techniques are useless without the right mindset.

What I’m about to tell you is very philosophical and is not something that you can immediately apply. Despite this, I want to end off this post on such a note because I think it won’t just contribute to your studies, but to your overall personal development as a whole.

Time is the most important resource you have in this world.

I want to make this point to be made loud and clear. I guarantee that almost any person who’s led a fulfilled life will agree with me. Some day in the future, you’re going to have to face the consequences of how you’ve spent your time. This day won’t be soon but believe me, it will eventually come.

The only certainty we have in this world is that our life is limited. This is a scary prospect but use it as a source of motivation and inspiration to make the most of your time. For me personally, the idea of looking back at my life and regretting how I spent my time is absolutely terrifying. This is what drives me to work hard and to get the experiences that I want to experience.

I urge you to look in the mirror and think about this — will I eventually regret how I’ve spent my time? What useless, time-consuming things can I cut out from my life?

The moment you start realising just how precious time is, this is what will drive you to be remarkably productive. If you’ve identified that studies doesn’t really contribute to your underlying purpose, then spend your HSC year being productive in the things that matter to you.

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