Continuing from my previous post, let me elaborate on the methods that I have prescribed to the students am mentoring based on my learnings from various sources and personal experience. It is built around the framework of Identify the long term goal, building a plan for mid to long term and splitting it into daily activities. Let me start in reverse order.

Proper Scheduling of the day

Researches have highlighted that more than 2/3rds of students and working professionals start their day without a time table or a daily schedule which is alarming. I once heard from my boss, “Things that get written are the things that get done” (I am sure he too heard it somewhere else 😊). The first habit that I wanted to impart in the students was understanding what they are going to do with their time.

There is no better way to start your day than to visualize how you plan to go through it.

For the first 2 weeks, I used to make a time table and share with them. Slowly they got used to the habit of time boxing and being prepared to monitor their progress against the clock. No matter how fundamental and simple it may sound, if we have not planned and if we are not mindful, pockets of 30 minutes just slip away without us even noticing it.

Once they got used to the concept of scheduling the day carefully, I asked them to make it on their own. For first few days it took them sometime, but the delay was worth as it helped them in visualizing how they would want to spend the day. It helps them to learn the art of prioritizing. The topics that need attention get more time  was the mantra they were asked to follow.

Few tips

  1. Put the time table on the wall or desk, it acts as a good visual reminder.
  2. Remember the principle of “Eat that Frog First”. If there is any subject or topic that you observe student avoids or runs away from, then add it as the first thing in the day.
  3. Generally, an ideal time table should have 2 or 3 slots of 1.5 hours dedicated to a single subject. That allows them enough time to get into the details and sometimes even into a “state of flow” (If you are not familiar about “State of flow” then you can read the book Deep work by Cal Newport).
  4. If 1.5 hours is too long for students who are used to distraction then they can use the pomodoro technique to split the 1.5 hours “super slot”.
  5. Making the time table is not even half the job, the important part is sticking to what is put on the wall. Parents/ guardians may need to provide recurring reminder for initial few weeks to ask kids to follow the day’s routine but over a period of time it will become their second nature.
  6. Needless to say, include some play time. Eventually everybody needs some release mechanism.
  7. Don’t miss to provide a slot for afternoon siesta, it helps them recharge for second half of the day.

Building daily discipline in longer run

Most of you might have read or heard about the “Don’t break the chain” method/trick attributed to Jerry Seinfeld. In my experience, the amount of motivation this trick gives in sticking to one’s daily discipline is extraordinary. What I did is, from the time table I shortlisted 6 key activities that cannot be missed by the students over a period of next 40 days. I tabulated the activities in one column and then put the dates for next 40 days in the subsequent columns. The students were expected to daily put a cross mark against each item once it is done.

Again, I put the table on the wall. Visualizing the end goal of 40 crosses against each item acted as a key motivation. Ofcourse there were some rewards planned. The anxiety of not missing a cross (and eventually missing out on reward) helps in maintaining the chain and in turn helps in building the discipline of performing those shortlisted key activities.

Setting SMART goals for mid and long term

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Again, most of you might have come across and even used these techniques as part of your professional lives.

The biggest challenge in our case was defining a “Realistic goal” at the end of 3 months. Both the grade 10 students had hardly put any effort in academics over the last 3 years. The basics in most of the subjects were missing. So, there was some catching up required. I was tempted to go buy the timelines and improvement regime that I was used to as a student but I soon realized it would only burn them out.

The key was baselining their current levels, understanding their capacity to put an effort and then assigning a stretch goal.

In the next article I will elaborate on those key activities that I had identified for their mental development which were meant to complement their academic pursuits to achieve better results.

Have a Nice Day

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