How do top students study?

To be #successful use #willpower not only to push yourself to do work but to #develop habits and systems that will function well even when your will power declines

Answer by Vivek Viswanathan:

There are so many good strategies on this page.

If there is a single take-away that I think students should remember, it is that while willpower and determination are very important — As Julius Erving once put it: "Being a professional means doing the things you love to do on the days you don't want to do them" — the best students go further.

They use willpower not only to push themselves to do their work but to develop habits and systems that will function well even when their willpower declines, as it always will.

I remember reading a wonderful book by Cal Newport (Ben Leong linked to a post of his as well) in which Newport asked top students how they managed to defeat procrastination. Every single one responded that they didn't. No one, no matter how motivated, is immune from the impulse to be unproductive.

But instead of relying on a familiar cycle of exhortation and then disappointment ("Tomorrow I will wake up early!"), the best students hold to a set of practices that become progressively easier over time.

Here are four of the best sources I have found for establishing such systems:

  • How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport
  • The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

And if you have a free hour, I would highly recommend Randy Pausch's very practical, and very moving, lecture on time management:

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How do top students study?

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