Work Smarter, Not Harder
Thanks for tuning in to Part Two of our 2023 edition of How to Succeed in College. Last time, we talked about how to develop a success-based mindset. Today, we’re talking about working smarter, not harder, so you can get the most out of college life.
Contrary to popular belief, the most successful college students don’t spend the most time studying. They don’t always start early or balance running student government with a full-time job and a full course load because they have a secret time machine. They work smart, not hard, to achieve their goals. This doesn’t mean taking shortcuts or not putting in effort. Instead, it’s about being strategic with your time and energy, and focusing on the things that will truly make a difference in your academic success.
If you work smarter, not harder, you will probably be a more successful college student. That doesn’t mean you should take shortcuts, or decide that you just didn’t work “smart” enough and that was why something didn’t turn out.
Do what you can to work intelligently and efficiently. Automate whatever you can, especially things like reminders and scheduling. Consider learning some basic coding to automate “the boring stuff,” or explore productivity apps to develop a workflow that meets your needs. Above all, remember the Pareto Principle and use it to make decisions about time management.
The Pareto Principle is the idea that things work in an 80/20 ratio: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Focus 80% of your energy on the 20% of things that are the most important. Examples: If you’re not great at note taking, see if you can record a class lecture, then use software to transcribe it; then, identify the most important points based on slides or even with AI.
Additionally, rather than wasting time on tedious tasks like essay formatting or citing sources, use templates and formatting tools to save time and energy, or use an essay writing service if you are short on time. This will allow you to focus more on the substance of your work, and you can use the time you save for other important tasks.
Some college classes may seem frustrating and pointless; the very epitome of a requirement to check off just so you can say you got a college degree. Allocate 20% of your time to the tasks that are less important, and challenge yourself to find value in them anyway. While it’s not always possible to automate or streamline everything, it’s important to allocate at least some of your time to less important tasks. Challenge yourself to find value in them and make the most of the time and energy you do put into them. And it is OK to miss classes once in a while, especially if the trade-off is putting time into studying for a more challenging course or working on a long paper.
You can set yourself up for college success by being strategic with your time and energy, automating tasks whenever possible, remembering the Pareto Principle, and finding value in even the less important tasks.
In Part One, we discussed how a success mindset can help you achieve success; today we’ve discussed the role of working efficiently to optimize college life. But none of that matters unless you’re well enough to benefit from going to class. That’s why Part Three will focus on wellness.