Shortly after making the decision to completely stop studying on weekends I had a bit of a freakout.
Was I crazy?
I mean, I was already studying 7 days a week and still not getting everything done that I was supposed to. How the hell was I going to get everything done in 5 days when I couldn’t even do it in 7?!
I’ll be the first to say I haven’t got a perfect answer to this but I have figured out at least a couple of things that have made a HUGE difference.
These are the things that have been working for me and I think at least one of them will probably work for you (especially if you feel like there are more things you need to do than hours in the day).
So in this post I’m going to be talking about two things I’ve been doing that have been super helpful in making the most of my study time.
Sick of spending all your time studying?
You know, you don’t have to study all the time to get good grades (even if you’re not crazy smart), you just need to figure out which tasks are worth your time and do those well (and ignore the rest).
There’s a lot to go through in this post, so I’ve created a FREE worksheet that will help you figure out exactly where you’re wasting time, what times of the day (or night) you should be studying and how to get more done in less time.
I really encourage you to download the free worksheet now so that you can have it with you as you go through this post.
Just click the button below to download your copy!
Now that you’ve downloaded your worksheet, let’s get to it!
Here are the two things I’ve been doing that have been super helpful:
1. Know What’s Worth Your Time
Whether or not we want to admit it, a lot of the things we do are just busy work – stuff that makes us feel productive but isn’t actually getting us any real result.
There’s this thing called the Pareto Principle which says that, for many things in life, 80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts.
And in my experience this principle holds pretty true.
The 80/20 principle can be applied to pretty much every area of life (say, for example, the fact that I wear about 20% of my clothes 80% of the time) and it definitely applies to study.
This means that if we identify what things are actually worth our time we can potentially do only one fifth of the activities and get nearly the same results – pretty revolutionary if you ask me.
Are you wasting time?
So I know it may feel like everything you do is important, but in reality it probably isn’t.
It can be really hard to admit that some of the things we spend hours doing (and have gotten pretty good at) are a little meaningless. These tasks often aren’t worth our precious time, especially when you consider what we have to give up (like having weekends off) to do them!
One thing that immediately comes to mind is spending hours making study notes really pretty.
They’re perfectly formatted with exactly the right spacing and not a single typo – often so perfect they could pass for a textbook. And I’ve found it pretty hard to admit that while having a personal textbook is helpful, it isn’t the best use of time (especially since I usually run out of time to do practice exams – one of the most important things!).
So I’ve decided to let go of having perfect, pretty notes. I’ll admit it’s a struggle to resist doing it but I think it’s so worth giving up!
Another example of busy work is doing class readings.
If you read something and you feel it is valuable, keep doing readings. But… if you’re like me and you often get to the end of the long, deluded article that the lecturer has given you and you have NO idea what you have just read then reading those types of articles is not the best use of your time.
As a law student, there are a lot of cases I am meant to be reading but I realised pretty early on that spending hours and hours pouring over these cases wasn’t worth my time – I found other ways to get the same information more quickly (and with less confusion) and have never looked back.
Just because your teacher says you have to read something doesn’t mean you should – figure out if it’s actually a good use of your time and what you’re giving up to read it.
How to know if you’re wasting time
I don’t know what will work for you, but these are the questions I now ask myself when I’m studying:
- Will doing this task actually help improve my grades? (what will happen if I don’t do this task?)
- How much does the benefit of doing the task decrease each hour I spend doing it (for example, with formatting study notes the first hour is usually a good use of time and after that I’m just indulging myself)
- Is there a better way to do it?
- Am I constantly switching between tasks? (it’s often more productive to batch types of activities together when you can so you can stay more focused and don’t waste time switching between things again and again)
- Am I procrastinating? (I think a lot of the time we do ‘busy work’ we’re just putting off something harder that we know we should be doing)
As you can probably guess I am a HUGE proponent of studying smart, not hard.
There are a lot of other questions you could think about but this is all you need to start. And to help you, I’ve included these questions (and more) in a free worksheet that’ll help you figure out exactly what you need to spend your time doing.
Make sure to download your free copy:
I keep these questions on a little post-it note above my desk to remind me to actually think about whether what I’m doing is a good use of my time.
I’ve found it so helpful to just start questioning why I’m doing things the way I’m doing them, even if I don’t change anything – I honestly think questioning why we do what we do is a really good habit to get into!
Making the most of your time is about figuring out what works for you, which is where my second thing comes in:
2. Know when you study best
This has actually been a major revelation for me.
I’ve kind of always thought that anything could be done at any time of the day, as long as I managed to get everything finished. But in my recent experience, this is totally the wrong approach.
I think it’s probably fair to say that most of us find that our energy and concentration fluctuates over the day.
We don’t think the same way at 7am, 2pm and 2am. Most of us would say that at one of these times we can really get things done, at one of these times we’re ‘ok but not great’ and at one of these times we’re just blah.
So why don’t we pay much attention to it? Why do we just create huge to-do lists that have absolutely no regard to how we function?
I’m a morning person – I can do stuff super well at 7am and I’m not too bad at late night study sessions either. But 2pm is my ‘blah’. So now, 2pm is when I go to the gym instead of 7am when I am the most productive.
You probably already organise your day like this to some extent, but if you really start paying attention to how you feel and operate at different times of the day it can really, really help you get more done in less time.
How to know when to do what
There’s an easy way to figure this out and there’s also a much more thorough way if you’re super keen (which I recommend if you’re really struggling).
I did both, but I started with the easy one.
And if you’re really serious about getting good grades (but not giving your life up to do so) then make sure you work through the free worksheet I’ve created for you – it will really help you get clear on exactly what time of day you should be doing each kind of task!
The easy way to know
The easy way is to just have a think about how you function and what you usually feel like at certain times of the day (and don’t judge your answers):
- Are you a morning person, afternoon or night person?
- When do you feel the most focused? When do you feel the most lethargic? What time of the day are you most easily distracted?
- Does having appointments or meetings in the middle of the day completely throw you out for the day or are you good at bouncing back?
- What things do you do that require a lot of focus? What things do you do that don’t require much focus?
- Do you feel energised or tired after you exercise?
My guess is that you can probably answer almost all of these questions in your head without even thinking about them.
Once you have your answers think about what you do each day – does it reflect and respect this? My advice is to change the tasks to fit how you feel, not to try and become a morning person if you aren’t one.
The more thorough way to know
The more thorough way is to actually figure out exactly what you spend your time doing.
I did this for about a week because I really wanted a good idea of what I do with my time (and I’m a little obsessed with measuring things) and I also wanted to find out why it is that I can get to the end of the day and think ‘where did the day go?’ and literally have no clue.
For that week I wrote down every single thing I did between waking up and going to sleep (there are probably other ways you can do this but this is the way I came up with).
Seriously, I recorded every single thing (including the time period I did it for). It was tedious and a little time consuming, but after only a few days I could really start to see some serious patterns emerging:
I work best if I use the Pomodoro Method (25 mins on, 5 mins off, 25 mins on, 5 mins off). I can push through pretty much the whole morning until lunch time without too much struggle but after lunch I find it so hard to concentrate (which is why I changed my gym workouts to 2pm).
It takes me longer to do things in the afternoon and I procrastinate more (it’s really easy for more to spend hours watching beauty videos on Youtube in the afternoon among many, many other things).
I only needed to record everything for a couple of days to figure this out plus I also became more aware of how long it actually takes to do things (like getting ready for work).
It is a little tedious recording everything and I definitely recommend doing the ‘easy way’ first but I definitely, definitely, definitely recommend giving the ‘thorough way’ a go if you really want to figure this one out.
Will you give it a try?
I guess the whole point of this post is really to say this – you need to figure out what works for you.
These are the methods I have used to figure out what works for me and it has been super helpful. So often we just do things a certain way because that’s the way everyone else does them. Or because we’re told we should do them. Or because we want to keep up appearances. Or because we just can’t be bothered thinking whether there is a better way to do it.
I challenge you to really have a think about what you spend your time doing – is it the best use of your time? And what are you sacrificing so you can spend time doing that stuff?
Make sure to download the free worksheet that will help you figure out exactly what the best use of your time is!
What do you think?
I’d absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts on this.
How do you figure out what the best use of your time is? And have you figured out which time of day is best to do what activities?
P.S. If you’re a procrastinator, keep reading to learn about my online course for procrastinators called Get Out Of Your Own Way:
Take your life to the next level
Four years ago, I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle of procrastination and guilt. Whenever I tried to do simple life tasks (like going to the gym, eating right and organising my time) it felt like I was trying to move mountains!
After work, I was too exhausted to do anything more than make food and lay in bed watching another episode of my favourite show. I kept telling myself I deserved a break, but I never enjoyed it. I felt guilty for wasting my time but I didn’t stop (and when I did find myself with time to do the things I wanted, I just kept procrastinating – gahh!).
And I wish it stopped there, but then I beat myself up for procrastinating! I felt like I was behind everyone else and letting everyone down, so I procrastinated even more.
No matter how many hours I spent reading motivation articles on Pinterest or how many times I filled out a new planner, I just couldn’t make myself change – even though I knew I was the one stopping myself from progressing. And I had all the advice right in front of me!
And because this whole situation was frustrating AF (and I knew I was better than that, even though I didn’t have the evidence to prove it) I dedicated myself to figuring out how to stop sabotaging my own success.
After trying hundreds of different things, it finally clicked! And this year I’ve been able to quit my full-time job for blogging, I’m more productive and focused than I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve finally stopped feeling like I’m behind! Plus it’s actually easy to workout everyday and eat healthy (which I never thought would be possible).
And since everything I’ve learned has COMPLETELY changed my life, I decided to put the very best of it together in a step-by-step course!
My online course for procrastinators
Get Out Of Your Own Way is a self-paced online video course that gives you the tools and mindset shifts you need to stop procrastinating, follow through with all your plans and have the courage to finally pursue your dreams – even if your life is totally overwhelming and you have no idea what you want to do!
I’ll just let you know that this course won’t be for you if you’re looking for quick-fix procrastination tips (let’s be real – you’ve seen all those already and they haven’t worked) or you’re afraid to dig deep and uncover the real reasons you’ve been holding yourself back.
But if you’re ready to make a change and need someone to guide you through the very first step – it could be just the thing you need!