One of my students used to maintain an average in the 70s… Across all his classes. One day he said – “I looked at my math mark, my physics mark and my English… And I realized I was the common factor.”
Within a month his tests and quizzes were repeatedly coming back in the 90s. Prior to improving his grade, he (and many other students) make a common mistake. They don’t realize they’re not putting in enough of the right work to get the result.
There are two parts to that statement:
- Do enough work.
If facebook is open, if your cell phone is on and you had even one notification, if you’re watching a tv-show while studying, you’re not putting in work. You won’t retain what you’re learning.
Focused work is at the core of success. But how much work is enough?
- Do the right kind of work.
There’s a lot of psychology involved in doing the right work OR doing the work correctly. If you don’t like what you’re doing or just don’t want to do it – you’ll probably do a very poor job. So how do you convince yourself you like what you’re doing?
Everything in your life is a choice. But there’s a problem, when you were little, your parents and teachers probably pushed and punished you into work.
As a child, you grew up with the idea that you will get into trouble, that someone will yell at you if you get into the cookie jar, not clean your room or forget to do your homework. For adults, this doesn’t happen.
Nobody yells at you (or hits you) – it’s illegal. And it’s not how anyone should be treated. Instead, your actions have consequences. Consequences that you choose by doing (or not doing) something.
The faster you are aware of how the world responds to your actions, the better it is for your long-term personal development.
If you eat a cookie… There’s nothing stopping you from eating a second or a third. As an adult, you can even eat cake every day. But you’ll feel like crap – you’ll have heartburn and a constant sugar rush followed by a crash.
There’s no homework in the adult world. But if you don’t do your job, you’ll get fired, replaced or miss out on a raise. If you don’t continually develop yourself outside of work, another employee who does will get ahead of you… While you stay in the same place year after year.
Is there anything wrong with the above scenarios?
Is there anything wrong with being unhealthy or staying at the same job and the same salary for a decade?
No, not if that’s what you choose. But your parents, teachers, and mentors alike would want you to have a higher quality of life.
So how do you do the right kind of work?
- You realize that it’s up to you. That, unless you have a neurological disorder or brain damage, you can get ahead in class. There’s always somebody that gets a 90 – why can’t that be you?*
- You learn to like the work or at least see that doing it leads to an outcome that you desire.
- You consciously make an effort to summarize what you learn on paper and then test yourself so you can answer questions reproducibly and without error.
How do you know you’re doing enough work?
Let’s say you’ve turned off all distractions and realize you need to study. How do you know when you’ve studied enough? When is good enough, good enough?
- At a minimum, do the assigned work. If you have a list of problems, try to increase the speed with which you solve them or reduce the number of steps. Improve every time.
- At its core, mastering a subject isn’t simply about learning everything – it’s about reducing error, so that every time you make that slap shot in hockey or you solve a system of equations, you do so correctly.
If you understand the concept but you make even a single error on the next practice problem, your work isn’t finished.
- If all of the above seem too open-ended, here’s a full proof method. Spend at least 15 hours a week, on your schooling, every week. It seems like a lot but its only 3 hours a day, 5 days a week (or less if you study 6 to 7 days).
According to many educational experts, recommendation number 3 gives the number of hours that a student that wants to get As in University is recommended to study for all of their courses combined. University is harder than high school so, if you follow such a schedule, you’re set.
If you’re doing the right kind of focused work for 15 hours a week, there’s no way you can’t succeed.
15 hours is also an interesting guideline because there are business books that state this is the same number of hours a business owner must put in working ON his/her business (vs. in) every week, in order for it to grow over time.
Working on your classes doesn’t include going to class. It only includes homework or time you spend outside of school improving your skills or knowledge.
With the above advice, you have some questions you need to ask yourself and a set of guidelines you can apply right away. The rest is up to you.
*Research shows that, with focused practice, the brain changes and reorganizes itself so you can perform a task better. With enough repetition, a conscious effort becomes a subconscious habit. This is exactly the same principle that makes an athlete faster and more responsive with practice AND it works in your math and other school work.
“The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge
“The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg