Read this article. It’s about how Benjamin Franklin, a notable and influential founding father of the United States, structured his life so as to be as productive as possible and always live knowing tomorrow is, in fact, today. In the article, the author, Samuel Bacharach, a labor management professor at Cornell University, lists five habits Franklin employed to ensure procrastination was not part of his personal description.
In this post, I will apply each habit as listed by the author of the article in order to provide a framework for a productive GMAT study schedule – one that begins today and does not relent until Test Day!
1. Start a group and share knowledge.
GMAT study is too often a very lonely endeavor. Despite my encouragement, it is with rare frequency my students organize study groups. I could speculate reasons as to why—busy schedules, different strengths/weaknesses, not wanting to exhibit weakness in front of others, lack of an idea about how to actually structure group study—and all are totally understandable. However, I really wish this were not the case. I have had groups jump at the chance to meet with their peers and have received a lot of positive feedback about the benefits.
Surrounding yourself with others plodding along a similar road to yours helps stimulate ideas, expand understanding, derive opportunities to learn by teaching, and motivate you to show up and get to work. Create a GMAT Junto!
2. Attack opportunities.
You will never recognize opportunities if you do not look for them. A constructive attitude about what constitutes an opportunity during GMAT prep is a wondrous and invaluable thing. Really, several items on this list are opportunities all GMAT test preppers can expect to find. Starting a study group, making mistakes, and planning are all opportunities to get the most out of your study time.
As we discuss each, view them through the lens of opportunity and continue to approach GMAT prep in this way. For example, freaking out during a practice test gives you the chance to learn to recognize stress when it arises and devise a plan to overcome it. Test prep classes and the resources that accompany them are an opportunity to learn how to get the score you deserve to get. A previous misstep in calculating the tremendous challenge of the GMAT is an opportunity to make sure round two is the last round.
3. Time is a commodity in short supply.
Time management, study schedules, and respect for the test are common themes in my writing on Kaplan’s GMAT Blog. For some thoughts on the matter, read these three posts: The GMAT Needs a Runway, How to Get Ready for the GMAT, and MBA Decision: The Financial Times Explores the Process.
4. Make a list.
Beyond the pro-and-con list described in the article, plan out everything with regard to GMAT prep. So you can see for yourself, definitely take the time to list the good and bad aspects of a top notch study regimen, but continue to utilize lists during the prep cycle to maintain momentum and efficiency.
Something I tell all of my students to do is take the last 5-10 minutes of every study session to plan what they will do when they sit down for the next session. Doing this ensures you will hit the ground running and not be overwhelmed under the weight of all the stuff you could be doing. The latter situation usually results in a useless foray of social voyeurism on Facebook—something that definitively will NOT help improve your GMAT score.
5. Fail often; fail hard; but don’t expect to.
Quite simply, celebrate mistakes. Each stumble on Preparation Road makes it that much more likely you will not make the same mistake on the only day it matters: Test Day. A mistake is an opportunity to learn.
Did you get it wrong because you got the right answer to the wrong question? Did you miss it because you searched outside the scope of the passage or argument? Did you run out of time because you gave two “tough nut” questions ten minutes of effort?
If I have said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: tenacity is what builds high GMAT scores. After all, in the immortal words of Henry Ford:
”Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”