profile

Welcome to Emil's Emails!

Avoid this studying mistake at all costs

Published 10 months ago • 2 min read

Hi everyone!

A couple of days ago I was sitting at my desk, starting at my calendar and seeing it completely full with commitments that had seemingly piled up out of nowhere.

When I’m faced with situations like this, time spent studying is usually the first to disappear from my calendar. Inevitably, I want to compensate for this loss, and I find myself thinking that I need to “try a bit harder” to stay on track.

I’m sure that every student has wondered what would happen if they spent more time studying, but I believe that trying harder is one of the biggest mistakes that any students can make.


In this newsletter I’ll explore:

  1. Why working harder is so dangerous
  2. What you should do instead.

Why you should never press the ‘try harder’ button

Although spending more time working is a natural response to difficulty, it can lead to a slippery slope of unhappiness and burnout.

First, trying harder has a fixed ceiling. No matter how much we try, we all have 24 hours in each day. As we grow older, the challenges we face tend to get harder and harder. Year 9 is easier than year 10, high school is easier than university, university is easier than getting a PhD and getting a PhD is easier than getting a PhD with kids. If our response to each successive challenge is to spend more time working, it is inevitable that we will run out of time.

Moreover, time spent working must be taken from somewhere. Even if you procrastinate, increasing the time you spend working will eventually bleed into the time you spend with family, friends and resting. From experience, giving a procrastinator more time to study often just increases the amount of time they spend procrastinating.

Endlessly putting in more effort can be an excuse to not think about how things could be done a different way. For example, spending more time studying as a procrastinator doesn’t help solve the underlying procrastination problem.

Finally, failing when we try our hardest is soul-crushing. It’s heartbreaking to try hard and not achieve the results we want, even when it might be our methods letting us down. It’s easy to think that we are not capable, or not deserving.

So, what should I do instead?

When you face a challenge that makes you want to try harder, take a step back and analyse your situation.

Ask yourself:

  • If I want to work harder, where will this time come from (relaxation, hobbies, relationships, procrastination)?
  • Is it really likely that this time will come from there, and not somewhere else (rather than spending less time procrastinating, would I be more likely to spend less time sleeping)?
  • Is there any way that the activities that I’m doing at the moment could take less time to free up time for me to work?
  • Is there any way I could work smarter, not harder on any of my current goals?

When I reflected in this way recently, I found that it wasn’t really feasible for me to spend more time studying. I felt that all of the activities I was partaking in were as important to me as studying, and I didn’t feel comfortable sacrificing them to study an extra few hours each week.

Importantly, reflecting in this way made me realise that I can continue to optimise my study processes, so that I’m able to extract more value out of the finite number of hours I study each week. By investing energy into this area, I can build skills which will scale by saving me time - unlike spending more time studying, I can build these skills infinitely.

One of the reasons that I am so passionate about effective studying is that it enables us to reflect on what is truly important to us. Rather than running the rat race of studying the hardest, we can optimise the time that we spend studying to live more balanced and healthy lives.

So the next time you find yourself thinking “I’m going to try harder”, step back and reflect!

- Emil

Latest Video

video preview

How I would study in med school (if i could start over)

My Progress:

YouTube subscribers: 36 (sub to my new channel!)

Newsletter subscribers: 197

YouTube revenue last week: $220.71

Welcome to Emil's Emails!

Sign up for my weekly newsletter where I share exclusive productivity tips, useful life advice and insights from my life as a medical student in Australia.

Read more from Welcome to Emil's Emails!

Hi everyone, Happy New Year! I hope that this year has been kind to you, and that 2024 brings happiness and success to you all. For me, the end of the year has always been a time for introspection. I like to reflect on the progress I’ve made and plan ahead for the year to come. The holiday season usually has a nice mix of free time and sentimentality that allows for reflection to flow smoothly. That being said, it’s very easy for us to make well intentioned, actionable plans for the year to...

6 months ago • 5 min read

Hey everyone, I just finished my third year of medical school and I’ve realised that so many of my studying mistakes could have been prevented. Over the last three years I’ve discovered several strategies that would have saved me hours of time, effort and more importantly, my sanity. Today, I’ll try to share as many of these game-changers with you as possible. So, let’s discuss: The strategies that you can apply before class that will save you hours of time How you can consolidate learning...

7 months ago • 3 min read

Hey everyone, You may have noticed that I haven’t published on my YouTube channel in almost 2 months, and the reason for this is that I’m leaving my channel behind. Before you start uncontrollably weeping and telling your parents, don’t worry - I’m not done with making YouTube videos. In fact, I’ve decided to start a new channel! Now you might be confused - my old channel has just hit 10,000 subscribers (insane!!) and has been going strong for a while, but there are a few reasons for my...

10 months ago • 2 min read
Share this post