Academic Expert Daniel Wong: Study Tips for Focus
Meet Daniel Wong. An academic expert and bestselling author of “The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success.” As a certified counselor and coach, Daniel has one mission: “To empower students with the mindset and methods to lead a meaningful and marvelous life—and show parents how they can help, too.”
Although Daniel excelled academically from elementary school through high school (vice-captain of his basketball team, straight A’s, and a full scholarship to Duke University), he realized that his success hadn’t brought him the fulfillment he was looking for – namely because his accomplishments were motivated by the wrong reasons.
This realization led Daniel to reevaluate his learning techniques, academic habits, and measures of success and after much research and learning, Daniel has helped thousands of students to lead more fulfilling academic lives with his books, blog, and coaching.
So in preparing you for this school year, we figured we’d step aside and let him do the talking.
What are some of the most common obstacles that prevent students from achieving the results they want?
There are two common obstacles. The first is distractions, e.g. social media, phone games, YouTube. Most students want to focus and do well in school, but they often get derailed by distractions.
The second obstacle is focusing too much on achievement, rather than on contribution. Academics are important, but at the end of the day, education is about equipping students with the skills and knowledge so that they can contribute more effectively.
Education isn’t mainly about getting good grades, but sometimes students focus so much on grades that they give up if they feel like they won’t be able to live up to their expectations.
What is one thing students can change about their routine that will make a difference?
Students should have a pre-studying routine to help them be productive. They should follow this routine before every study session.
For example, a pre-studying routine might look something like this:
- Put your phone at the other end of the room
- Clear your desk
- Take out all the resources you need for the study session
- Play some classical music
- Activate the Freedom app to restrict Internet access for the duration of the study session
- Start a timer
What is one behavior or trait you see consistently in your most successful students?
Successful students develop routines and rituals that allow them to be productive, even when they don’t feel like getting down to work.
How can students retain their motivation throughout the year?
Here are some practical tips:
- Surround yourself with focused, motivated people
- Set specific goals for the school year
- Review those goals every couple of weeks
- Focus on progress, not perfection
- Keep a “done” list to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made so far
- Break down big tasks into smaller sub-tasks
- Make sleep and exercise a priority
- Give yourself a small reward after you complete each task
What are some of the tools you can recommend for students?
These useful tools that I’d recommend:
- Freedom for removing online distractions
- Todoist for keeping track of tasks to be completed
- Google Calendar for staying organized
- Dropbox for file storage
- Habitica for developing better habits
- Google Keep for storing random pieces of information
If you could offer your younger self some advice in regard to school, what would it be?
In the long run, you’ll forget most of the academic things you learn in school. But the skills you develop in becoming a better student will prove useful for life, e.g. overcoming distractions, staying focused, building self-discipline, keeping your commitments, prioritizing tasks.
Work hard on developing those skills!
What is something teachers and parents can be doing to help their students succeed?
Teachers and parents can help by emphasizing that making mistakes is a good thing, rather than something to be avoided.
The education system rewards students who avoid putting themselves in a position to fail. But in life, one of the most important skills to learn is how to fail intelligently.
Are there any common misconceptions about school and learning that you see among students?
Many students think that school is like the “real world” that they’ll be faced with after they leave school.
One of the big differences is that in school there’s always a syllabus, i.e. only some information will be tested. But in the real world, there’s no syllabus.
This means that, in the real world, you have to be proactive in learning new things, taking on new projects, etc. In school, however, most of the time you can be successful just by following exactly what the teachers instruct you to do.
So as a student, it’s vital to train yourself to become a self-starter and an independent learner.
What projects are you currently most excited about?
I’m excited about a couple of e-books and courses I’m working on, which aim to help students find long-term success and fulfillment.
Daniel Wong is the bestselling author of The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success. He works with students to help them become both successful and happy. Download a free copy of his e-book, 16 Keys to Motivating Your Teenager. If you’re interested in learning more about Daniel, his books, blog, or coaching – click here!