7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It

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For most of us, the experience of studying for an exam can be captured in one word: panic. You’ve got 18 hours, exhausted, and sitting there staring at an equations sheet full of gibberish. Whyyy? Why didn’t I start earlier?

Believe it or not, there are forces acting against you, pulling you away from starting early enough so that you can comfortably learn new material. Here are 7 of the most insidious reasons why you don’t start early, and what you can do about it.

1. You’re anticipating hard work

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Procrastination is generally viewed as this guilt-ridden character defect shared almost universally by all students. The problem is, this is exactly what we should expect to happen from an evolutionary perspective.

Humans are known to be cognitive misers: we conserve mental resources whenever possible, especially when facing tasks not viewed as “essential to our survival.”

In other words, we put off studying until the last minute because (1) we know the work is hard and will require a lot of mental energy, and (2) until there’s the threat of actually failing the exam (and therefore potentially being humiliated publicly) we’re not in enough emotional pain to motivate us to start studying.

Additionally, when your brain anticipates multiple outcomes that are all viewed as “painful” (the pain of studying vs. the pain of failing out of college) you become immobilized, unable to choose the lesser of two evils, and push off the work even further.

Schedule in time for yourself first and then fill in the gaps with study time.

As Niel Fiore discusses in bestselling classic, The Now Habit, part of the reason you procrastinate is because you see no end in site.

Think of the difference between a 100 yard dash and a marathon. In the first case you’re able to give maximum effort because you can see the finish line and know it will be over soon. The marathon runner is not so lucky. They know there’s a long road ahead filled with pain and exhaustion, and subconsciously conserve their effort to ensure they can make it through all 26.2 miles.

This is all to say, if you know you get to go hang out in your buddy’s dorm room and goof off for an hour after you study, you’re much more likely to want to invest that energy.

As a side benefit, you end up taking advantage of Parkinson’s Law. Because your work expands to fill the time allotted, by scheduling less time for studying, you actually become more productive and focused.

2. You’re sleep deprived

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Who in college isn’t pounding the caffeine?

Students who force themselves through weeks upon weeks of 4-6 hour sleep nights, are significantly deteriorating two aspects of their mental performance critical to studying for exams: motivation and vigilance.

Studies show that poor sleep negatively impacts motivation. But really, no one needs a study to tell them how much worse your outlook on life is when you’re low on sleep.

And vigilance, the ability to maintain concentrated attention over prolonged periods of time, is also significantly reduced during a period of either acute (staying up all night studying), or chronic (cutting sleep short for multiple days) sleep deprivation.

Set yourself an end-of-the-day alarm.

Yes, studying more consistently for shorter chunks will allow you to spread it over a longer period of time; therefore, preventing the need to deprive yourself of sleep just to get your coursework done. But really, it’s a psychological issue.

There are a million things we’d rather stay up and do, than go right to bed after a full day of classes, only to have to get up and do the same thing over again. This is a chicken/egg problem: if I don’t get sleep I procrastinate studying, but if I go to bed I’ll just have to get up and study. Again, lose-lose. We need to break the cycle.

Set yourself an alarm. But not in the morning. Set your alarm for 45 minutes before when you should get to sleep and allow yourself to sleep for a full 8 hours. If you adhere to that you’ll be surprised how many hours of free time seem to materialize.

Study time + free time + sleep = happy and successful students.

3. You have a false sense of security

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You may think you’re being a diligent student, sitting there in the lecture, listening intently, copying down page after page of notes from the professor. You might even be following along and raise your hand here and there. But there’s a big difference between feeling like you understand something, and actually being able to reproduce it on a test.

This is what we call passive learning, and it’s the best way to ensure that you’ll spend a lot of time and effort trying to learn new material, without actually being able to retain any of it.

Quiz yourself.

Don’t be fooled by your professor’s overly logical explanations. This dude already knows the material, so it’s easy for him to explain it in a way that others find understandable. The real challenge is whether or not you can do the same.

If you’re wondering if you actually understand something, quiz yourself. Or better yet, explain it to someone (or yourself, but be warned: people tend to stare).

As Einstein liked to say, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

By routinely quizzing yourself, you’ll get a dose of reality of whether you actually know the material or not, instead of what most students do: assume they know it until the night before the test, when they proceed to freak out because they can’t do any of the practice problems.

4. Not all study time is created equal

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Fact: seven hours of studying over 7 days is much more effective (more learning per time spent) for understanding new material than 7 hours of studying in one chunk. This is especially true for technical courses with new jargon you have to internalize.

Chunk your study time.

The brain uses a ton of energy (20% of our resting metabolic rate), and there’s only so much you can expend per day. To maximize your retention of new material, you want to take advantage of both active learning and recovery.

Because the brain consolidates new neural pathways during sleep, particularly during REM sleep, the more sleep cycles you intersperse between your study hours, the more likely it is that you will retain the material and be able to whip it out on test day.

This also allows you to take advantage of spaced repetition. Instead of having to constantly review your material to keep it in the forefront of your memory, you can follow a cycle of ever-increasing time intervals between review sessions (the “forgetting curve”), decreasing the overall amount of time needed to re-learn material you might have forgotten from the beginning of the semester when the final rolls around.

5. The planning fallacy

Humans systematically overestimate what can be accomplished in the short-term, and underestimate what can be accomplished in the long-term.

Ironically (and sadly), we only have this problem evaluating our own tasks – providing a pretty accurate picture of how long things will take when evaluating someone else’s situation objectively.

“Dude I’ve got this Calc final covered. Just need a couple days before to go over my notes. But you’re screwed for your Orgo class – better head to the library now or you’re never gonna pass.”

Use the 50% rule.

Estimate as conservatively as you can, how much time it’s going to take to study for your exam, assuming you start early and work consistently.

Done?

Okay. Now add 50% to that estimate.

This will give you a more accurate picture of how much time you really need to allocate to starting studying.

6. You think you have more study time than you do

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Pull up your Sunday schedule. What do you see?

Oh looks like I’ve got a big chunk of free time from 4pm to 10pm. Perfect, I’ll just squeeze in 5 or 6 hours of studying and then call it a night.

Try again. It’s more like 2-3 hours.

This is another type of planning mistake: overestimating how much productive time we can extract from any given period.

Things we tend to forget: we need to eat; we need to sleep; there will be interruptions (yea right like you’re actually going to shut off your phone).

But another thing we fail to account for: the body goes through 90-120 minute activity cycles (called the Ultradian Rhythm). So even though you may be sitting there, highlighting your textbook for 3 hours straight, you really only have the ability to absorb material for 1.5 to 2 hours before you need a period of rest.

Cut your estimated hours in half.

If you think you have 8 hours on Sunday after the game to study, forget it. You actually have 4 or less when you take out time for eating, breaks, and normal daily activities.

7. You can’t get motivated or focused

A lot of us tend to sit around and wait…

Waiting for the wave of motivation to strike us to finally get started on the homework assignment due in 24 hours, or studying for the midterm.

Here’s the problem: motivation comes and goes, but the demands of school and learning and everyday life don’t. And if you’re relying on your motivation to keep you focused, everything you’re doing is going to be in a perpetual state of lateness and last-minute-ness, because there’s never enough motivation to go around.

Focus on the process, with the end in mind.

Why are you in school? Why do you want a degree? Get clear on exactly what your motivations are.

But thinking about the future is not enough. That vision of the future that drives your emotional intensity needs to be linked to your daily activities. (e.g. “Each day I study for Calculus brings me one step closer to being a doctor and making a difference in people’s lives.”)

What is the one set of activities each day that will virtually guarantee success in your coursework?

And what can you do to organize your day, set up incentives, quit things that don’t matter, etc. to virtually guarantee you will do that one set of activities day in and day out, despite motivation?

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5 Things We Should Spend More Money On, And 5 Things We Should Not

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Imagine that you are sitting on the front porch of your house sipping lemonade with your family on a warm summer’s night. You sit back and reminisce with them about how you… bought the newest HG TV?

Materialistic gratification only lasts so long. It is said that our brains adapt to happiness. With materialistic things buying our happiness, we are successful for a brief moment. New things will lose their shine and we will lose our interest.

Instead of spending your money on things that will eventually be obsolete, try spending it on something that will make lasting memories. Memories become a part of our lives forever and help make us who we are. The good experiences will forever stay good in your mind forever and the bad ones turn into a funny anecdote in the future.

Below is a list of 5 things you should spend less money on and 5 things you should spend more money. Use these tips to save money so that you can spend it on experiences that will enrich the lives of you and those around you.

5 Things you shouldn’t spend too much money on:

1. Electronics

Electronics in this day and age are almost a necessity, but that doesn’t mean that you need to spend money to get the newest thing. The shiny new feeling of your devices are very short lived and it is almost guaranteed that there will be a newer and better model of the whatever device you own within the next year.

2. Home Decor Fads

There will always be a new popular theme to decorate your home with. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get the signature look you see in the magazine; there are always do it yourself ways to achieve the same look. You can make it an experience and a time to bond with friends and family.

3. Cars

Keeping up with the newest car models is not a smart lifestyle unless you can pay each of them off by the time the next model comes out. This is a way to get you into a never ending hole of debt. You will never have the title in your hands if you keep trading your car (half paid off) for this current year’s model (which probably cost more).

4. Newest Fashion

You don’t have to feel guilty about giving into buying new clothes, bags and shoes once in a while. But when it gets to the point where you are trying to get each new bag or pair of shoes for about $300 plus dollars, maybe you should skip out on one of these and save the money for something else. There is always going to be a new fad and there is no point on spending all your hard earned money and losing precious closet space on it.

5. Jewelry

Fancy jewelry is nice to have for formal occasions, at the office and when dancing on your night out. If you can afford to buy a two thousand dollar watch, good job. For the rest of us, there is a fine line between accessorizing and going into debt for shiny things.

5 Things you should spend more money on:

1.Education

There isn’t another feeling in the world that can compare to the feeling of starting to understand another language without thinking about it. Though some language classes are very pricey, they are worth it. Taking classes on different cultures, religion and different professions will open your mind to a whole different world.

It does not mean you need to convert your religion or change your job. It will simply mean that you have walked into a classroom with an open mind and have added the things you have been taught to your vault of knowledge. You may never know when it can come in handy.

2.Traveling

Traveling can be pricey at times, but it creates memories that last a life time- even the bad experiences. Typically we all laugh about the bad experiences later on in life. One trip to Europe can cost someone the same as good laptop and the long trips can cost less than a car you don’t really need but want.

Trade all those materialistic things in for a night under the Northern Lights, a kiss on the Eiffel Tower, or a long journey backpacking through the Alps.

3.Music

Learning to play an instrument is a great start to a new tradition in your family. You can pass this down to your children and make new memories. That is, of course, after you have told them about the ones you have when you learned to play.

You can also venture out and spend about a dollar or two to take a chance on a new genre. Who knows, you could end up with a couple (or a couple hundred) songs added to your music library.

4.Books

Book are always going to be something different with each reader that turns its’ pages. It is a completely different experience using your imagination to put the author’s words into images in your head. Books won’t ever require you to turn them on, charge them or restart them. They are things you can pass down from generation to generation.

It is a much different experience to sit somewhere, with a book in hand, with absolutely no distractions. Books are portals to explore completely different worlds with a turn of a page.

5.Food

Trying new food goes hand in hand with traveling the world. Instead of spending a few hundred on a bag, save it for some great food when out and about. Take some cooking classes on food from different cultures. In Italy, they offer cooking classes at a vineyard. You can learn from an Italian chef how to create a great meal. It is something you can take back home with you and teach friends and family.

There are several chocolatiers in Belgium that are worth spending the extra dime to appreciate a perfectly crafted truffle.

Remember…put your money into things that will create memories over the instant materialistic things. You don’t have to spend all of it on creating memories but if you do, it won’t be something you regret.

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10 Things Productive People Do Before Bed

The most productive people all have certain habits in their daily routines that contribute to their success. They understand that their success starts and ends with their mental and physical health, which is almost entirely dependent upon their habits before bed time.

So, here’re 10 things successful and super productive people do that leads them being in the top 20 percent of money earners in our society
1. They review their day

Steve Jobs was a strong proponent of living life to the fullest every day. He wonderfully explained this concept when he said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

All successful and wealthy people, before going to sleep, they think about if what are doing has meaning. At the end of each day, they think about how have positively contributed to the world and review if the goals achieved are in line with their overall vision. Thus, they make plans to track their progress and take notes to put the best in every single things they do.

So today, before going to sleep, review your day because it will force you to clarify what you want and motivate you to take action on your goals.
2. They write down their thoughts

Emmy-winning talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres used to write down her thoughts, feelings and emotions when she was younger: “Writing is truly cathartic, because it just lets it all out and brings the best out of you”.

Super productive and successful people write down their thoughts, sensations, feelings and emotions. They try to analyze when and why things went right and wrong. They write to improve their communication and thinking skills to be a better leader. So, by writing things down you can help yourself to sharpen your thinking, clear your mind, destroy negative self-talk and pay attention to your most dominant emotions through the day. Journaling may tell you something that you haven’t really paid much attention to about yourself or about your life.

People like Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Winston Churchill kept a diary, so why not giving a shot?
3. They stick their noses into books

This is the proof that readers are great leaders. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates is an avid reader. Each night before bed, he spends an hour reading a book, ranging on a variety of topics.

Many successful people in the world are voracious readers. They read at least for 10-20 minutes before going to bed every day and they learn from what others talk about. They expand their know-how to be better prepared to lead and motivate their team and build multimillionaire businesses.

Another big benefit from sticking your nose into a good book on a nightly basis is because reading improve the long term health of your brain.
4. They set priorities for the next morning

With so many things happening on a daily basis it can be really easy to lose focus on what you are trying to accomplish. That’s why, before bed time, productive people review their schedule and plan for the following day.

They make a list of everything they have to do and before they start working they set priorities on the list. This allow them to go into the next workday feeling better prepared, more confident, and less stressed. Include this life-changing tip in your daily routine by writing down your top 3 to 5 most important tasks you need to do the next day. If for any reason you don’t do this, it should be the first thing you do every morning. And remember, every minute spent in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.
5. They spend quality time with family

“A man should never neglect his family for business.” -Walt Disney

Totally true! You have to spend quality time with your family in order to get connected and stay connected. Life is really hectic, and whatever you are an entrepreneur or an employee it always feels like there are a million things to do and the clock is against you.

But it’s really important to treat time with your family as a priority. So spend more time having meaningful conversations with your children, siblings or parents. Turn off the TV, eat dinner with your family and talk. The more time you spend together, the better chance you have of sharing quality experiences.
6. They get things done

Super productive people use their skills, talents, energies, and knowledge to the fullest extent possible. They do the things that need to be done, not just the things they like to do. They are willing to work hard and to commit themselves to getting the job done by the end of the day.

Nobody knows this better than US President Barack Obama that start the day the night before. When he awakens at seven, he already has a jump on things. We all have 24 hours and you need to use your time wisely, that’s why successful people squeeze the most out of those 24 hours as they can.
7. They do a digital detox

After being collapsed to the floor from exhaustion and lack of sleep, Arianna Huffington has been an evangelist for “unplugging”. In her best-selling book Thrive, she shares the importance of disconnect from our hectic life, relax and take care of our body and soul, redefining what it means to be successful in today’s world.

So, every night before bed, put your phone in another room, turn off the Tv and spent some time in stillness. You will feel your energy soar and overall health improve. In addition, you will have more time for other activities you really enjoy.
8. They spend time in nature

There is no greater example than Sir Richard Branson. However as Branson has demonstrated throughout his hectic business career, that doesn’t mean you have to cut out the things you enjoy most in life. To be refreshed and ready for anything, you need to find time to go in nature and have fun.

If you can’t swim in the crystal clear water of the Caribbean, having a walk routine could be a perfect way to turn off your thoughts about work after a stressful day and reflect on different things that interest you or to just empty your mind and enjoy the silence.
9. They meditate

Russell Simmons, Tim Ferriss and Oprah Winfrey, just to name a few, all meditate in the morning and before bed to perform to their full potential throughout the day. In fact, when our mind is more relaxed we are more receptive to ideas and find even easier to focus on frustrating tasks.

So set aside 10 minutes each day before going to sleep to meditate and let your thoughts flow naturally. The next day you will be more energetic, focused and productive.
10. They envision their future

Many successful people take a few minutes before bed to envision a positive outcome unfolding for the projects they’re working on. Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s super productive people who use visualization techniques to picture tomorrow’s success and get clarity on challenges and obstacles. So, spend a few minutes each night visualizing yourself as successful the next day. This will help motivate you to make it happen because you’ve already seen it in your mind’s eye.

If you can develop these 10 habits of successful people you will increase your productivity overnight and your life will be a lot better. So, what successful habits do you practice before going to bed?

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