Three step study guide | Keeping yourself on the clock

High school is a busy time, full of competing priorities.

From hanging out with your friends, to participating in sport, to catching up on the latest TV shows, to absorbing new material in class, let alone all the other activities you are involved in, it can be hard to fit everything into your busy schedule!

Of course, school is also about studying hard, doing the best you can, and preparing yourself for life after school. For those seeking to pursue higher education, and even for those who aren’t, academic performance is a key aspect of school life; many would say it is the key aspect.

Homework time, particularly, is a time for you to get your assignments done, check your understanding of the concepts you learnt in class, and study for upcoming assessment. Barring some of the prodigies that we all know and envy, homework time is fundamental for your academic performance and doing it right makes all the difference.

When I was in high school, I sometimes found it hard to remain focused and productive during what were sometimes long and difficult stretches tackling complex problems in my school work. From differentiating challenging equations, to understanding difficult physics derivations, to crafting an eloquent English essay, homework can be tough!

My top tip for staying focused and productive during these sessions is to make yourself accountable and keep yourself on the clock. Just like in the working world, where you are accountable to your manager for the work you produce, make yourself accountable to you.

My three step guide for keeping yourself on the clock:

Step one: for seven days, record the exact amount of time you spend (productively) doing homework. This means, you write down the time you begin your session of memorising chemistry formulas and, as soon as you open Facebook, you write down the time you stop working. Repeat this process and don’t cheat! You might surprise yourself how often you break away from your work, but be disciplined and truthful in writing down your times – this will form your baseline.

Step two: determine, in minutes, how long you spent productively doing homework and decide if this is enough. The number will be different for everyone as we all have different abilities and goals. Perhaps seek guidance from your parents and teachers on a realistic goal that will produce results for you. The main aim is to improve the amount of time you spend working and reduce your wasted time. Set a goal and increase it a little bit every week or so and you will see benefits in your academic results. By keeping yourself disciplined, you will open up more free time for yourself to pursue other activities also!

Step three: continue to monitor your homework time by keeping yourself on the clock. Do not cheat or exaggerate your times, just like an athlete, you will only be cheating yourself. You will surprise yourself and notice that just by being on the clock you stay more diligent in your task. Remember though, even the greatest athletes need to work up to their elite levels and even at that level need to have breaks, so don’t go overboard, you might burnout.

I was taught this method by my physics teacher in high school and it is a method that I used right through until university. It is up to you if you use it constantly or just on an ad hoc basis to check yourself. Chiefly, this method is an effective evidence-based approach to keeping yourself accountable to you and I highly recommend it.


So how do you go about your study? Have any tips to recommend? Comment them below!

Good luck with all your studies,


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Student Advice Study Tips Tom Gerrits

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