Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

I initially thought of writing a time management article and dissect time management as: (1) during the preparation stage and (2) during SimCET or during the actual test. However, my test experiences have offered me more insights on managing my energy. The source of these thoughts on energy management was an HBR article that I had read during my MBA: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time. In the next few paragraphs, you will find some suggestions on how to manage your energy and time.

Food + Exercise

Clichéd! A simple Google search will take you to thousands of articles that talk about the importance of food and exercise on our general mood and body’s ability to handle stress. Have fresh fruits, cut down stimulants, eat square meals, get at least a few minutes of stretching and some form of exercise. Just because you’re preparing for a test, don’t ignore your health. I remember times when I used to forget to eat or even used to go for hours without having a sip of water. As I’ve grown old, I’ve started appreciating these little things and the massive impact that they create on our performance.

Arousal

Are you too stressed out? CET requires undivided attention over 150 minutes which is a difficult task. Even during SimCETs, students complain of being too tired or bored or helpless. The more mocks a student takes, without doubt, the stress starts going up and that’s why I never recommend anything more than 35-40 mocks to even a dedicated aspirant. If a student sets aggressive mock target (50-60-70 CET mocks), my first response is a big NO. Because it becomes an overkill sometimes and the benefits aren’t optimal.

Arousal and performance are related. The Yerkes–Dodson law is an empirical relationship between arousal and performance, originally developed by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson in 1908.

The performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point. When levels of arousal become too high, performance decreases.

The Yerkes-Dodson law

Unfortunately, our education system has mutated us into good crammers. And we tend to apply the same methodology to a competitive test. In the remaining 25-30 odd days, quite a few students will take a mock per day. I am not rejecting the idea completely, however, I am skeptical and request students to introspect and figure out if it’s really required.

On average, 20 mocks before the final test is a fair number for most of the students. Some students might find even 10 mocks to be sufficient. If you analyze your mocks well and implement those learnings, there is no reason to get stressed about the number of mocks as such. Just because your friend and co-aspirant is taking 40 mocks, you need not take 40.

Managing your energy during the mock/test

I think most of you must have experienced the surge and slump of energy during the test. There are instances where you’re in the flow and the momentum pushes your energy further. And then there are roadblocks that bring the entire thing down psychologically. Though my past posts have discussed ideal time distribution, the order in which you’re attempting sections should ideally be decided on the basis of your energy levels. And then within those sections, you need to manage your time. For example, you may decide to start with a particular section if you think that the energy level at the beginning of the test will help you get a better score. Or, you may keep a certain section for the middle of the test if you think that you can manage it even with a slight drop in your energy level.

Another major factor which pulls down your energy is the fact that you’re making so many decisions during the test. In decision making and psychology, decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making. This decision fatigue leads to silly mistakes or lengthens the time taken per question. You need an order which has intense sections balanced with easy to moderate sections. For example, if I do difficult Quantitative Ability questions, move to Data Interpretation and solve Logical Reasoning sets, I will be exhausting my capacity to perform at my potential. So, it’s better to insert sections in between that are little light or easier to handle according to you.

Finding time (energy) to do things that you haven’t done

I get a lot of comments from students when I confront them about their weak areas: “I’ve left math because I am not good at it.” or “My verbal is bad across all the tests that I’ve taken.” My follow up question is whether they’ve spent time working on these areas of improvement. The answer is almost always negative. Because it needs too much mental energy to (1) start something and (2) to continue it at length. Most of the times, we know what the issue is but we don’t fix it. We keep postponing it and it never happens.

If you haven’t studied a particular topic yet, how much time do you think you will need to get better at it? Have you analyzed your mocks and figured out areas where you can quickly improve in the next ten odd days (before end of February)? If not, please do it right away and it should lead to some improvement in your score.

I would like to end with this beautiful quote:

A person who has achieved control over energy and has invested it in consciously chosen goals cannot help but grow into a more complex being. By stretching skills, by reaching toward higher challenges, such a person becomes an increasingly extraordinary individual.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Hope these posts are helping you. I am planning to be more active on the blog considering we’ve just about three weeks left. Please get in touch if you need any help. If there are any queries, please leave them in the comments below and allow me a few days to get back. Share this with your friends and co-aspirants. Happy prepping! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

    1. PS

      Hi Ankur. Depending on your current performance analysis, look at the sections that are giving you the best return on invested time. This will give you an idea of what to attempt first and where to focus on. Go through my posts on mock analysis and last minute tips to get a better sense of this. All the best! 🙂

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