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How and why to make a plan

This video explains why it is helpful to make a long term study plan, and gives you a step-by-step approach on how to make such a plan.
In this video, we’ll explain how a good plan can help you put an end to your procrastinating ways. And how to come up with such a plan. We humans have a bit of animal instinct in us. Take this lion, for example. He has just eaten and is snoozing under a tree. And then a limping antelope passes by. It walks very slowly, getting closer and closer to the lion. Easy prey. But what does the lion do? He just lies there. His stomach is full, so he doesn’t really feel like eating. It would be a great idea for the lion to catch the prey now so that he already has something to eat the next time he’s hungry.
But the lion only cares about what he wants now. He’s not thinking about the future. We humans should know better than the lion. Present pain for future gain. But unfortunately, we still have a bit of this lion in us too. Something that’s far away often seems relatively unimportant. Former researcher and student coach Henri Schouwenburg has studied this phenomenon. It even has its own special curve, the so-called discount curve. Time is on the horizontal axis and perceived importance is on the vertical axis. You can see that the exam, as long as it is far enough in the future, doesn’t seem all that important at the moment.
That’s not a bad thing as such, but this curve can be applied to all other activities as well. Look, this is just an average party. Because it has ended up lower on the importance scale. But thanks to the curve, just before the party is about to take place, it seems that it is more important than the exam, which means that there’s a good chance you’ll end up going. And since our lives are full of all kinds of short-term temptations and activities, this pattern can continue like this and ruin an entire study period. So what could you do to break this pattern? Setting short-term goals that have a better chance of competing against other short-term activities.
Imagine you want to watch a series. That’s much more fun than studying for an exam that is still so far away. But now you have set yourself a short-term goal. For example, you want to read pages 220 to 240 of a book that afternoon. That’s a concrete plan. It still might be difficult to sit down and study, but chances are that you’ll be motivated to get through the 20 pages before you start watching that series. Now let’s have a go at making your own plan. What do you need to do? Firstly, you have to work out how much you will need to do to prepare for your exam.
Make a note of everything– the number of pages in your study books, readers, and articles, exercises that you have to complete, reports that you have to write, and PowerPoints that you want to look through before or after your lecture. You can use this form to help you, which is available as an attachment to this video. Then you need to look up when you have exams and other deadlines. Write this down in such a way that you can clearly see how many weeks or days there are until the exams. Then you divide all your study material over the number of weeks you have before your exam. From now until your exams, write down what you want to study in each week.
Also try to divide your writing assignments into weekly tasks. Don’t forget to add a revision to your week. Try to get through all the material a few days before the exam so you have a buffer. The next step, for each week write down all the other things you have to do besides studying. Are there weeks in which you have a lot of appointments or another important deadline? Or are you going away for a few days? Then shift study-related activities from those weeks to relatively quieter weeks. Depending on what you’re studying and your personal situation, this can be quite easy to do or a puzzle in itself.
Finally, check whether the amount of work you’ve allocated to each week is actually doable. If you get your plan right, you will think, “Yes, I can do this!” Now you have a plan of what you want to study each week. This gives you a better overview, which will help you to tame your inner lion.

We all have a little bit of an animal instinct in us. If something is not needed right now, we tend to procrastinate.

When you have a party and end up sacrificing study-time, there are usually good reasons to do so: socializing and time for yourself is important. However, it becomes a problem when study-time always comes second. This video helps you to prioritize the things that you need to do by making a long term plan. This way you can do the hard work first and then reward yourself with the things you enjoy or that you find relaxing!

Parts of this video:

0:00 to 2:49: Why to make a plan

2:50 to 4:49: How to make a plan (actual instruction)

Please share with the other learners:

  • Are you used to making study plans?

  • Which elements should be included in a plan to be helpful to you?

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