I came across this post on Less Wrong, presenting some techniques to aid productivity. I thought this might be appropriate in preparation for the upcoming school start, and would like to give my personal account on what has helped me achieve better results on standard skill assessment (of which my disapproval is another discussion).
edit: that school start of mine is no longer as ”upcoming” as it was at the moment of writing, unfortunately.
Note it, but let it pass
the only point in the above link that i disagree with is the first one; tending to a task that randomly floats through your consciousness, unless you’re certain it’s more urgent, don’t seem like a good way to increase productivity. Rather, it seems like an unnecessary loss of focus, and it might be more difficult going back to the current task after switching. So, what i tend to do is either just ignore the mental distractions (if i can) or write it down somewhere, and judge it’s importance later when seeing the note. I find that thoughts of what you ”have to do” are often not very well-formed, or at least their urgency is unclear when first coming to mind.
Reference person / competition / surveillance (o_o)
Being in the presence of someone else who is also studying preferably someone introverted whom you can discuss work-related problems with but not irrelevant topics. Just the feeling of being observed may create pressure and have a de-motivational effect on some, but provided you feel relatively comfortable around them and trust that person, it may give further dedication to be at least as productive as you perceive them to be.
Now this may be an obvious one, but i find it harder to implement than it first seems. Finding a place where objects around you don’t seem to scream out their possibilities at you can be hard, let alone the addictive appeal of scrolling down message or image boards online.
So, where to go?
I think it’s a really individual question of preference, but a worthwhile investment to take some time to think about, and try out different locations. When finding something that suits you, it could become a regular spot, not needing much deliberation prior to getting there. Perhaps a local library or café. If bringing your laptop, however, and they have internet connection, you may want to block irrelevant sites. This can easily be done with apps like these.
Matching task and effort
I think this is one of the hardest, but most helpful ways of maximizing productivity. The difficulty lies in estimating your current level of attention, motivation, and the cognitive investment you’re willing to put on a certain task. It may just be a lack of self-knowledge on my part, but sometimes i find myself more able to focus than i first thought, other times, just burned out after a few pages in a text-book. Find the internal cues indicating this level of potential cognitive investment and effort, and try different tasks to see which is best suited. Learn to recognize the feeling, and choose similar amounts of effort-requiring tasks when it returns. Sometimes the failure to make a task align well with your current state of mind could also be due to the body needing maintenance, rest, or the mind some variety in stimuli. So learning to read internal signals is vital.