• Do you spend ages on homework, even though you don’t think the work is hard to do?
  • Do you suddenly find that assignments are piling up, and you don’t have time to work through all of them?
  • Are you struggling to hand in work on time, while your friends with the same courseload seem to have a lot of freetime?

I was in that situation two weeks ago – I did 22 hours of homework a week – but fortunately, I found out how to avoid this, and now I work for only 10 hours and still finish on time.

I’ll reveal the sensational secrets that have made this amazing transformation possible – in only 7 days.

Most of the results have been due to experimentation, but credit goes to Cal Newport, author of three study advice books, for suggesting to study in the library.

Section 1: Running against the clock

Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British historian and author, popularised the idea that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. This is known as Parkinson’s Law.

If we connect Parkinson’s satirical (but true) observation to our homework, we can conclude that most of our deadlines are too far away for us to commit to working up front – which is why we procrastinate.

While we should not ask the teachers to set earlier deadlines – this may annoy class mates and could result in procrastination, only the day before – we can come up with a more practical solution.

We can impose a personal deadline to move work out of the way, and celebrate a free evening during the IB.

Is this utopian?

You can see for yourself: estimate the hours and minutes required to complete a task, and then compete with a countdown timer to do it in less than half the time, before the annoying bleeps.

Section 2: Study in the library

This is a frequently-quoted study techniques that works; surprisingly, considering that most revision advice is awful!

Studying in the library helps fight anti-action triggers, or temptations to have a snack, update your Facebook profile, call a friend, etc.

By being in a fixed location, surrounded by books and other hard-working students, you will be more motivated to finish homework assignments. And it’s quiet: no distractions from siblings and your parents can not ask you to do some menial chores.

BUT, go the library alone. Being A-L-O-N-E prevents you from striking up a casual conversation with your friends. The library is meant to allow you to focus on your work and quickly deliver great essays and correctly answered maths problems.

After that phase of deep focus, you can hang out with your friends without that constant guilt of incomplete work nagging at the back of your head. You’ll be surprised how fun and restful your freetime can become.

Section 3: Research like a Pro

If you’re writing an essay, wouldn’t you love to just have all the information ready and sorted, so you can focus solely on the right word choice and structure?

Unfortunately, we need to sift through search engines, databases and libraries to find the right sources. Yet, a few tricks may go a long way to prevent you from wasting time online.

Use Google Effectively

Hubspot has published an amazing article featuring 31 quick tips to search Google which reveals handy shortcuts to speeding up the search process.

Aside from that, Google has an advanced search, disguised under the name search options.

Google search results - search tools button

Clicking on search tools opens up a menu where you can select apply a range to search results, or look for phrases verbatim.
For even greater specificity, you can open up Google’s Advanced Search page, which allows you to search for file types, or narrow results down based on their usage rights.

Advanced Search Google

Another tip is to use Google Scholar to find academic articles and scientific studies. This can be useful for finding statistical data, as evidence to back up your claims.

Know the secret spots

Are you aware of the best sources of information for your project? For example, for geographical data you may want to visit websites of the CIA Factbook, the UN or OECD.

Please question the realiability of your data based on its source – articles in Google Scholar are all peer-reviewed, whereas anyone can publish information online.

A book is probably also more trustworthy than a website, however, non-fiction works may (even though they can evaluate arguments) be biased in favor of a conclusion.

If in doubt about the trustworthiness of a book, you can try to find out more about the author by means of a quick Google search or by approaching a librarian.

You can also ask a librarian to help you find high quality information on a specialised topic. They should be happy to help you out.

Apply the hierarchy of importance

Once you have sufficient information, you will want to rid yourself of half of it. This is achieved first by sorting data according to the hierarchy of importance, and then by evaluating the reliability of your sources.

The hierarchy of importance states that:

  • information that builds an argument is more important than
  • information that supports an argument which is more important than
  • topic-related factual information which is more important than
  • contextual knowledge

Therefore, if you are overloaded with potentially relevant information, you can free yourself from the stack of sources without a hassle: Keep only the information that builds an argument (if sufficient) or multiple levels of the hierarchy, as needed.

To find out why my proposed steps work, please have learn about this student who has accomplished a similar feat.