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9 ways for students to work harder

9 ways for students to work harder

3 min read
  • Motivation, Resilience & Growth Mindset

As the great Basketball coach John Wooden once said: “Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick, no easy way”.

Students should be aware of this as, the older they get, the more important independent learning becomes. There are a number of different strategies that students can employ to ensure they work harder and achieve their true potential.

What does hard work look like?

1. Choose the harder task

Students can maximise performance if they stretch themselves and leave their comfort zone, by choosing the slightly more difficult question or spending more time on subjects or topics they are yet to master. To ensure that they work harder, students can set goals that are challenging but realistic.

2. Focus your effort

To work harder, students need to fully commit to the task in hand and put away any distractions. One of the biggest distractions for students is their phone, such that simply having a phone out whilst doing homework or revision can cause a decline in concentration and lower student performance by 20%.

3. Do the hard or boring stuff early

Research has shown that students should look to work on hard or boring tasks early. Having maximum energy and focus available means that it is more likely that these tasks will be completed, as starting them later on is harder and students will often just leave them for the following day. This can quickly lead to procrastination.

4. Maximise efforts

It can be tempting for students to ignore a topic or subject that they don’t like. This is not an effective strategy in the long run. Research looking into the Zeigarnik effect demonstrates that if we can encourage students to begin studying a topic they don’t like, the inner tension that would be created if they don’t complete this work can provide motivation and increase the chance that they see it through to completion.

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat

If students want to perform to the best of their ability, they can’t use shortcuts. Students need to continue to work hard throughout the school year, making sure that they complete the work set both within and outside of the classroom as well as repeatedly visiting previously learnt information.

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6. Manage your time

Students need to plan when they are going to complete the necessary work and stick to it. They need to be aware that people often underestimate the time it takes to carry out a specific task; therefore they should look to recall how long similar tasks took, and use this as the basis for their planning.

7. It’s the doing that matters

Students frequently spend a lot of time talking about their good intentions and how hard they are going to work, but these good intentions often don’t translate into reality. Research has shown that many students intend to carry out the necessary amount of study time but on average only half of students actually complete this intended amount.

8. It’s on you

If students want to be successful, they need to take responsibility for their own work and continue to study even when no one is watching over them. It may be useful for students to have a good study partner as research shows that hard work is contagious: if the person next you is working hard, your work ethic increases too.

9. Quantity and quality

Students should ask their teachers how many hours of independent study they need to complete and ensure that this is achieved. They need to remember that it is not only the quantity of their revision that matters but also the quality. Therefore, students should look to spread their work out over a number of days, factoring in suitable breaks to relax in, and ensuring that when they do study they work hard and that it is without distraction.

Final thoughts

Research has shown that there are a number of different strategies that students can employ to help them work harder and be the master of their own success. Students can fully commit to their work by removing any distractions, choose the most useful tasks (not just the ones they find easy or enjoy the most) and manage their time effectively.


About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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