Friday, March 16, 2012

Productivity: A Student's Best Friend

Have you noticed that some people are able to balance many responsibilities?  Their secret is something called productivity. Productivity is a business concept that measures efficiency. Increased productivity leads to more getting done with the same amount of time or resources. Productivity is the reason American businesses continue to thrive despite all the horror stories, but the real cool thing is that productivity also applies to individuals.  You have periods of the day when you are more efficient and times when you just can’t think straight, and there are ways to make the time you have more productive.  If you block off a single chunk of time for study, you may find that there comes a point when you are no longer thinking straight because you are mentally fatigued.  It may be better to break up your studies into multiple bursts of hard study.
One secret to unlocking more of your productivity is the concept of trash time.  Have you ever had to wait for somebody, a bus, a class?  You can redeem (repurchase) that time by studying when you wouldn’t normally study.  Redeeming time is a way to force purpose into your life.  This adds to the overall amount of time that you study.  The idea is to utilize all those moments in our weekly schedule when we are waiting.  The trouble is that we often do not have the spider sense ability to detect when we are in trash time.  If you find yourself saying, “I’m so bored” that is your cue to get back to work.  You are building purpose in your day, when you disengage from idleness (Proverbs 6:19) (Eph 5:16).  Side note:  there are times when you must be still, reflect and talk to God, this is an active thing and not idleness.  It takes great faith and mental work to stop and depend on the Lord. 
Waiting is uncomfortable, because we feel silly doing nothing. That is why many people instinctively pop out their cell phone.  As a student, you need to convert that urge to text to an urge to study.  In fact applications are available to do note cards right on your cell phone. 
Be aware of when you are most productive and use those times for study and less productive times can be used for work or entertainment, or socializing.  Just don’t label all of your time as unproductive.  Do you remember the distance equation from algebra?  Distance equals rate times time.  (D=R*T) The same applies to memorization and study.  The more intensely you study (Rate) and the more time (Time) you study will increase the overall amount you learn (Distance).  The intensity of study is the key factor.  When you are setting down to study, be ready to hate it, because we hate to struggle mentally.  When the urge hits to get distracted, fight it.  Daniel Coyle has done some amazing research as to the nature of talent.  His premise is that talent has nothing to do with genetics, but rather practicing deeply many hours.  This deep practice is striving intensely to master something and this state of thought is exhausting. The best athletes, students, artists, dancers, musicians work intensely at the edge of their abilities, spending their practice time working to acquire higher and higher levels of talent.  With regard to studying you need to purposefully be looking at information you know will be on the test, but not wasting your time by working on things you already know.  You should be pushing yourself to your outer limits of your ability, and when you reach a plateau you have been gunning for recalibrate a higher plateau to work intensely at.