A 19 year old asked me, how can I start waking up earlier? (I wake up at 10 AM every morning he explained to me.) I told him that at 19 you need more sleep (8–9 hours a night) than a 70 year old (6–7 hours a night) so you have to respect your physical need for extra sleep. Also, your body tends to wake up at a certain time no matter what time you go to bed. My father used to get up at 6 AM to go to work five days a week, and on weekends, he would wake up at 6 AM too. For you, your body is used to getting up at 10 AM.
So you also have to respect the fact that your body holds onto these patterns of sleep and if you want to change them, you’ll have to do it gradually. You could try going to bed a half hour earlier every night for a week or even a month in order to get used to a new, slightly earlier, wake up time. Repeat this pattern of going to bed earlier and earlier until you get to where you want to be.
There a lot of famous people who attribute much of their success to the habit of getting up early (usually around 5 AM) from Ben Franklin to Richard Branson. It was Franklin who wrote the famous limerick: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. But it also helps to have something that you LOVE to do, to get you motivated to get up that early in the morning. For me, I LOVE to write. So I can’t wait to get up and spend a couple of hours writing first thing in the morning.
Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling self-help book, The Seven Habits of Effective People, wrote that finding uninterrupted blocks of time - where you can really focus on things that are important to you (like writing is for me) - is the key to success. Getting up at 5 AM almost guarantees that your first two hours of the day are going to be uninterrupted time. You can use that time for getting exercise, meditating, doing your homework, educating yourself, starting a business, or working on a long term project like writing a book. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to focus and concentrate first thing in the morning - after getting a good night’s sleep - once you get used to this schedule.
Covey also wrote about stealing minutes and hours from time-waster activities and shifting that time to doing things that are important to you. I accomplished this very simply when I realized how much time I was wasting watching TV: I decided I would turn the TV off at 9 PM and go to bed. (For you, time-waster activities could be any number of things from playing video games to spending time on social media to texting or talking on the phone.) You might decide that going to bed at 10 AM makes more sense for you or whatever time works to help you start waking up earlier.
On most nights I notice that I start yawning and feeling sleepy around 9 PM, and, in the old days, I would typically fight through that sleepy stage and stay up until around midnight when I started getting sleepy again. Now I don’t fight that first bout of sleepiness. Those first couple of yawns in the evening are always a signal that it’s time to turn off the TV and go to sleep. (Sure, every once in a while, I stay up late, but I don’t make a habit of it.)
As I said, I’m a writer, so what I do in the morning with my uninterrupted time is write. After I work for a couple of hours (I wrote this article from 5 AM - 7AM) I still have time to go to gym and get back well before a 9AM start for work. That trip to the gym helps set the stage for my body to be tired and in need of sleep when 9 PM rolls around again.
One last bit of advice: don’t drink coffee or caffeinated beverages after lunch time.
I write a blog about stress at my website www.StressStop.com. I’ve also written a book entitled STOP STRESS THIS MINUTE.
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Today’s guest post on homework is from Robbie Fluegge, a Harvard University sophomore.
We’ve all been there. It’s already late at night and you haven’t started your homework assignment that’s due tomorrow. Your friend said it took them a couple hours, but you’re not worried. You know that you can get it done. All that matters is that you finish it, right?
This is a mindset all too common among us students: thinking that the goal of homework is to just get it done as quickly as possible so that we can turn it in and get the points. But let’s take a step back for a second and try to think about why we’re actually doing homework in the first place. Is it supposed to be a mindless repetition of problems with no purpose other than to make your life miserable?
I think we can all agree that’s not the case. Homework is a learning device, just like lectures or office hours. It’s been given in order to help us better understand and apply the material we’ve been learning in class. I can guarantee that it was assigned because your professor actually thought it was important that you learn how to do these problems (remember, more homework assigned means more work for the teaching staff to grade it too). And trust me, you might be able to get through the year putting a minimal amount of effort into homework, but once that final comes around you better be ready to study until your brain falls out because you didn’t learn the material during the year.
“Sure,” you might say, “but homework is homework. How can I do it differently than I’m already doing it?” So here’s a couple of tips that I’ve learned for doing your homework the right way. And the beautiful thing is that if you really commit to it, it won’t take that much more time than you’re spending right now.
1. Start Early
Nobody learns very well when they’re exhausted. Try to at least start your homework before it gets dark. In fact, if you make a conscious effort to do this you’ll probably be more awake and more productive, so you may actually be able to cut down on the total number of hours you spend working.
2. Get rid of distractions
Silence your cell phone, close your Facebook tab, and go somewhere quiet. The more distractions there are, the less effectively you’re going to internalize whatever you’re trying to learn. Same as before, this can make homework take way less time!
3. Work it out
For math or science, don’t go straight to example problems or similar exercises on the internet. Copying and plugging in new numbers is NOT the same thing as doing it yourself. If you never practice figuring out a problem on your own, how can you expect to be able to do it on an exam? I can’t stress this enough. If you are really stuck, try to look up the concepts instead of problems.
4. Find the right study group…or not at all
Study groups are great. They let everybody learn from each other and tease out confusing concepts together. But if your study group is also your social hour, find another place to do homework. Friends can be the worst causes of procrastination, so realize when your group is not being productive and either steer it back on course or get out of there.
5. Take breaks
Not even the best students can focus for hours on end without breaking concentration. If your assignment is taking longer than an hour or so, give your brain a little 5 minute break every half hour to keep you sharp.
6. Review and reflect
Most importantly, you should spend a little bit of time reviewing what you did and reflecting on what you learned. If you did a lot of reading, try to summarize the main points in your head. If it was a problem set, think about what kinds of problems you learned how to do and how they relate to your current topic. Reflecting helps our brains process information and store it in long term memory. If you look back at your homework and realize that you couldn’t do it again without help, you did something wrong!
These tips don’t add a lot of time to your homework routine, but if you make them a habit you will see huge improvements in your grades and huge decreases in stress. Put in the work during homework, and when that final comes around you have nothing to worry about!
Robbie Fluegge is currently a sophomore studying Applied Mathematics at Harvard University, and has worked as a tutor and cancer lab assistant for several years. He also works as a management consultant for Argopoint LLC, a consulting firm based in Boston. He hopes that he can help his fellow students excel in their classes!
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