How many of you have read tons of post about efficiency and time saving? How many of you have downloaded some efficiency apps and tried to regulate yourself based on that? How many of you have tried and failed?
I am one of you. I’ve only tried too many times to force myself to become an efficient student. I know it’s hard and I am definitely not an always-efficient studier. But I’d like to share some advice with you on efficiency.
Before I go into how to become efficient section, ask yourself these questions first.
(i) Are you busy?
(ii) Do you hate yourself for being inefficient?
(iii) What is your biggest distraction?
Advice 1: Delete Most of Your Social Apps
Like we always talk about in TOEFL writing, the technology helped us and also ruined us. Human beings become more connected in a sense but less in most circumstances. We like to connect with people in social media platforms but we don’t really know the people we followed. Either we have a huge addiction to social media or we like to know and judge other people’s life.
In the case of study, my suggestion is not to put away your phone but to delete most of your social apps. Putting away your phones would definitely help in terms of gaining more concentration on school work but it’s not a long-term strategy. It won’t cure the core. I wrote a post before about social media, I was talking about what social media means for us. Think about it this way, why are you on your phones all the time, even studying? From my standpoint, it’s because you got something to expect from your phone, your apps. Would putting it away help? It surely would but it would somehow make you even more interested in checking the social media apps and in turn waste more time on them afterwards.
Will you be more efficient in study? Yes, you will. But in a sense, you waste your good work by putting more time in social media apps later. The effects would probably cancel out and you’re still the old you.
What’s different with deleting the apps? Well, when you actually delete them, you are treating your addiction. You are trying to get away from social-media-bound life bit by bit, which saves time in general. When you actually delete most of the apps, even if you look at them for a bit during study time, it shouldn’t be very long and most likely you will not be so interested in what you’re reading and go back to study. Being an efficient studier requires more inside a person rather than a surface phenomenon.
If you struggle to get rid of the social apps, think about it this way. What can social media apps bring you? What benefits would they offer you? Answer it and look for alternatives.
Advice 2: Make a Neat Plan Beforehand. Be Realistic.
Nowadays, we have a lot of schedule apps. I use Google Calendar and there’s definitely a lot more that are good in making plans. By neat plan, I mean the one with details. I could make a plan with sections of “study in library”, “gym time”, “study in dorm” etc, etc. Would they help? Yeah, a little. But in my opinion, they are too general to actually make you study more efficiently.
First of all, what’s the definition of efficiency? For me, it means you are clear about what you want to do and you finish the task in a productive way. It doesn’t necessarily mean using the least amount of time to finish something but to make best use of the time you poured into the task.
If you just wrote down “study in the library”, what do you want to study for that time? Would you like to find sources for a paper during that hour or would you like to do some practice problems for the final test? In my case, when I don’t have a purpose, I will bring both and try to do both and ends up messing up both.
You really need to know what exactly you want to do during that chunk of time so that you can pour your heart into one subject instead of hesitating between two or more.
Also, be realistic, it’s easy to overestimate your concentration ability and underestimate the amount of time it will take to finish one thing. Plan low and do more things if you have extra time. Your goal should be I want to finish this one thing in this hour but not
I want to touch all these five subjects in one hour. You might be surprised about how fast you can do things in the former but depressed about how much you cannot handle all five of them in one hour. But hey, if you finish early, you get a bonus and that’s always a big motivation, isn’t it? Try to finish things earlier to get a bigger break.
Advice 3: Email Can Wait, Random Things Can Wait, Do Things One by One.
This actually corresponds with both the previous points. When you delete most of your apps, you must’ve kept something to keep in touch with friends and the society. Email does not really count towards social media things but it sometimes has that social media effect.
Some people praise themselves for replying emails within 10 mins. Is that not a good thing? It is. If I were your boss, I definitely want to hear about your feedback immediately if you can. But in a sense, when people try to go for emails instead of instant messages and phone calls, they don’t expect you to reply immediately. They probably expect you to respond in a few hours or in a day or two. It’s okay if you don’t reply immediately.
But again, it’s still good if you can respond right away. However, if you are in a middle of doing something, replying an email distracts you. One big thing about studying efficiently is concentration. Research show that you have the best concentration 10 or 15 minutes after you start studying assuming that you do not pause to look at your phone. If you are on your phone for a few minutes, the cycle starts over and all the work you’ve done to gain the best concentration will be lost.
Emails can wait. Most of the times, you’ll be totally fine if you respond an hour later except some real emergency. In those cases, I don’t think you will be able to fully concentrate in any situation since you got something big in mind to care about. One thing I really like doing is to skim the new emails but reply all of them at the same time. It saves the time to open and quit the email app or the laptop. It’s also a kind of efficiency. You do all the work at the same time and it saves your time.
Can messages wait? When people send messages, it generally means that either it’s a more urgent situation… or it’s your friends who are bored and trying to find someone to talk with. In the former case, if your boss messages you with an emergency, you better take a look and dump the whole study thing. In the latter case, well, put your phone away. Let your friend have a break. I disabled WeChat message last semester because whoever messages me in WeChat is never in an urgent state of needing something from me or my help. But whenever I see there’s a message, since I don’t have the text shown with notification, I just get curious. So I open the app and read the message and think I better reply to her since I am already online and she wants to ask me something.
What if it’s real emergency? If your friend really needs you, s/he will call you, text you, message you in different apps. You will be able to notice in the end. If s/he only sends you one message, you probably aren’t that important in that situation.
But again, it depends on how you value your efficiency and those so-called friendship maintenance. If you are the kind of person who thinks replying friends’ message is way more important than concentration, I mean, do your best in keeping concentration and go reply the message your friend sends you.
My opinion is that everything can wait unless they are emergencies and you can check them at the end of study session and do everything at once. (Claim: I hate it when people ask me academic questions through message or text. Chances are: I won’t even look. Send me an email and I will look over it.)
Back to the three questions I posed at the beginning of this post.
The thing is, if you’re not busy, it’s okay if you don’t do things very efficiently. You have time to kill and if you really want to perfect your work, you should take you time and slow things down.
If you are not bothered by inefficiency, you probably would not open this post in the first place. But if you did, I mean, do what’s best for you. You should keep you life style(study style) as long as you are happy about it.
For the third question, it’s really important for you to know why you don’t study efficiently and why you feel that way. Those advice I wrote are my suggestions. Those seem to work for me but not for everyone. I can delete most of my social media accounts while living a happy life but if you live based on social media platforms and you don’t fell like that’s a distraction, you should not follow my advice. Realize what is your biggest distraction and deal with it in your own way. If you cannot think of any, put yourself in an outsider position. If someone with this question comes to you, what would you suggest him/her to do? What do you think works best for them? I think that would help, at least a little.
I hope you find my post helpful and I am really excited to be able to write again. (Oh god, I am a staarrrr. I am sooo busy. ) JUST KIDDING I AM NOT A STAR. But if you like the post, please like, comment, subscribe to my site to read more interesting insights and complaints. Read over the BEDF category to explore the summer in France with me lol.
Also, this post idea is inspired by a conversation with my friend and a WeChat post. So I will write about that as “Prequel to the efficiency post.” Hopefully I am ambitious enough about blogging and post that in a few days. I am really trying lol.