Dear 24-year-old Basant,
This is your second year in JNU and you’re 24 now, about to take the UPSC civil services preliminary exam next month. This is your first attempt. And you’re pretty excited. Typical of the street-dog in you.
I’ll give you a few suggestions about how to pace your preparation and what to do during the run-up to the D Day. I don’t expect the headstrong, all-knowing brat in you to take my words seriously. But please have a look at these points. Maybe you’ll love my writing style. Of course, I’m being sarcastic. I know how un-coachable you are.
1. Develop Six Sigma Self-Care Habits
Taking care of yourself – physically and, more importantly, mentally – will help you stay healthy and maintain a positive attitude and stick to a regular schedule.
Don’t lounge in your trackpants and tee shirts all day. Get up at 4:30 A.M., take a shower, and dress in clothes you usually wear when you go to the JNU central library.
You should do these things.
Eat regular, frugal meals. Stay away from unhealthy stuff.
Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
Play volleyball with (and against) Sarfaraz, Sanjay and Apu Da like your usual maniac self. (Had it been this time of this year, I would have said, walk for one hour every day while practicing appropriate social distancing)
Find time to unwind. Listen to Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as much as you can. Spend a lot of time with Rao Garu and Umakant.
Get lots and lots (and lots) of sleep.
Go off to sleep by 10:30 PM.
And don’t go to that TV room of your hostel. It’s a den of lazy people who practice wasting time as an art form.
2. Plan Your Day Every Morning
Every morning (after you have showered and wore appropriate clothes), jot down your goals and priorities for the day on that white writing board of yours. You’ve bought it and fixed it on the wall in front of your study table for a reason. Use it.
An organized to-do list keeps you focused on the specific tasks you need to complete. And checking items off the list provides a great sense of accomplishment. On a daily basis.
Once you’ve written down your goals, make a schedule for the day that will enable you to achieve those goals. Your schedule should include blocks of time dedicated exclusively to certain tasks. Do include meal times and study breaks as well.
And once you have created your schedule, try to stick to it as much as you can.
3. Eliminate Distractions and Time Stealers
Your hostel life in JNU offers ample opportunity for distraction. (Even though you don’t have a girlfriend. Poor lanky Basant.) And each distraction is an opportunity for procrastination that leads to reduced productivity.
Most of your distractions require self-discipline to avoid. As you create a study routine, think about the distractions and temptations around you. Do your best to remove them from your daily life. Say no to friends and foes as much as you can. Most of your friends are very competent time stealers. As dangerous as TV. Have I told you?
When you struggle to stay focused, try the Pomodoro Method.
4. Focus on the Positive
Give yourself permission to be human. To fail. To err. It’s alright to make mistakes. No need to pursue or expect perfection every single day. And remember your rivals (other students who are going to take this exam next month) are making mistakes as well. Now, don’t gibe that smile of yours.
Look for the silver lining every single day. After you wake up, spend a few minutes before getting out of bed brainstorming the beautiful things you have in your life since your Pipli days. Before you go to bed each evening, make a list of the good things that happened to you that day.
Engage in activities you love (as and when time permits). Listen to Ustaad Nusrat and play volleyball.
I’ll keep giving you tips for free even if you hate my hair cut.