Did you bomb at school because you danced the boogie-woogie? Camped instead of crammed? And sipped lattes instead of studied periodic tables? And, why not? After all, top students can squeeze in fun.
Sadly, I squeezed in too much fun. But not during my undergrad. During my undergrad, I took three measly classes a semester. I spent six days a week studying two math classes, one day on a fluff class. Needless to say, I scored perfect marks on most math exams.
Like me, a wrestler friend of mine took three classes. She aimed to go to the Olympics, or at least contend in the World Championship. I only aimed to get a PhD.
So, I studied ten hours daily, usually from 2 to midnight. I might’ve taken a fourth or fifth class. If so, I would’ve squeezed in an extra twenty-hours a week for studies. But I settled with three classes—and graduated with a near-perfect GPA.
Despite my skimpy course load, I got accepted into grad school. Now in the master’s program, I studied full-time while exercising like a fanatic. Five hours a day! I cycled, weightlifted, danced, and boxed. During dance and boxing classes, I memorized each move, mentally rehearsing until I found a studio to practice. I practiced moves for hours and did mental run-throughs in my spare time.
Boldly, I added more extracurriculars: part-time work, documentary filmmaking, singing lessons, and volunteering.
Eventually though, I was bogged down. I squeezed-in study-time during commutes, at family gatherings, on the stationary cycle—anywhere. A nursing-student told me that every time she went to the washroom, she’d force herself to read ten articles. (If she ate my healthy diet, she’d need no more than a minute for non-reading essentials.)
Yes, I squeezed in too much fun. Not surprisingly, my graduating GPA plunged below the 3.8 needed for entry into the PhD.
So, how do star students squeeze in fun?
Tony Roe reveals top students time-management in his book Effortless Learning: Learn the Secrets that Teachers Never Told You: Master Any Subject, Memorize More and Focus Fast.
- Star students take on extracurriculars, no sweat: “I was amazed by how some of the top students in the school could study so well and yet have time to pick up playing instruments, and hold important positions in their CCA or in the school” (location 1809 of 2224, 81%).
- So, how do star students succeed? “Top students plan and organize their time very well, while the weak students are those who don’t plan and organize their time well” (location 1809, 81%).
- How do star students schedule time? Tony suggests that if you ask the top student how he plans his studies everyday, that student would tell you the specific things he is going to study each day. He would tell you how much of his time are [sic] allocated to his studies. Sometimes, he has even started on the homework that would be due next week(location 1822, 82%).
- How else do star students schedule? Top students “require … 3 items. A term calendar, 2. Weekly planner, 3. Daily to-do list” (location 1914, 86%).
- And star students study ahead: “Use free periods to finish up all the tutorials that have NOT been taught” (location 1932, 87%). Star students also “read up on next day lessons before going to bed” (location 1950, 88%).
- And top students do daily recall according to Tony. He notes that after reaching home and settling down, top students will spend 15–30 minutes to recall what the teachers taught in the class (location 1932, 87%).
- The best students don’t waste time: “Wasting time is using more time than expected to do the necessary things like bathing, eating, resting and on many such activities” (location 1835, 83%).
- Poor students waste time: “Average people are dragged down by the daily routine of urgent but unimportant activities like watching television, playing computer games, and going out shopping” (location 1835, 83%).
One student said she watched Friends after school. Her grades plunged, and she considered quitting. I said, “Do you want Friends, or do you want a degree?” She cut out Friends and graduated. After all, success at school requires sacrifice.
But, I wish my prof told me about the GPA needed for PhD entry. If I had known, I might’ve dropped some of my own Friends: cycling, singing, and boogie-woogie.