When it comes to reviewing, learning, productivity is THE determining factor.
You can spend 10 hours bent over your desk, reading and rereading sentences, underlining, turning pages, rewriting…
For the same result, some will take no more than Thirty minutes.
The good news is that you can in turn become productive. That means stop wasting hours and hours, which you could spend living, going out, having fun, and start doing your work profitable now!
It is for this very reason that some people spend their evenings slaving over their notebooks and cry when they find out the results of their exams, while others do the job in 30 minutes and are surprised themselves by their good results.
If you are here, it is because you already have the desire to be productive. That is the most important thing. Grow that desire.
Then you will have all the motivation you need to do great things. By following our list of tips below, you will also have all the tips you need to turn your desire for productivity into a truly effective and profitable job.
Each of these tips takes no more than 30 seconds to implement, and will save you a valuable time, which we hope you will put to use for even greater efficiency!
1. Use Airplane Mode
This is perhaps the most useful reflex of all these lists. As soon as you start work, put your laptop in airplane mode.
That means no notifications, no text messages, no messages, no internet. Close your door, and mark the door “Do Not Disturb”. Do not let yourself be disturbed under any circumstances, neither by your family, nor by your friends, nor by yourself and your mobile. Use the airplane mode.
If you work on a computer, it is the same principle! For every browser, including Firefox and Chrome, there are applications that block websites. Use these extensions and be strict with yourself. Only allow Wikipedia and Encyclopedias, and even that is risky. Really, you know yourself better than anyone else, and you know how by clicking on a link, you can easily slide on another link and so on, and find yourself 20 minutes later reading on facebook or twitter an article about sheep breeding in New Caledonia.
The best thing to do is to store your laptops and computers as far away from you as possible, to bury them at the bottom of a drawer stuffed with cushions in the room furthest from your workplace. Your productivity will thank you 1,000 times over!
2. Use the Timer
Clicking Airplane Mode takes less than 30 seconds, just as setting the timer will take you less than 30 seconds.
Watch a runner take a leisurely lap around the track, then notice how his stride suddenly quickens when he realizes he has only a minute left to take another lap. It is the same principle when you are working. And the good news is that it motivates us, and we love it even more!
Enjoy this pleasure, and use your timer in all circumstances. For example, set your timer for 10 minutes, and tell yourself: at the end of the countdown, when I hear the bell, I must have finished learning this chapter. You will see that you will hurry up, and as you do, you will realize that learning is easier and faster than you thought, and that you can do even better! Next time, set your timer for 9 minutes, and you will get it done!
If you work on a computer, some people even advise you to sit in your corner without plugging in your power supply: you then have the maximum time to do all your work as the life of your battery: the battery is your timer.
ever read a long book for many hours, and without realizing it at first, you read the sentences without really understanding them, without really printing them in your mind, and you think about something else at the same time? You read the same sentence once, twice, three times, and without even realizing what you just did, you continue.
The rule is simple: a sentence must be understandable in one go, if you read the same sentence again and again, it is not good.
However, this is a perfectly normal process, and there is nothing to worry about. On the contrary, accept serenely that your attention is not maximal, and that you need a rest. A 5 to 10-minute break is enough to refuel your attention.
Experts often recommend spending 45 to 50 minutes on a task, and then giving yourself a 5 to 10-minute break.
You can find the pace that suits you best: if you spend an hour and a half working without interruption and your attention span is at its maximum, there is no reason to disturb yourself with a break. Just find your own rhythm, and you will feel quite naturally when you need a little break (for example when you read the same sentence twice).
Every day applications for smartphones and computers were born on this principle. Associate “work”, “productivity”, “timer” with the word “pomodoro” (which means “tomato” in Italian, at the origin of the technique) and you will find hundreds of free sites to implement this reflex.
4. Identify your MemoryAs you
know, humans have several types of memory. The advice here is to identify which type of memory best suits you, and outline your work accordingly.
To find out:
1. Which type of memory is most effective for you (because everyone is more or less sensitive to a certain type of memory)
2. How to make the most of this type of memory
We recommend our reference article: Learning 2x better with Visual and Auditory Memory.
5. Create Your Own Memory Techniques
Everyone has their own family history, their own environment, their own reference points, and therefore their own associations of thought. It is thanks to these associations of thought that the best mnemonic means are put in place.
For example, if you think of the word “Dragon”, you will probably associate it as a francophone with a legendary creature that when it is not sleeping next to the gold coins likes to take flight and spit fire everywhere. However, if you tell a Hong Konger to think of a “Dragon”, he is more likely to have in mind the image of the Chinese New Year parade.
The associations of ideas are not the same, and it is precisely these associations that form the basis of all mnemonics. Fortunately, there are some mnemonic techniques to which we are all sensitive, but the best and most effective mnemonic will always be the one you have found, the one you have created. It is fine to use other people’s memory aids, but if you wrote it, it is even better!
6. Use Mind Maps
Mind Maps is a new way of taking notes that can work wonders, especially because it calls more on the visual memory we mentioned earlier (so it is especially useful if you have a visual memory)
Since we were children, we have all been used to the very linear way of taking notes, which consists of writing line by line what we hear on a gridded, formatted page.
Mind Maps are a way of opening up all that opening up creativity. The principle is simple: place your central subject in the center of a large white sheet of paper. Starting from this central point, you can proceed by the idea association. Draw an arrow, and write down the idea that comes to mind. And if you have a new idea, draw another arrow and write your new idea. Do not hesitate to use colors and drawings: it is proven that people retain images better than text.
If you are interested in this concept, which we can’t really develop here, we advise you to do a little research on Mind Maps with your favorite search engine later on, it can change a lifetime of studies!
7. Listen to Creative Music
If you don’t like listening to music while working, then just try it. If you still do not like working to music even after trying, then skip it, it will not be useful for you.
If, on the other hand, you have always liked it or you have discovered that you like listening to music while you work, then GET IT! There are many benefits to listening to music, of all kinds, including these three benefits:
- Music makes your time more enjoyable
- Music creates rhythm in your studying
- Music develops your creativity
Be careful not to let music take over your work. Especially with popular songs, you should not be more focused on the lyrics of the music, you should not feel like singing.
That is why it is better to listen to what we call creative music: that is, music that stays in the background, that does not get too active, not too present, and that simply pushes you. Some people will prefer instrumental music, or at least music with incomprehensible lyrics. The most important thing is to try all types of music: if there is one that you are particularly productive with whether it has lyrics or not, whether it is new or not, whether it is classical music or electro, it does not matter listen to music that makes you travel, that makes you forget time, listen to music that gives you wings to be effective.
8. List your gains BEFORE you startSure,
results are usually what comes after the work. From now on, consider the gains you have made BEFORE you work!
Your subconscious mind will act, and you will leave with a winning spirit, as if the gains generate your motivation and your good work, and not the opposite.
Then, this is what will structure your work, give you the map of your session, and above all, it is what will continue to motivate you.
Before starting anything, you must have a precise idea of what you want to do, in how much time, and the gain that corresponds to it! Always write down these 3 elements, they are all very important!
Scribble this list on the side, as in this example:
1. Goal: Learn 1 chapter of history Time: 10 minutes Gains: 20/20 on my next essay
You can even apply it to all your activities, like sports:
2. Goal: Run 20 times around the park Time: 40 minutes Gain: Better shape, stronger legs
The more specific you are, the better. To learn more about how to stay motivated and set your goals, our short article: Method to stay motivated: SMART goal.
9. Work Elsewhere
The problem with the bedroom is that you work in it, but you also sleep in it, play in it, watch movies in it, eat in it sometimes, etc.
Again, it is a subconscious thing: your brain associates each room with activities, and works by adapting to what it thinks you are going to do there.
This is the same reason why if you get into the habit of working or watching movies on your bed, you will have a much harder time falling asleep every time you get into bed. Simply because your brain will think, “Ah, it is movie time.”
So we recommend that you leave, and go somewhere else to work. The ideal place is, of course, the library. The atmosphere is usually work, you are surrounded by people who like you are trying to be productive, there is like a spirit of solidarity. Beware of the trap of the library among friends: if the library is the place where you meet your friends, even if they are only distant acquaintances to whom you only politely say hello, it will remain a distraction, and your friends would not understand that you do not take two minutes of your time to ask them how they are doing.
So it is your mission and your responsibility to find the perfect work space: outside of your usual living space, a place where you just do your work and nothing else, a place where you are as undisturbed as possible by others. It is quite a challenge, but once you find the perfect place, you will easily notice the importance of the place, and just walking to that place, your brain will get in condition to become productive, because it knows that is the place where you are productive every day.
10. The 80/20 MethodEven though
he is not the direct author of this method, it is Pareto who inspired this work rule that is called the 80/20 rule.
If we could give another more explicit name to this rule, we would say that it is a rule against perfectionism which wastes a lot of time. Rephrased positively, it is the rule that makes you the most productive by focusing on the essential, on the important, to save time.
The idea is simple: 20% of your work is responsible for 80% of the success and results of your work.
You must therefore concentrate on this 20% which is the heart of your task, and which must mobilize all your efforts. The rest loses a lot of importance, since you will spend a lot of time for a few results.
Still having trouble seeing how does it work? Let us say you have to learn a list of 100 words in English.
Of those 100 words, you would better put all your effort into just the 20 most useful and common words. Because it is these 20 words that will earn you the highest grade, that will make you progress the most, that will allow you to speak most effectively with Americans.
This method is, of course, not an exact science, but it is important that you understand the idea behind it, because it will save you a lot of time by focusing your efforts on what is most important. For example, in this article, we give you a whole series of tips. Of course, we recommend that you follow all of them, which is ideal. If you try to apply them, you will have a hard time remembering everything for the first time (that is why we encourage you to bookmark this page ;)). If you want to increase your efficiency as quickly as possible, remember the 20% that will have the most impact on your revisions, which will be responsible for the 80% of your productivity gain.
Like many of the items on our productivity list, you can apply this method to all areas of your life, so try it and you will be surprised. You will appreciate this principle very much and it will follow you all your life and become your best reflex!
11. Drink Tea or Coffee
Of course, do not force yourself. There are many converging and diverging studies on the benefits of tea or coffee.
They are all 100% positive about the effects of tea. You can drink a lot of tea, your body will thank you.
They are almost 100% positive on the effects of coffee. So you can drink a lot of coffee (no more than 5 cups a day), your body will thank you.
It is all in the almost. Here is what you need to know about the “coffee or no coffee” debate. First of all, you should know that theine and caffeine, responsible for the energy boost in your body, are in fact the same molecule. So it is all the same whether you talk about theine or caffeine!
The difference between tea and coffee is that the energy boost will be immediate, sudden and intense with coffee, while it will be gradual, diluted and weaker with tea.
The downside of coffee is that while you get a big energy boost, sometimes you will also have a drop in energy afterwards.
You also have to take into account the placebo psychological effects: some people, just by thinking about their drink next to them, will feel ready to be efficient and productive.
In any case, there are very big differences in effects depending on the person. Some people will even fall asleep while having their coffee. Some will have such a boost of energy that they will have trouble falling asleep: in this case it is better to drink it only when waking up in the morning. We therefore advise you to simply get to know yourself.
Do you feel better when you drink tea or coffee? Do you have backlashes that make you feel tired right after? Are you really more productive when you drink tea or coffee? Which is better for you?
- Do you prefer water? Drink water!
- You are super productive with coffee and you do not have any downside? Drink water and coffee!
- Do you enjoy your tea, and don’t spend more time making your tea than getting to work? Drink tea!
12. Be Obsessive about Tidiness and Cleanliness
You may find it hard to believe: a tidy workspace = a tidy mind!
But it is true! It is often the kind of saying that mom/dad harps on about but that we refuse to believe, because deep down we are a bit lazy about cleaning.
However, our tip, like all the tips here, does not take more than 30 seconds. How do you clean a desk in 30 seconds? It is very simple: you take your wastebasket, or if you are too scared a box: and you put in it EVERYTHING on your desk. In 15 seconds it is done.
You open the material you need a sheet of paper, a computer if it is absolutely necessary. Five seconds.
You need the fountain pen that you reluctantly put in your box earlier? No problem, grab it, and not the whole kit: just the fountain pen. Five seconds.
Here is the result at the end of our demonstration: in 25 seconds, your desk is clean, using only the bare essentials: your paper and your fountain pen (or your computer).
At that moment, you will feel really free inside. That empty table in front of you is a reflection of your calm, peaceful mind, which is entirely available to get on with the work you have set out to do.
This is a principle that René Descartes, the illustrious philosopher you know well from the Discourse on Methodwas already applying.
If you have a big task to do, which seems abstract, obscure, difficult to accomplish, then break it down.
This technique is a real war machine, a real machine of destruction, which will overcome all the objectives that seem the most insurmountable.
An example: you find your essays pale, and you lack vocabulary, so you want to increase your vocabulary. That is a pretty vague goal (What is vocabulary building? How do you measure it?) Well, break it down.
Vocabulary comes in two ways: by learning definitions and by reading a lot. You have already broken down your goal into 2 parts.
1. Learn the definitions
Learning 200 definitions at once seems out of reach? Then break it down. Make small lists, as we suggest in our article on Enriching Your Vocabulary. Learn 1 list/day. A list of 20 words is still insurmountable? Then break it down: you will learn 10 words in the morning at 8a.m. when you get up, and 10 words in the evening when you go to bed.
You start with a vague desire (“to enrich your vocabulary”), you end up with a small easy task that does not take much time (“to read 10 definitions”). Does it still seem insurmountable to you?
2. Same thing with reading.
Ten books in a month is a lot? Then break it down. Five books in 15 days. Still insurmountable? One book/3 days. Still huge? Then read only the introductions and conclusions of each chapter first, save the belly, the bulk of the content, for a second time.
It may seem surprising, but you will see that the book will always make sense. You will see the links, the articulations. Then reading what is between the introduction and the conclusion will take you no time at all. That is the power of breaking it down. It is also the Pareto rule (see point #10 of this list) that is at play: all these introductions and conclusions, which represent 20% of the book, will in fact give you an understanding of 80% of the book.
Again, you can apply this method to any field: sports, culture, arts, mathematics, physics, social relations. If you have a difficulty, overcome it in the most effective and gentle way: break it down.
14. Fall asleep and let your brain do the workHave, how
ever, in the evening, been overwhelmed by the mountain of texts or formulas you have to learn, read your course, just once, and said to yourself: too bad, I did my best, but I am too tired; now I am sleeping.
The next day when you wake up, it is like a miracle: you remember everything, even better than if you had spent 3 hours in the morning learning your document.
This miracle is not so much a miracle, and its other name is the human brain. When you fall asleep, your brain reviews everything you have done, your day, it sorts out everything it needs to learn, everything it needs to forget, etc. In short, if you have the time to learn, your brain will be able to do it. In short, if you have the impression that nothing happens when you sleep, think again: your brain works!
And there is always one thing that it chews over and over and over again to engrave in you, the last thing it heard and saw before you went to sleep. That is why what you do just before you go to sleep is so important.
Use this tip: just before you go to sleep, in less than 30 seconds – more if you want – learn what you want to be sure you know the next morning when you wake up. Trust yourself. You will be very pleasantly surprised the next morning, we guarantee it.
Remember what we said in our point #12: a clean and tidy workspace is a clean and tidy mind
Well, it is not exactly the same here, but it is still the same idea that you need the most efficient environment and tools possible, to get the most effective work done.
Some financial advisors will always recommend anyone to invest at least 10% of your income in your training, in your work, in your education, in your tools.
The best example is the computer if you have to work with the computer. When you are not particularly well off, it is difficult to buy better than the first price mini-laptop, with only 2 GB of RAM (that is very little for a computer), which bugs as soon as you click on an icon or move the mouse. This cheap mini-laptop will waste hours and hours and hours of work. You do not realize it because it is your first day, because the time seems very short, only a few seconds. But clicking on an icon, when you have a computer, you do it hundreds of times a day. A few seconds x 500 times a day x 30 days × 12 months, at the end of the year, let us say it again, that is hours and hours and hours of lost time.
And again we are only talking about RAM, but if you have a computer that crashes in the middle of your 30-page memory and you forgot to back up – or you tried to back up, but the software detected an error – the damage is considerable.
So consider your hardware purchase carefully, and place a lot of emphasis on quality. This is, of course, the same as for such trivial things as the quality of the paper (how many milligrams?), the quality of the fountain pen (you will drink one less beer, but at least your ink will not make patches on every copy), or even the quality of your training.
16. Dream on Your Radiant Future
When it comes to productivity, it is important to understand that the determining factor, which is just behind it, that will give you all the energy you want to mobilize effectively: it is motivation!
Maybe this image will help you: think of motivation as a huge stream, and productivity as all the walls and pipes that channel and guide that stream.
If these walls and pipes are well tuned, if they are solid, they will allow all the energy of the water to flow in the right direction, as quickly as possible, and in full.
But the energy of the water, the power of the stream, is still motivation. The more motivated you are, the more energy you have, the more extraordinary your results will be, especially if you have set them up properly with all the indications we have listed in this article.
How to constantly renew your motivation? Let us not hide it, we think we have a lot of motivation, and suddenly the next day everything is down like a puff: motivation is the most fragile of your resources. That is why you must preserve it and give it lots and lots of care.
Throughout this article, we have given you little tips on how to keep and increase your motivation – like point #8: List your wins before you start. Here our advice is somewhat similar, but on a larger scale: imagine what you want to be.
If you are doing something, it is because you have an appetite, because you want to achieve something. Are you hungry for an ice cream? It is because you are already imagining yourself enjoying your ice cream quietly by the beach with the sun beating down on your skin.
Are you craving a chocolate cake? That is because you already imagine yourself at the table, with a spoon dipping into your cake.
These are exactly the images that should come to mind when you want to be motivated. You are struggling to learn your history program, so remember as vividly as possible what your ideal, dreamed future is.
You already imagine yourself a brilliant university professor, a bestselling author of the best books of the 20th century: you are sitting on that little table that has been placed in front of you. A thousand people are in front of you, waiting for their dedication. These people are admirers of your research, and they ask you a lot of fascinating questions, which make you want to discuss with them all evening, while enjoying the small appetizers that are served to you. If this is your ideal, if this is your dreamed future, then DREAM in the most POWERFUL way about this future. How do you make that dream even stronger? Add the colors, add the sounds, add the smells, play the movie in your head with even more imagination.
Of course, not everyone dreams of being an illustrious researcher of 20th century history. You all have different dreams, and it is for these dreams that you work. If you do not have those dreams, you do not need to keep working on them, you are on the wrong track. But if you really do have those dreams, those ideals, that future, then think about them over and over again, until your imagination sticks with you, until it becomes real, and it will be an inexhaustible source of motivation.