A student’s life can be demanding, both mentally and physically. Most students feel they never have enough hours to finish all the work they need to. They often get caught up pulling “all nighters” learning in the library, or sacrificing entire weekends to prepare for an upcoming exam on Monday.
In other words, many students are “stuck in a permanent state of catch up”.
If you’re a normal student, then you’re probably wondering if there’s a better way. The answer: there is.
The belief that you have to work hard to score well is false. The problem is not how many hours you spend studying, but rather how each hour is spent. If you know how to use each hour well, you can do everything you want in a 12-hour day, including taking time out and going out with your friends.
This is what Cal Newport, author of “How to Become a Straight-A Student” found during his research.
The danger of pseudo-working
He interviewed many of the top performing students in the top universities across the country. He found that there is one destructive habit done by poor performing students that the top ones avoid: pseudo-working.
You are probably guilty of pseudo-working in the past. This is when you try to read your biology notes while watching the Walking Dead on TV, or going over to your friend’s dorm room to study and only end up gossiping.
Contrary to what you think, trying to pull an all day studying marathon before an exam is also pseudo-working. According to Cal Newport, the thought of spending eight consecutive hours trapped trying to study makes the brain unhappy.
In short: by being in distracting environments and pushing long hours of work, you are actually crippling your brain’s capability to think clearly and efficiently finish the work you need to do.
The secret of straight-A students
Straight-A students don’t do pseudo-work – they avoid it. Instead, they focus on sharpening their ability to get the most amount of work done with a minimum amount of wasted effort.
The formula is: work accomplished = time spent x intensity of focus.
For example, a pseudo-working student might spend 6 hours studying with a focus level of 2, which amounts to 12. A straight-A student can achieve the same work by spending only 3 hours studying with a focus level of 6, which also amounts to 12.
That’s a 50% savings! Imagine what you can do with that: you get to be smarter, while also having time for hanging out with your friends or having a hobby on the side.
The secret to being a straight-A student is to replace long hours of work with a low intensity level with a number of short bursts with a high intensity level. To increase your level of focus, it helps to choose the right spots to study, during the right time of day, and with the right duration length (also known as a productivity heatmap).
Replacing pseudo-work with short-term, high intensity work is the crucial first step to getting a barrel of straight As.