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How to become a hard worker

  1. Dec 9, 2008 #1
    I have resigned to make this the last in my series of question for the forums. I think it might end up being the most important one and hope others will find it useful.

    What are some tips, or pointers to resources for tackling a higher work load/ difficulty in classwork than you are used to? In my previous course work I have never had to work too hard to succeed but plan on taking much more challenging things now. What is the best way to create a framework to succeed? What tools to help you manage things did you employ as a student? Are their any good web resources on the subject besides the standard stuff you'll read from the like collegeboard, ei. go to all lectures and get 8 hours of sleep, blah blah blah. I already do that I want to go beyond to be a highly functioning and efficient. student. Also, are there any known methodologies that work well: such as GTD,etc.

    It has become immensely clear to me that the key to fulfilling my goals is learning to be a hard worker. I am trying to build an idea of exactly what that means and how I can enable myself to make the transition into that from where I am. I don't know if pure will alone is enough, I like to have a plan.

    Again, I will end my series of questions on the forums now as I have asked very many in a short period of time. I find your help irreplaceabley useful and look forward to all feedback.

    Thanks Physics Forums!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2008 #2
    Study things that interest you. You can only get to neverland if you find your happy thought.

    Have a positive attitude about your work.

    Exercise, eat well, and sleep.

    I'll say it again: sleep. It's a common practice amongst college students to stay up late and get up early to "get more work done." In my experience, this often ends up defeating its own purpose, and your health ends up suffering as a result.

    Hopefully helpful.
  4. Dec 9, 2008 #3
    I agree sleep is important but you don't need 8 hourse everyday if you catch my drift, lol
  5. Dec 9, 2008 #4
    Hard work will definitely get you a C, a B or maybe even an A if you're really a haus. Taking on college isn't about brute forcing everything, although it does require a lot of manual mental labor. Really what you need to do is work smart.

    First things: If it takes you 6 hours to do a homework assignment and even then you have minimal comprehension then you're not working efficiently at all.

    For me, I try to work smart. I realize that education rests in the understanding of concepts: so when presented with physics problems or science problems in general, I'll usually wikipedia the subject matter: read about the history/historical problems associated with said concept: understand how the scientist revealed the solution to said historical problems: relate the concepts to things I already know. Once you understand the concepts - and they are - really the most important thing you need to understand, then you can begin the next important phase of theorizing about the concept: usually I spend a good 30 or so minutes trying to think about what use said concept could have dealing with ____ or ____... so forth. Once I have the concept down, memorized - then I begin the homework sets, which are infinitely easier and actually build my confidence.

    Now obviously this can't be done with things like math. Math isn't really conceptually based, so you have to categorize the subjects in your class according to their "style" for instance, math "style" can only be learned via repetition of the problem, it's usually really horrible and difficult to remember since the solution is so isolated from everything else.

    A math class is easy, remembering the math after the class - not so much.

    But ya, when confronted with a math class, do the homework problems at least 3 times each - the "hard" work part of your question comes into play with math.

    Oh ya, about that: you asked how to get inspired to take on hard work? Well I can tell you what happened for me: Basically in high school I didn't care at all about grades: never studied, never worked etc. etc. then when I got into junior college I was faced with an obstacle of having to earn a certain GPA in order to get into my dream college: the goal was so apparent that instantly I began to equate all my work to achieving my goal. It sounds sort of cliche, but having a large goal certainly works for the motivation department: I got into my dream college after earning a 4.0 gpa, then I set a new goal of wanting to get into Medical School:

    Having achieved my goals you feel that immense sensation of satisfaction, and the strategic prize of having accomplished something worthy of respect. Think of what you're shooting for - is it a PhD in physics? Medical school? Prestigious college? These things ultimately work towards your motivation - so long as you keep things in moderation, otherwise they make you go crazy at fear of failure.

    Another thing is removal of distractions: I'm not saying get rid of your social life - I'm saying get rid of it until winter or summer break. Also throw away the video games, and keep the porn to an all time low. These things only distract you and ultimately erode the pleasure of learning.

    And learning is pleasure, think about all the material and skills you are learning, it makes the universe open to you, and the bank account as well - by learning things such as physics you are understanding secrets to the natural world that other people can only goggle at.

    Basically in order to be a hard worker when it comes to academics you have to set up a relationship between achieving knowledge and pleasure, for me this has been accomplished so much so that I don't even feel the need to play video games or watch T.V. I find much more pleasure in reading a biography of an old physicist such as Archimedes or doing practice problems with vectors etc.

    Also: class selection/professor selection is key to success or failure. More on that later.
  6. Dec 9, 2008 #5
    wow Eric great insight thanks so much!! more appreciated of course.
  7. Dec 9, 2008 #6
    No offense, but seriously? How do you work hard? I'm sure you know the answer: you forgo things you'd rather be doing (parties, games, what ever) in favour of things you should (school, work, or schoolwork).

    You must still do stuff you like doing (something to get school off your mind, i.e. playing some music, or yeah, video games and parties) otherwise you'll start going crazy. It's what I do to manage anyway.

    Really, the amount of work you put in has diminishing returns as t gets large (got three math exams in a row right now). As people above have said, working smart is the real trick. The first few hours you put in in a day will help you, but the other seven will help you either very little (not worth the time) or will end up harming you (see going crazy above). As a rule, I never cram into the night or review the day of an exam, nor, if I can help it, have an assignment unfinished the day before it's due. You must plan ahead, set either a written or mental schedule for the things you have to do, and reward yourself with things you like doing once you've accomplished the tasks at hand.

    And in coursework at least, being *good* at the subject will also help you. Simply because you will require less time to study and more time to clear your head. You can also use the extra time to concentrate on the more difficult classes.

    I've read several of your posts here, and it seems you're dead set on being a Physicist, but to be really honest, if you were dead set on being a physicist, you'd know what to do and wouldn't be asking us what to do: you have to work hard and make sacrifices. About the whole "innate" ability, well, of course there is. I'm sure you know people (I sure do), who try real hard at something, but still don't get it and most likely won't ever. That being said, it's even sadder if some does have the ability but does not try.
  8. Dec 9, 2008 #7
    Contact the professors that you will have in the spring and get info about what textbook you will be using. Buy the books before the fall semester is over (you can usually get cheap prices with other students selling their books off) and start working through the text over the winter break, and then in summer. You'll have a jump start come next semester. This works well for me.

    If possible, get rid of temptations. Do you really need cable television if you are going to have your nose planted in a book for a whole semester? This may be a little extreme for some, but you get the idea. =)
  9. Dec 9, 2008 #8
    My advice? Check this chap out: http://www.calnewport.com/blog/

    It's not a bunch of personal development nonsense, refreshingly, but a CS grad who managed to graduate with something like straight As sophomore through senior year... It's a good source of tips and strategies for doing well. Even if you don't like some of the ideas, it's worth checking out.
  10. Dec 10, 2008 #9
    I don't believe there are any magic tricks to working hard. If you want it, you're going to work hard. It's about will power.
  11. Dec 10, 2008 #10
    No matter what interests you, work is work, and you will always be tempted by something less demanding.

    The best way is to have a written schedule and reward yourself for following it. For instance, four hours a day is a good goal to strive for. Once you train yourself to have fun after you've worked for it, working will get easier.
  12. Dec 10, 2008 #11

    THanks for that the site looks to be a great resource!!
  13. Dec 10, 2008 #12
    You know, I vaguely remember a study that indicated the number one indicator for success (in college or otherwise) is the ability to defer gratification. To be tempted, but still be able to stick to your work.
  14. Dec 10, 2008 #13
    No problem lubuntu. Oh and I forgot one more resource: http://www.howtostudy.org/resources_subject.php?id=10. Newport's blog is a great help but I find that it focuses on non-technical subjects more. This site has major-specific advice for things like problem sets, study time, and so on (even if some of it is a bit contrived). Good luck!
  15. Dec 10, 2008 #14


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    unfortunately it is likely that logging on here and chatting about working is a typical way to put off actually getting down to work. At least it seems to be for me.
  16. Dec 10, 2008 #15
    clope023 : "I agree sleep is important but you don't need 8 hourse everyday if you catch my drift, lol"

    That varies from person to person. My point is, get as much as you need. (Not as much as you need to stay alive: as much as you need to be refreshed and operate at your best.) Getting five hours every night (at least for me), for example, is not enough.

    Eric_meyers : "Math isn't really conceptually based ... A math class is easy"

    These statements strike me as odd. I'm curious, what type of math are you referring to?

    tanker : "Really, the amount of work you put in has diminishing returns as t gets large"
    JG89 : "I don't believe there are any magic tricks to working hard. If you want it, you're going to work hard. It's about will power."

    Both of these posters are giving really good advice.
  17. Dec 10, 2008 #16
    I am shocked at how much just 30 min in the gym/on a bike/running changes my day. I feel so much better my mind clicks better and I have a better attatude tword work insted of just sitting on my butt spacing out or reading with zero retention.
  18. Dec 10, 2008 #17


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    But realize that you quite often will have to study things that are NOT that interesting. Studying things that are interesting is the easy bit.

    Studying can often be quite boring, especially if there are other things that you could be doing instead such as be with friends, watch TV etc.
    The "trick" (if you could call it that) is to create routines and not think about it too much; i.e. studying should just be something you do; and not just when you feel like it or feel "inspired". Don't give yourself a choice.
    If you have to you can always negotiate some terms with yourself ("I can watch TV if I solve x number of problems first")
    Note that I am not advocating just sitting at your desk being unproductive, do something else if you are not getting anywhere with the problem you are working on. But the "something else" should be reading another book or solving another problem, not the TV.

    It takes some getting use to but it does get easier with time.
  19. Dec 11, 2008 #18
    I don't know if this is feasible for everyone...but find a field you enjoy.

    If you are interested in the material, it isn't "work" and you don't have to learn to be a hard worker....you get to be a "hard player" with material you enjoy.

    That's the only advice I can give. I'm an incredibly hard worker... possibly obsessive in subjects I enjoy.
    However, I have a fairly strong inability to focus or care when I "have" to work on something I'm not interested in.

    *uh..looks like I'm the wrong person to try giving advice. lol
  20. Dec 11, 2008 #19
    Basically, you have to treat learning as a lifestyle if you want to do really good. You have to sacrifice and get rid of all the distractions that others mentioned such as video games, TV, etc.
  21. Dec 11, 2008 #20


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    Plan! You know where you need to put in effort, and where you can "skate" a bit. If you can get used to the "Franklin Planner" lifestyle, it will save you lots of time. Write in your course schedules (you can get pages to record recurrent activities and move them from week to week) and plan what times you are going to spend studying each. You must take breaks to stay fresh, and one thing I did when carrying well over the maximum course-load in my second year of engineering school was to spend an hour on one tough subject during the evening, then switch to something completely different for 1/2 hour or an hour, then back to the tough one again. It works.

    Sometimes, you'll find yourself jumping back to the tough course quicker, because thinking about something else releases a mental block that you built, and you'll get an "AHA!" moment that really advances your comprehension. Putting in long hours and "grinding" a subject is not usually conducive to comprehension and performance. If you have friends with the same courses, and you want to get together for short sessions to discuss new concepts that you are presented with, that can be instructive, because each of you will approach the subject-matter from your own perspective. Be careful with this approach - in one or two informal study groups, I got hit up for answers a lot, and got little fresh insight in return.

    Good Luck
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