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Is it really necessary to prioritise your work as a student? Don’t be silly—of course it certainly is!

After all, not all work has an equal impact on your life; look at the infamous 80/20 principle, for instance.

Why Is It Important to Prioritise Tasks?

The 80/20 rule suggests that—in almost every situation—20% of the possible work you can do will contribute to 80% of the success. Additionally, further ideas have sprung up, such as 5% of the work accounting for 50% of the outcome.

A diagram showing the 80-20 principle means you must prioritise your work as a student and use high-leverage tasks.
Do the least amount of work but maximise success with high-leverage tasks.

In short, though, here’s the key message: there are certain tasks that have significantly more impact.

So, if you can find those tasks and only spend your limited time on them, you’ll be unstoppable. This is because each minute of your day will be much more meaningful than if you committed to useless tasks.

Undoubtedly, this is an incredibly important concept to understand and use—especially with regard to your school life.

To demonstrate, you could apply this to your independent study and revision, albeit not homework and assignment as much. (For you see, homework and other assignments may require you use your time in a certain way, but not invariably.)

Stepping back a bit more, you could view your entire life as a list of both academic and personal work. In this case, you’re prioritising your work as a student as well as non-student.

Furthermore, what is your success—the idealised outcome? Is it academic, hence passing exams successfully? Or, rather, perhaps you’re thinking more about overall life success.

Regardless, the way to reach success is to prioritise your work both within and outside of academia.

Your Priorities as a Student

So, with that in mind, what should you prioritise as a student? As a general overview, here are a few activities you may be juggling with:

  • Homework assignments
  • Independent study and revision
  • Personal projects and hobbies
  • Health and fitness routines
  • Sleep

Firstly, I would like to clarify that sleep is paramount, thus nothing should surmount it.

My number one study tip: How to Sleep Easily for More Happiness and Better Focus

Secondly, physical exercise is equally critical for a successful life as a student. Therefore, arrange plenty of that.

Thirdly, you’ve got to strike a balance between your personal life and school activities. Equally, you can break down each task, such as revision, multiple ways.

For example, revision techniques can determine how you prioritise your studying. If studying multiple subjects, each subject may have distinct revision techniques that aren’t applicable to other subjects:

The factual nature of sciences is seldom studied similarly to English, which largely hinges on creativity; likewise, it’s no good revising mathematics (practical application of skill) like you would with history (knowledge-based).

Also, limitations in revision techniques may have nothing to do with the type of subject. Conversely, it could be an issue relating to the availability of study materials and resources.

Certain online learning platforms may cover one course but not another. The same might be said for study guides as well.

Should You Make Study Your Priority?

Since you’re a student, you probably want to excel in your subjects, especially in higher education.

Although, to what extent should you be prioritising school work?

Balancing school and personal life. Should you prioritise studying or not?
The money is your personal life whilst the potato is your school life.

That depends heavily on the utility of studying the course, in addition to the consequent outcome of doing so.

In short, there are two primary positive outcomes of studying a course in academia:

  • Firstly, you obtain knowledge relevant to the subject
  • Secondly, you earn a qualification with the sole purpose of helping you find a (good) job

How much do these two points of success matter to you? Think about the impact that doing well in school will have on your life, then ask whether it will be worth it.

For instance, I believe truly ambitious students should always prioritise their success over school success. What do I mean by that?

Recalling the 80/20 principle for a second, it’s probably that school isn’t in the 20% bringing 80% of results. This is because school is designed to get you a job, which has capped earnings.

On the other hand, I recommend prioritising alternative strategies such as building an online business or writing a book.

In this case, you might want to prioritise personal work over your studies.

However, perhaps learning certain skills will, in fact, enable you to do great things in life. Maybe you’re wanting to get into a top university, in which case immense academic success is essential.

Get on top of your life: How to Save Your Time: The Most Powerful Planning Routine

How Do You Prioritise School Work?

Remember: there’s no point striking academic success if that doesn’t result in life success. Therefore, you should prioritise your work as a student according to the 80/20 rule for maximum success.

If studying multiple subjects, perhaps there are a select few that are most important to you. If so, prioritise them.

But what are they? Using similar logic to the last section, you should be able to rank your subjects by importance.

To clarify, this is a measure of the positive impact studying the course will have on your life success: that 20% of knowledge that gives you 80% of success.

However, this is not entirely how to prioritise your studying; your priorities as a student involve other factors as well.

As a result, it isn’t necessarily true that the most important subjects should take up all of your time.

Study Efficiency Affects How You Should Prioritise Your Work as a Student

Graph showing your study efficiency is how much knowledge you gain per unit time revising.

Another factor to consider is the difficulty (or ease) of studying any given subject or topic. Needless to say, your easiest subjects should take a smaller chunk of your time compared to more difficult ones.

While difficulty can reflect how confident you are with a topic, it really means efficiency. That is to say, how much knowledge do you learn (or relearn) per minute of studying it? You may also take into account the value of that knowledge with regard to exams.

Consequently, the difficulty is affected by your revision resources. If you don’t have any effective study resources for a topic, your study efficiency is low. Likewise, it is lower when you have yet to create resources for a topic compared to topics for which you already have some.

How Do You Manage Your Time with Set Priorities?

To study wisely, use the following formula to help you prioritise your studies and manage your time effectively:

Relative time invested, t = relative difficulty × (relative importance of topic or subject + overall importance of academia)

The last variable acts as a baseline according to how much you value academic success, whereas the relative importance differs between subject/topic.

Use this to determine how to distribute your time between each point of study. So, once you’re happy with a number, t, for each subject/topic, proceed with this calculation:

Percentage of total revision time = (t of a subject or topic ÷ sum of all t values for all subjects) × 100

Now, you have a general idea as to how to manage your study time, though, follow it loosely. Above all, your performance in each subject and the rate of progress will change.

Moreover, your life has just gotten a whole lot easier, seeing that engaging in study is as easy as scheduling time for it.

As a result of tracking how much time you spend on each subject, you can determine which areas are lacking. In addition, noting how confident you feel in a particular area following each session will help this process.

Also, perhaps you might want to put time spent into a spreadsheet, where you can generate a pie chart. This will help you keep to the ideal time distributions.

Related goodness: Why Is Time Management Important for Students?

Dealing with Homework and Other Assignments

Pointing finger. Homework assignments mess with your priorities as a student.

While that’s all good for your personal revision, what about essential work forced upon you?

In this situation, you don’t really have a choice as to what you study nor how.

Therefore, an alternative strategy must be taken into full force!

Firstly, account for time spent on assignments in your revision programme.        Indeed, your independent revision should be treated separately from your assignments.

However, they may also bias your study by altering your study time distribution; this complicates your priorities as a student since you may spend too much time studying the wrong thing.

For instance, in secondary school, you might get excessive physics homework. But what if you find physics easy and other subjects surmount it in terms of importance?

Then, you might end up knowing physics inside-out, though, you fail to invest sufficient time revising other subjects.

So, in order to counteract this, I suggest that, to some extent, you treat time spent on homework as revision. In other words, for every 30 minutes completing physics homework, spend 20–30 minutes less revising it by other means.

Secondly, minimise the time spent on forceful work.      If you should rather be prioritising your efficient revision method, homework can be quite inefficient.

Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to be an imperfectionist: just do the minimum necessary work in the least amount of time. Of course, if something seems useful, spend some time understanding it.

Although, what we don’t want is too much time spent on homework hence not enough on revision.

How Can I Enjoy My Life While Studying?

In order to study sustainably and pass exams successfully, it is important to allocate time for enjoyment. Mental recovery.

However, you have to be clever to excel at exams whilst allowing your personal life to thrive. This is through the use of the aforementioned 80/20 principle.

So, your enjoyment relies on how well you can prioritise your school work as a student. (Equally, you may want to prioritise your personal activities of high impact.)

  • Find the 20% of things to study that causes 80% of results. To clarify, these are the things that you can’t survive an exam without—you can’t figure them out yourself.
  • Next, optimise your revision techniques for each topic for maximum efficiency.
  • Finally, use the aforementioned formulas to gain an understanding of how you should manage and prioritise your time.

Enjoy your life productively: Is It Possible for You to Be Productive All the Time? (Hint: Yes!)

Conclusion: Prioritise Your Life for Maximum Success

In conclusion, perhaps the trickiest bit of devising an effective study technique is managing your priorities as a student.

For instance, you have to balance priorities between school work and your personal life.

Additionally, you need to manage how you are going to prioritise your subjects.

Then the topics within those subjects.

Then the key parts to learn within those topics.

What’s more, these priorities depend on efficiency and availability of study resources, as well as subject importance and difficulty.

And, once you’ve set your priorities in life, you can manage your time accordingly for homework, revision, personal projects and more. In this way, in the future, the way you spend your time depends on the past—retrospective.

Book Recommendation of The Week

We’ve discussed the 80/20 principle a fair bit in today’s article, so it’s only fair to point out this book:

The 80-20 Principle by Richard Koch shows the importance of focusing on important tasks.

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less

Consume it in physical form or—for greater efficiency—on Audible at 3× listening speed!

Before buying that book, though, leave an answer for me in the comments:

How do you distribute your study time between different subjects/topics?

* * *

Questions? Thoughts? Suggestions? Please leave your ideas in the comments below!

Thank you for learning at Cryptic Butter!

How Should You Prioritise Your Work as a Student?
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How Should You Prioritise Your Work as a Student?
Are you overwhelmed with all of your study and revision? Then you should prioritise your work as a student who is driven to succeed in both life and exams. Learn the techniques to improve your prioritising skills here!
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Cryptic Butter
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Posted by Luis Thiam-Nye

If you want to learn how to use technology to increase your productivity, you should visit Cryptic Butter! I also have a GitHub project.

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