A post-it note stuck to your desk. The reminder app on your phone. A neat list in black ink on your planner page. Waking up mentally running through your plan for the day.
Planning study time is a good habit, and helps to keep track of progress and avoid forgotten or neglected tasks, no matter the medium you use to jot it down.
Typically, there are two ways for you to measure the amount of work you get done, and often they are blended. They are the languages, or currencies, if you will, of what goes into your planner or agenda.
You can use time, and dish out checkpoints based on raw numbers: two hours of Math, half an hour of English catch-up work, et cetera.
The other way is to measure by tasks, which would look a little more like: submit paper, catch up on email, finish math assignment, and so on.
There’s a place for each of these, and the way we measure these tasks on a calendar or in a planner or even in our minds affects the way we work.
Measure by time
That said, measuring your studying by time works well when you have a lot of time and are working towards progress, not completion. Examples are usually repetitive tasks, including:
- Practicing flashcards
- Discussing a topic in preparation for an oral exam
- Early preparation (weeks ahead) for a midterm
- Editing a paper
These are things that you could do for a long time, theoretically for much longer than is needed to master the material
It’s a good idea to have an action verb next to your numbers, so you’d have something that looks more like:
25 minutes drill unit circle flashcards
15 minutes collect practice problems to do
Instead of just:
40 minutes math
This specificity and better visualization will urge you to use your time more efficiently. If you’re going to put in the time, you might as well spend it wisely.
Measure by specific tasks
On the other hand, measuring study or work by specific tasks should be reserved for the following instances:
- You have limited time or energy in your study session and need to crank some work out
- You are on a close deadline
- You are working on a variety of subjects in a given time frame
- You are producing or finishing things
It’s smart to begin with the easiest task. Crossing that off your list gets you started with a rush of dopamine. Soon you’ll find that you’ve conquered your list piece by piece, and hopefully cleared your mind with it, too.
The benefit of task-measured work is that it encourages you to find the most efficient way to complete the task, which is your end goal. Instead of shutting your book when the delegated time is up or dredging on for longer than you needed to, just to fulfill your time limit, you will have a short and sweet work session and a solid end result as a reward, be it a printed paper or a fully marked, completed math assignment.
Perhaps you’ll blend the two methods, and set goals in terms of time-bounded tasks or task-guided time limits. Keep in mind that prioritizing and setting realistic goals are important, no matter which of the two ways you choose to measure your work with; pick the most important/pressing tasks and set reasonable and realistic time limits.