Getting good ATAR results isn’t something impossible.
I once heard someone say “Goals – like New Year’s resolutions – are made to be broken.”
In a way, it’s true. So many people fail at reaching their goals.
Many of us don’t have that much success in goal fulfillment.
You may start gaining some headway with your studies, starting a healthy lifestyle by eating more veggies, waking up earlier, etc. – only to flounder after just two or three days.
So, how do you maintain consistent progress on your goals in order to fulfill them? How do you get over your tendency to break any goal you start on?
Making consistent progress on your goals, in this case, getting good ATAR results, depends upon three things, which I will discuss in three sections.
These three things are:
1) Tinkering with Activation Energy
2) Creating a Plan of Action
3) Dealing with the Boredom and/or Frustration
Tinkering with Activation Energy in order to have good ATAR results
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Shawn Achor have written and talked at length about activation energy and the 20-second rule that governs it. Activation energy is the barrier that you need to overcome if you want to start a task. The problem with activation energy is that you need to start tasks within 20 seconds or less in order to fulfill them consistently. If it takes you more than 20 seconds to start on a task, the more activation energy you will need.
Simply put, to overcome the barrier set by activation energy, you need to make things easier for you to start tasks.
Think of it this way.
It is human nature to want to do tasks at a more comfortable and convenient pace. To lower activation energy, you just need to make it easy for you to start doing certain tasks.
Let me give you an example based on the personal experience of a close friend.
Now, this friend dreaded math.
Just thinking about all those equations he needed to solve in his homework and especially in school on the blackboard made him break out in a cold sweat.
At home, he would rather play video games than have to deal with math.
When he learned about activation energy, he wondered how he could apply the 20-second rule in his situation? He set the goal for himself to solve five math problems per day.
In order to do this, he started putting pad papers with one math problem on each in every part of the house, including the toilet. He always made sure that he had a pencil in his pocket.
Once he saw that piece of paper, he would sit down and solve the problem. When his Mom complained about the mess he was making (too many crumpled paper balls), he asked his teacher for advice, who not only recommended a math practice book for him to use (she would check his answer in school later), she also advised him to answer the problems in math websites like Math.com and iPracticeMath on his laptop.
Needless to say, all of these math exercises not only helped him to overcome his fear of math, he started getting good grades.
Now, you can also use the 20-second rule to get rid of certain habits by increasing activation energy.
Using the example of my friend above, since video games and/or his guitar distracted him from his studies, he asked his parents to keep these items in their room and not let him have them until he’s done.
Since books also tended to distract him, he kept his favorite novels on the shelf with the fore edge (that’s the side with the pages) facing forward and the spine (with the title on it) at the back. With his textbooks, the spine was always facing forward.
This way, it took him a much longer time (more than 20 seconds to be exact!) to find the book he wanted to read so that he picked up his textbook instead.
Creating a Plan of Action
The first and most important application of the 20-second rule is through the creation of a plan of action, NOT starting on a goal right away. If you start on your goals without thinking over the steps to fulfill AND maintain them, you will lose interest and, worse, not succeed.
Let’s focus on the goal of improving your overall grades in school. Here’s what I do:
1) Using Evernote or other scheduling apps on my laptop, I create a base template of activities that I will do during the week. In this case, my school syllabus is my best friend. I know what lessons are scheduled for the week.
Every week, aside from putting my class schedule on my template, I set times for studying in the library. If I have a long lunch break or a free hour or two, I allot these for review of the lessons learned in the previous classes or reading in advance for the next classes.
2) Always prepare all the things that you will need for school the night before. After studying, instead of leaving your books, notebooks, laptop, and other school supplies on your desk, pack them up inside your bag.
Even if you find yourself oversleeping, all you’ll just need to do is grab your bag and head off to school without any worries of having left something behind.
3) Don’t overload your sked with purely academics. Allot time for some rest and recreation at home or with friends. You don’t need to put this in your schedule, but if you feel tired in between classes or studies, take short breaks.
Dealing with Boredom and/or Frustration
Boredom and frustration can prevent your progress on your goals.
Boredom makes you feel exhausted with your established routine so you look for some variety to break the monotony.
On the other hand, inability to progress or meet your goals makes you angry and frustrated. Your tendency then is to abandon your goal rather than pursue it any further for fear of failure.
If you want to beat boredom while studying, prioritize challenging subjects when you are fully awake and active (usually early in the day).
Increase your attentiveness by drawing doodles or doing sketchnotes. Set a time in your schedule for exercise to improve alertness, motivation, and concentration.
If you feel sleepy, steal short naps of 30 to 40 minutes duration. Eat a healthy diet of foods with low Glycemic Index – like oats, yogurt, seeds, salads, and whole grain. These will provide you with energy for a longer, sustained period.
Dealing with frustration is trickier.
Unlike boredom, frustration is accompanied by negative emotions, including failure, causing you to abandon your goal despite having made significant progress on it.
If you want to maintain consistent progress on your goals, here are some tips to deal with frustration:
1) Don’t expect to follow your plans and/or schedule to the letter.
Certain things will happen that are beyond your control. If you are prevented from fulfilling your task, just push it down a little later in your sked.
2) Don’t be too focused on ATAR results.
If you don’t get the results you desire, figure out where you went wrong and start over. On the other hand, if the results are too slow to come, don’t stress yourself over it or worse force your desired results to speed up.
This will only lead to greater frustration.
3) If you are getting frustrated with what you are studying at that moment, take a short break.
The change will relax your mind so that you will be less stressed when you go back to the lesson that’s giving you problems.
4) If the negative emotions are overwhelming you, burn it off by taking a short walk to clear your head.
You can also just sit back in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths to calm you down.
5) Reward yourself, even with little accomplishments.
You don’t have to splurge at the mall. Simple rewards after finishing homework or a school project may include eating a favorite chocolate bar or watching a movie.
Always remember that you can maintain consistent progress, no matter what difficulties you may come across.
Just focus on your goal and remind yourself of these things. You’ll be surprised by your ATAR results!