It is a no-brainer that not everyone wants to study. As the current academic year goes into a term break, it is easy to say “I’ll do it tomorrow” as there just seems to be so much time left. But really, with only two weeks, it is the time to squeeze in any last-minute content mastery or exam technique development before it’s time to sit the dreaded Cambridge exams.

With everyday passing like seconds, running away from responsibilities is no longer an option and it is time to stay disciplined over the holiday so you can hit the ground running as a new term starts.

1. Don’t forget to rest

Consider this diagram.

To put it simply without all the fancy economics theory, an economy operating at full capacity is unsustainable in the long run as it brings excessive negative effects like inflationary pressure to the economy.

Although students are not economies, this analogy still applies; you cannot always go all out on studying. While this certainly shows discipline, it cannot be sustained due to excessive negative emotions and would ultimately lead to burnout, sending you into a deep rut that’s going to take weeks if not months recover from.

Like all things in life, there needs to be balance. In the case of studying consistently and living a normal life, this involves a mix of discipline and rest. All humans can only stay concentrated on a task for so long. When you’re deep into a study session and feel like concentration is beginning to break, it is no good to continue pushing forward and have a sub-par study session. To get the most out of studying it should be stressed that breaks are important as it gives your brain time to reset and settle back into the flow.

A simple framework that can be followed to apply this principle is the Pomodoro technique, where an individual would spend 15-30 minutes (though you should find your own sweet spot) followed by a 5-minute interval to rest and reset. To take the idea of resting even further, you could also schedule times for the day to rest and relax (eg. scrolling through tik tok) so that the need for downtime doesn’t creep in during your study sessions.

The result is sustained discipline that will surely last you through the holidays and during exam season as you ace those papers.

2. Start your day with a win

If you have ever watched those productivity or motivational videos on Youtube before, chances are you have come across at least one video about waking up at 4am or 5am and how it changes lives. There’s nothing special about the water you drink, the food you eat or the air you breathe at those hours, yet so many people preach it like some magical medicine to the problems in your life. The truth is, waking up early is nothing special, but the benefits that people talk about stem from starting the day winning.

There is nothing more empowering than starting the day by completing a difficult task. It gives a sense of accomplishment to know you have gotten something painful out of the way and that you no longer have to dread it for the rest of the day. As a result, you would generate the momentum that powers you through the day, making your other tasks feel easier relative to your “win”, making the disciplined route far simpler to follow.

In applying this principle to your own life, you don’t have to limit the way you “win” to waking up early. It does not have to be a big action like going out for a run and can be something as simple as completing a set of push-ups or making your bed. The ultimate goal is to find a task that’s challenging – something you would not usually do so that completing this task empowers you with intention and deliberation.

3. Motivation is a lie, just do it

While motivation is not exactly non-existent, it is most certainly the worst catalyst for taking action. Why? Because it comes and goes, it’s simply ineffective in keeping you going in the long run.

No one is going to be permanently motivated, especially when it comes to doing what they do not want to do. Just ask former boxing heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson.

“No one wants to get up at four and run when it’s pitch dark but it has to be done.”

-Mike Tyson

Think back to any time somebody submitted work last minute. In most instances, they put it off until the deadline approached. These people were not motivated and waited for the fear of getting into trouble as an external motivator to power through the workload.

Do not fall into the same trap that motivation will come eventually. Stray from saying you will do it tomorrow when you feel more motivated, or that you will do it when your clock’s time is even. Take action in the moment and start working. You will not learn any less by starting earlier.

Best of luck to all the students who are taking the Cambridge exams this year. You have been pouring in your efforts all year and now it is time for the final push. So do the hard stuff, especially when you don’t feel like it.

September 26th, 2023
Written by Aaron Huang, edited by Emma Li

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