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In a year, I will be taking a difficult entrance exam at a renowned postgraduate school. There are many competitors, most of whom are smart. Despite that, I'm aiming at becoming #1 in the exam, and that's why I have started preparing now.

I have interviewed a few top candidates of the past years and already learned which books I should read and how much I should study every day.

I think that learning more about planning would help me a great deal. But those books on planning and goal-setting mostly focus on reaching financial goals. I have not managed to find any books befitting my situation.

Another thing is that, because the duration is quite long, I'm afraid that my enthusiasm may start weakening after a few months into it, no longer performing at my best.

So, here is my question: How can I a make one-year study-plan for myself, and remain motivated in the long run?

Also, any suggestions about books, software, etc. that will help me reaching my goal will be appreciated.

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  1. "Plan from the future". In order to have C at date Z, I need to complete B at date Y, and therefore A needs to be done at date X (X < Y < Z). That way you have good intermediate checkpoints. Then break down into smaller parts.

  2. Reward yourself. In your schedule, plan rewards as well - things you really want, maybe even think you should not have/do them.

  3. Can you buddy up with someone having the same plans?

  4. Plan your actual study hours and stick to them. Do not think that you might as well do something else during those hours (and you'll find plenty of reasons to justify that). This is e.g. what many writers say/do: they sit down and write, even when they "don't feel like it", "don't have the inspiration right now".

  5. Plan your study periods with enough breaks. Maybe a pomodoro tachnique works. Take longer breaks as well. Since you're planning for a year, insert vacation time etc.

  6. What can you set up to test yourself? When do you know you have reached one of the intermediate goals from step 1? It's not about making hours, it's about learning things.

  7. See if you can mix the tougher parts of the study with the more fun ones. You don't have to study a book from back to cover to start with a new one.

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Very helpful, thanks. – Zeaba Mar 4 '14 at 19:27
  • Maintain a high level of communication with your professor and other students. Build habits around this.

  • Help others with the material. Other people's questions will spur more learning of you own when you have to get down and explain the subject matter to others.

  • Get comfortable asking questions and be really curious

  • Make use of office hours.

  • Read the material early, read the material often.

  • Go beyond the book and look at supplemental material.

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Here's the story of someone doing that with Beeminder, the very short version of which is that he set up a graph of his time spent studying and then created a commitment device to force himself to maintain a certain number of hours per week (keeping all his datapoints on the Yellow Brick Road, in Beeminder's parlance):

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Try looking specifically for study plans. For example, this is a good overview.

List out what you need to do and approximately what you want to do each week. Write it down somewhere (physical or electronic is fine) and mark off as you achieve each smaller goal. Share this list with someone so you feel accountable to actually follow it.

Another tip is to study at least 15 minutes a day even if you don't feel like it. Most days, you'll do more than that. This is long enough for you to get in the mode of studying.

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