“Smart Hard Work”

“Smart Hard Work”

Are there different kinds of hard work?

Have you ever worked hard on a project and then felt as if you had accomplished nothing? You thought that the paper you submitted would result in a good grade but it didn't and now, you are frustrated and confused. This scene is repeated every day by hundreds of students who have the same confusion.

Confusing definitions

We often hear sayings like, "Work hard enough and you will succeed" or "No one ever got anywhere without working hard." There is truth in all of these sayings but what is sometimes overlooked or misunderstood is the need for a plan to do the hard work.

Do you have the right perspective?

Having the right perspective in any undertaking is a crucial first step to success. What is your perspective about your education? Do you want to just get it done so you can get an 'A' or do you want to learn about the subject (and in the process, get an 'A')? This is something to consider as you start your education. Do you see this as your current profession or as something that must be tolerated to start a career? Your perceptions about your education can have a tremendous impact later in life. How well you do will to some extent, determine your future opportunities.

How can I enjoy my college years and still learn what I need to learn?

Whether we believe there are enough hours in the day or not, we have what we have and must make the best of it. Successful students at all levels find a way to have both so how do they do it?

Hard work is still the key to success but adding smart work to it will take you to a new level of success.

If you commit to working hard in your learning experience, why not do a few things to make that hard work become smart work? Does this mean that you no longer must work hard? NO! It does mean that you can focus your efforts and get more out of your hard work.

Smart work adds the dimensions of thought and planning to what you are now doing. The remainder of this post will focus on those simple things that you can do to work hard and smart.

Use your time wisely

Most of us eat three meals a day, at certain times. We usually get up at certain times, go to class at certain times, and so on. We schedule important things. Do you schedule your study time? If it is really important, you do.

Almost every university uses a 1:2 ratio to determine a full academic load. One hour in class should take a minimum of two hours preparation. That means that a student enrolled for 15 semester hours is committing to spending a minimum of 45 hours per week attending class and preparing for the classes. How that time is spent depends upon the assignments but regardless of the academic activity, the time spent will be more effective if certain steps are taken.

Identify the type of assignment

Different types of assignments will require different amounts of time. Try to estimate the amount of time needed for completing a given type of assignment by looking back at previous similar assignments. Knowing how much time is required to complete a given task is a key to success in any business. Consider recording all the time it takes for you to complete an assignment and then use that as a guide for planning future assignments. For example, writing a 5-page reflection paper about the readings from the previous week might take less time than writing a 5-page report about an assigned topic, the latter requiring additional research.

Do you isolate yourself from distractions such as email, cell phone calls and texts, and interruptions by others?

Completing an assignment is a holistic activity. We readily accept this notion as applied to sports activities, referred to as being in "the zone" or "flow" and we associate this concept with success. A player who is in the zone is intently focused on one thing that may last a few minutes or hours. Nothing else matters at the time. Do you want to spend less time working on an assignment? Would you like to go do something fun without feeling guilty about not completing your assignment? Get in the zone!

Okay, so I want to get in the zone and focus on my work. How do I do that?

Here are some steps to take if you really want to work smart.

-Have a designated amount of time to work and do not exceed it.

-Close your email app!

-Put your phone in airplane mode!

-Work somewhere comfortable and isolated from distractions.

-Work in 30-minute blocks with 5 minute breaks.

-When you are finished, reward yourself with something special.

Get Organized!!

Do you have an efficient filing system for articles, notes, writings, and other pertinent documents such as templates? It only takes a few minutes to create folders that can store all your research, notes, and writings. You do it one time and benefit from it as long as you have the folders. Dropbox or other online storage will synchronize your folders and files so that you can access them from any computer, smartphone, or tablet. The basic service is free and should be enough storage.

Instead of just saving a file using the default filename, take a minute to use the Save As feature and name the file. For example, instead of "My Paper," consider "Paper x date," where x is a number or identifier and date is the current date. You could also use the class id and date. This makes it easier to find the file you want and saves time. It also creates a series of revisions just in case you make changes and don’t like them

Get a checklist and follow it before submitting a paper.

I use checklists for almost everything and find that when I don't follow them, I usually overlook something that would have helped me avoid having to revise the work. Use a checklist that covers everything that should be done before submitting a paper. It only takes a few minutes at the beginning of the year to create a checklist and then you can use it on all your papers. Why would you invest thousands of dollars in a academic program and then submit work without completing a checklist?

What should be the minimum items on a checklist?

-Spelling and grammar checking

-Content does your paper include everything included in the assignment?

-Formatting APA or other style correct

-General structure

-Paper headings

-Page numbers

-Margins and spacing


Looking back over many years of education, I have seen lots of hard work and some smart hard work. I have also done both and fortunately, learned from the experiences. Take some time to think through the things in this post and if you are not already doing them, consider giving them a try!


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