Before we get started and I share the AMAZING secrets of being an Academic Ninja let me remind you where you are today. I’m starting here because I’m going to ask you to do some things that will be hard, and I want to have you motivated to do them.
I said that these techniques are used by students who are NO SMARTER than you to get superior results. So how smart are you? On average a University student in North America has an IQ in the top 21% of the population. You are already smarter than 75% of the population. Not to be left out I suspect that technical and trade school students are similar.
So if I’m so smart, how come school is so hard? Well think about that. Was it always hard? I’ll bet money you breezed through High School. Why. Well because you were already smarter than 75% of the students. The school system was geared to make sure everyone passed. Yes even the stoner who fell asleep in every class he made it to. The system was rigged for you.
Now in University everyone’s as smart as you are and the Bell curve sucks. So the problem isn’t that everyone is smarter than you. The problem is they are just as smart as you are. Sure there are some statistical outliers who are honest geniuses, but equally the other way. Some of those folks are just lucky to find the right building every day.
So take the idea that success here has something to do with your smartitude out of the equation. The difference is something else.
So let me ask you another question. What is the quality of the assignments you submit? My guess is that I would get back a confused look. Quality? It was the quality of “done”. I worked on it till it needed to be handed in. Then I went home and slept.
How did you feel about that? Hmmm like maybe you couldn’t eat for days, or only slept 8 hours in the last 60? Perhaps you had a panic attack, a melt down, or heck even a mild stroke.
So I’m hoping you’ve had enough of that, and your now into the head space where I can share the secrets of the Academic Ninja. (trademark?) Remember the only thing that you can change is YOU. If you don’t change your approach you will get the same results. I say this again because the way of the Academic Ninja is hard because it requires that you change your approach.
Okay I hear you. “Enough already just tell me the Ninja secret.” Oh I will, but first you must learn patience Grasshopper.
In the outside world, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the place with the tall buildings, coffee shops on the corner etc. We use the triangle as a mystical symbol representing the perfect world. Not any triangle mind you, the mystical triangle has words associated with the pointy bits. Behold below I share with you this holy symbol.
This symbol represents a whole and perfect world in which you always get the highest quality, money is no object, and it arrives right when you want it. So worship the triangle.
This perfect and complete world, as you know, only exists in the land of imagination. In the real world you can only choose 2 words. You can have it now (time), and it will be perfect(quality), but you can’t afford it(money). Or maybe you can get the same quality, for what you can afford, but you have to wait.
So what does this have to do with being an Academic Ninja? The answer is: because the Academic Ninja worships the same symbol but with different words. Behold below is the holy triangle of the Academic Ninja.
To the Academic Ninja this triangle is even holier. It’s holier because one of the sacred words is out of their control. The Ninja knows that they have no control over the deadline. So that means the Ninja gets to choose only one of the remaining words. The Ninja must balance the number of hours he devotes to his quest, against the grade he hopes to achieve. (Note: the use of male pronouns is not meant to exclude any other genders, races, orientations, it’s all good to the Ninja)
So here’s the first secret of the Academic Ninja: The Ninja chooses the grade he plans to achieve! It’s not an accident, or a whatever. It’s a conscious choice. And here’s another Academic Ninja secret. Not every assignment grade needs to be an “A”. Particularly when the Ninja only has a finite insufficient number of hours to complete the task. The Ninja makes choices and in doing so. Wait for it……… REDUCES HIS STRESS. As the wise have said “Even C’s get degrees.” 🙂
Okay so even though you know the first Academic Ninja secret you’re not feeling particularly Ninjaish yet.
Good. Your not supposed to. Let’s move on.
The one skill that the Academic Ninja has that sets them apart from the others is…..
Sorry I just wanted to build suspense. PLANNING. Now I know you plan your work, but not like a Ninja. I’ll bet your plan is in your head, maybe with a few appointment slots carved out as “homework” time. Maybe you even have some regular times that are set aside. This I’m sorry is not Ninja planning. (Remember when I said I was going to ask you to change and it would be hard? Well here it is.)
The first thing a Ninja does on receiving an assignment is decide what grade he NEEDS on this. Then the Ninja makes an initial hours estimate to complete the assignment to obtain that grade. Then the Ninja WRITES this information down. (types it in, whateves) The Ninja then proceeds to make the same hour estimate for one grade level above and below. So lets say the Ninja gets an assignment and estimates that he can get a C grade with 20 hours of work. He would then maybe estimate that a D would be the result with 15 hours, and a B would require 30 hours. The Ninja records this information. The Ninja notes that there is a fine line between a disastrous D and a satisfactory C. The Ninja also notes that a stretch B would require a substantial additional commitment.
Okay so how does a Ninja know what kind of work effort is required to get a grade? The Ninja hasn’t taken this course before. So what’s the difference between a “guess” and an “estimate?” The estimate is informed by experience. The Ninja has done other assignments, written papers, created things. This is what the Ninja uses INITIALLY.
What?! Initially? Yup that’s right. This is the first level of Ninja planning. Before the Ninja does anything else though he opens up his schedule and BOOKS the estimated time into his calendar. The Ninja isn’t playing around here. They will actually find and schedule 20 hours if that’s the estimate for the targeted grade level. The Ninja will do this for every assignment they receive. What if the Ninja doesn’t have enough available hours to complete all the estimated work before the deadline?
Well this is where the Ninja consults the holy triangle and determines if there is any give in the grade that’s acceptable. If I’m willing to accept a D on this one assignment, then I can get C’s in everything else, and make it up on the next assignment. The more the Ninja can manage and plan their own life the better. In a worst case, having completed an initial estimate the Ninja knows exactly where they stand. They can proceed and beg for an extension while sharing that they’ve done the math and are able to name a date that can be done, and why. This is way better than waiting until hours before something is due, stressed beyond reason, and pleading your case.
Okay great we’re done right? Not so fast Grasshopper. You’ve done the initial planning, not the detail planning.
Take each assignment and decompose it into parts or steps. Ie. Research, write intro, write sections 1-5, write sections 5-10, write summary. Whatever makes sense. Then estimate each sub-section and add them all back up. Do they match the first estimate? If so great. If not now would be a good time to adjust your plan. Now into each section of booked time enter into it the detail section you want to accomplish.
This is important because now you can evaluate how well the plan is coming together. If your falling behind you need to add more time into the plan. If your ahead then you have some buffer for when you do fall behind.
The Ninja never sits down to do home work without a specific set of things to accomplish in that time. The Ninja isn’t done that session until those items are done.
Ninja’s will sometime misestimate the time tasks will take, but they learn and adapt their estimating skills based on their actual experience. The Ninja who deceives himself is only giving himself an atomic wedgie.
Now the Academic Ninja has a SPECIFIC plan that allows him/her to achieve the desired results. This allows the Ninja to go forth and enjoy his non-academic life knowing that there is no guilt because they have a plan for success. They evaluate their progress and adjust the plan as they go. They improve their estimating and skills as they proceed. Having a specific Ninja plan reduces Academic anxiety and STRESS.
The difference between the Academic Ninja and regular students isn’t being smarter, it’s having a better plan. Here’s another free tip. Guess what employers are looking for? In a lot of cases your ability to estimate, plan, and execute work to that plan is more important than any other skill.
Your welcome Grasshopper.