how to manage your time effectively
What really separates the highly productive from the rest? Learn the differences between Classical and Modern students’ time management philosophies, and how you may be doing the opposite of what you should.

Table Of Contents

  1. Results vs. Process | Instead of focusing on completion, ask yourself how the task can be best completed.
  2. Study Session Length | Break study sessions up into chunks to maintain a high level of intensity.
  3. Study Location | Break free from self-imposed study location restrictions.
  4. Study Times | Study when you have the highest energy levels and you’re least likely to be distracted.
  5. Memorization Schedule | Expose yourself to the material multiple times over time in shorter bursts.
  6. Information Prioritization | Learn to ignore material you’ve already learned.
  7. Multi-tasking | Don’t. Actively prevent micro-distractions such as replying to a Facebook messages.
  8. Download This Article
  9. Comments

Hover over the to see a preview of each section.

Tap on the to see a preview of each section.

1. Results vs. Process

The fundamental difference between Classical and Modern Students is their focus on results vs. process. When Classical Students start studying, they set goals such as “I need to finish [task]” or “I need to memorize [thing]”, whereas Modern Students set goals such as “How do I maximize the next 15 minutes” or “What can I do to get the most done in the next 30 minutes.”

Here’s why this is important.

If a Classical Students take 1 hour to complete a task that realistically takes 15 minutes (because 45 minutes were spent watching cat videos), he would still regard the session as a success, because the task was ultimately completed. However, if a Modern Student takes 30 minutes to complete the same task, he would consider it a failure, because more than half of the time was wasted.

Furthermore, the Modern Student will be driven to identify what went wrong and apply the lesson to future sessions, resulting in a constant improvement in the process.

So, next time you start a study session, don’t list what you will do. Instead, ask yourself how much you can finish in that time, and how you will accomplish it.

2. Study Session Length

Modern Students often study in short bursts of intense focus, because they understand their ability to maintain focus deteriorates after ~30 minutes. By taking breaks between short and intense study sessions, they allow themselves to re-energize and process the information they learned subconsciously.

  Classical Modern
Description Studies in long sessions of one hour or more Studies in 20 to 30 minute bursts
Example
  • 60 minutes of studying
  • 10 minute break
  • 50 minutes of studying
  • Dinner
  • 30 minutes of preview
  • 10 minute break
  • 30 minute studying
  • Dinner
  • 25 minutes of studying
  • 5 minute break
  • 20 minutes of review
Classical
Description Studies in long sessions of one hour or more
Example
  • 60 minutes of studying
  • 10 minute break
  • 50 minutes of studying
  • Dinner
Modern
Description Studies in 20 to 30 minute bursts
Example
  • 30 minutes of preview
  • 10 minute break
  • 30 minute studying
  • Dinner
  • 25 minutes of studying
  • 5 minute break
  • 20 minutes of review

Both students spend 120 minutes total (including study + break time), but the Modern Student will have studied more intensively by breaking up his study sessions with short breaks.

Note: This doesn’t mean that Modern Students don’t do long sessions. In fact, they may do intense 4-hour long sessions without any breaks when they’re particularly engaged with their work. However, they’re much more sensitive to their ability to focus. Once they notice a decline in their focus, they won’t keep trying to study, because they know they’ll get more done by taking a break and coming back to it.

3. Study Location

Modern Students have a more open mind about when and where they can study. Classical Students only consider certain places appropriate for studying, restricting themselves from studying when the conditions are not met.

  Classical Modern
Description Studies exclusively in a few designated locations. Is comfortable studying in a wider range of locations and situations.
Example
  • Library
  • Cafe
  • Study room
  • Waiting in line
  • Between activities
  • Sitting in the car/bus/metro
  • While walking/driving/cooking (listening to podcasts)
Classical
Description Studies exclusively in a few designated locations.
Example
  • Library
  • Cafe
  • Study room
Modern
Description Is comfortable studying in a wider range of locations and situations.
Example
  • Waiting in line
  • Between activities
  • Sitting in the car/bas/metro
  • While walking/driving/cooking (listening to podcasts)

By being more open to studying between activities in unusual places, Modern Students allow themselves to space out their studying, which is a proven method of storing information in long-term memory. This also reduces the barriers to studying, making it more difficult to find excuses to avoid studying.

Portable Studying

If you don’t already use a cloud-based note or document application, start now! Microsoft One Note is my preferred note-taking application. Best of all, it’s free and can be synced between any laptop, cellphone and tablet. In this way, you don’t have to carry around your notebook and textbooks to study. You can do it anywhere and anytime you have your smartphone.

There are other many other ways to make your studying habits more portable.

  • Listen to podcasts onto your iPod or smartphone
  • Keep a cheat sheet of review notes in your wallet or pocket
  • Carry a copy of the key pages of your textbook in your wallet
  • Use the internet on your phone to do research on unanswered questions

4. Study Times

Highly productive people make sure to study and work during the most effective hours of the day. If you examine the work schedule of famous businessmen and academics, you’ll see a very high percentage wake up early in the morning and finish most of their work before lunch. This is because they realize that they can get more done in 1 hour in a high-energy state than 3 hours in a low-energy state. They also understand that certain periods of the day are high in stimulus and purposely avoid those times. For example, between 6 pm and 11 pm, your friends are more likely to be active on social media and may try to contact you and popular TV programs are likely to be showing.

  Classical Modern
Description Mostly studies in the evening. Often studies early in the morning, late at night and at odd times.
Example
  • After school
  • After games and TV
  • After other tasks are completed
  • After eating
  • Early in the morning
  • Before eating
  • Right after class
  • Before sleeping
Classical
Description Mostly studies in the evening.
Example
  • After school
  • After games and TV
  • After other tasks are completed
  • After eating
Modern
Description Often studies early in the morning, late at night and at odd times.
Example
  • Early in the morning
  • Before eating
  • Right after class
  • Before sleeping

This doesn’t mean that the best time to study for you is also early in the morning. It depends on your lifestyle, schedule and personality. Take a moment to think about when you have the most energy and you’re the least likely to get distracted. If you typically start studying after 6 hours of school, 2 hours of sports and 2 hours of video games, you are sabotaging your productivity.

Optimal Memorization Times

  • Early Morning – It is much easier to memorize things early in the morning, because your mind has not yet been burdened with all the information and stress you accumulate throughout the day.
  • Late at Night – Information obtained right before sleep is much more likely to be transferred into your long-term memory.
  • Right After Class – Reviewing the material that was covered shortly before solidifies the concepts in your mind. It’s also the best time to review since you don’t have to deal with re-learning things you might have forgotten if you delay it until later.

5. Memorization Schedule

Modern Students intuitively understand the Spacing Effect. That is, the proven concept that humans learn things more easily by studying them repeatedly over a long span of time, rather than studying them intensively over a short span of time.

  Classical Modern
Description Studies the material deeply once, then reviews the material when required (for an exam). Previews the material shallowly, then reviews the material periodically.
Example
  • Day 1: Studies a new chapter comprehensively and completes the end of chapter review questions – 90 minutes
  • Day 7: Reviews the chapter before the exam – 30 minutes
  • Day 1: Skims the chapter – 30 minutes
  • Day 3: Reviews chapter and completes chapter review questions – 60 minutes
  • Day 5: Reviews key points – 15 minutes
  • Day 7: Final review – 15 minutes
Classical
Description Studies the material deeply once, then reviews the material when required (for an exam).
Example
  • Day 1: Studies a new chapter comprehensively and completes the end of chapter review questions – 90 minutes
  • Day 7: Reviews the chapter before the exam – 30 minutes
Modern
Description Previews the material shallowly, then reviews the material periodically.
Example
  • Day 1: Skims the chapter – 30 minutes
  • Day 3: Reviews chapter and completes chapter review questions – 60 minutes
  • Day 5: Reviews key points – 15 minutes
  • Day 7: Final review – 15 minutes

Both students will have spent 120 minutes studying over the course of 7 days, but the Modern Student will have a much better understanding of the material at the end of the 7 days.

6. Information Prioritization

Modern Students intuitively understand that it’s better to spend more time on difficult concepts instead of reviewing easy concepts. It may seem obvious, but actually ignoring information you don’t need to study is more difficult than it sounds.

  Classical Modern
Description Studies linearly Allocates time based on importance and efficacy
Example
  • Reviews material from beginning to end, in the order it’s written
  • Skips questions or sections that are already well known
  • Identifies problem areas and spends extra time reviewing them
Classical
Description Studies linearly
Example
  • Reviews material from beginning to end, in the order it’s written
Modern
Description Allocates time based on importance and efficacy
Example
  • Skips questions or sections that are already well known
  • Identifies problem areas and spends extra time reviewing them

Review for a Test

Lets say you want to review the course material for a test. A Classical Student will go through all their notes, from beginning to end. However, a Modern Student may skip half of the question, because they’re too easy to waste time on, then will spend the remaining focusing exclusively on the most difficult and important questions.

7. Multi-Tasking

Modern Students are mono-taskers. That is, they don’t multi-task when they study, because they know it dramatically reduces productivity and memory retention. In fact, they actively prevent micro-distractions (e.g. a Facebook message) by taking measures as drastic as temporarily blocking distracting websites.

  Classical Modern
Description Switches between tasks frequently Only works on a single activity at a time, without the distraction of other things
Example
  • Studies for 10 minutes
  • Checks Facebook for 5 minutes
  • Studies for 10 minutes
  • Checks email for 5 minutes
  • Studies for 25 minutes without any distractions
Classical
Description Switches between tasks frequently
Example
  • Studies for 10 minutes
  • Checks Facebook for 5 minutes
  • Studies for 10 minutes
  • Checks email for 5 minutes
Modern
Description Only works on a single activity at a time, without the distraction of other things
Example
  • Studies for 25 minutes without any distractions

Here is a list of the main reasons why multi-tasking doesn’t work:

  • Concentration – You may believe you can do two things simultaneously just as well, but this is a myth. Most people think they can text and drive safely, but statistically texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving.
  • Set-up cost – Every time you switch, you have to set yourself up again for that activity (e.g. find your place in the book and recall what you just learned)
  • Momentum – By abruptly switching, you lose your train of thought and any momentum you may have built up
  • Speed – Your ability to process important information is reduced by constant interruption
  • Stress – Having multiple things on your mind at the same time leads to a sense of uneasiness

Download This Article

[sociallocker id=”1169″]

Click here to download the free PDF version of this article.

Copyright

Please note that all contents of HACK MY STUDY are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. This means that you are allowed to share and modify this file for educational and personal uses, as long as you include appropriate credit to HACK MY STUDY as the original source. It cannot be used for commercial (i.e. for profit) purposes.[/sociallocker]

Learn More

Choose another study skill to improve below, or check out the latest study skills, productivity hacks and study tips & resources articles.

To keep updated on the newest articles and receive exclusive content, to the newsletter or follow me on Facebook. [jetpack-related-posts]

Upgrade Your Abilities

More study hacks & learning techniques and exclusive content, straight to your inbox.