Re-building consistency in UPSC prep

6 Ideas to help you get back to studying quick.

Table of contents

Let’s talk about some facts.

In life and prep, consistency is the key

It doesn’t matter what you can do in a day, long term success comes from things that you can do EVERYDAY.

But at times, consistency breaks. We fall off the track and end up wasting time and effort. And then blame ourselves for not being up to the task, at times even questioning ourselves whether we should be pursuing our goals. Guilt is one of the big drivers in the Indian culture.

Breaks in your consistency are normal.

In fact, if you told me that you had zero breaks in your study streak over the last 200 days I will not believe you. Because that’s a superhuman feat, and if such was the case, you wouldn't be reading this article.

Remember, after all, we’re all humans here.

How fast do you get back on track?

Is all that matters.

So you fell off track?
But what now? Do you stay there?

Or do you get back up, dust yourself off and try one more time? How much time passes before you get back to trying again?

The people who make it through UPSC CSE are not people who never fail (there are no such people), but rather people who look at failure as an opportunity to try again and do it better the next time around.

So how do you ensure that you keep your consistency up?

For this we need to understand why consistency breaks.

Why does consistency break?

For any number of reasons:

  • Sickness (covid-19)
  • Family emergencies
  • Breakups
  • Burnouts

Etc. etc. The cause can be anything that affects you.

What’s important is that we’re ready to get back on track. But that brings it’s own problems with it.

Getting back on track is HARD

Two things will hold you back: Guilt + Inertia.

The inertia of not studying will hold you back from getting back on track more than anything else. The longer you go without studying, the longer you will continue to not study. Or vice versa, the longer you maintain your streak, the likelier you are to maintain it even longer. Life’s that simple.

At the same time, there will be the guilt. The guilt of not doing studying 10+ hours on your first day back from a break. That guilt that we’re just not doing enough keeps us from even trying. We're trying to be perfect, and hence not starting. Which is about the worst thing you can do if you’re trying to re-build consistency.

6 Ideas to get back on track faster.

1. Start Small

You got off track while doing 8/10 hours a day. Don’t expect to restart from that level straight away.

Start small.

Start with 2 hours a day. Build that up to 10. It may take 1/2/3 weeks or even a month. But that doesn’t matter in the long run, what matters is that you restart.

2. Be consistent, not perfect.

In the pursuit of perfection, we blame ourselves for not being good enough.

We blame ourselves for:

  • Not studying 10 hours
  • Not giving enough tests
  • Getting distracted

Go easy on yourself. In the long run, doing 2 hours is better than doing nothing.

So aim to show up at your study table EVERYDAY. Even if it’s just for a few hours.

3. Don’t listen to your brain.

Our brain can be our biggest asset and greatest liability at the same time. It depends on how you train yours. If you allow it, your brain will give you excellent excuses for why you should take a break today.

Don’t listen to it.

Study, even if you’re not in the mood for it. 90% of the time, that mood will change in 5-10 minutes and you will have maintained consistency for one more day.

This is easier said than done though. Saying no to your brain takes practice. So don’t fret too much if you can’t do it every time. But you must TRY.

4. Take the long view.

UPSC prep is a long term game. Even if you clear it in your 1st attempt, that's 2 years of prep.

That’s 104 weeks.

Did not study for 4 weeks of Jan? That’s okay.

You’ve still got 48 weeks left in the year. Get started.

5. Set Weekly Goals

When you’re restarting after a long break, it can be demotivating if you see that you’ve only studied 2 hours in a day.

Since the idea is to get back on track, set and measure weekly goals.

How many hours did you study this week? More than last week? If yes, you're on the right track.

6. Motivate yourself with rewards.

In the short term, extrinsic rewards can act as a powerful motivator for achieving your goals.

Want to watch a movie? Study 2 hours and then go for it.

In the long run, modify them to be in line with your goals. In the short run, ensure that you’re having fun.

Bonus: Long Term Actions

All the ideas above can be implemented on a daily basis. But for staying on track once you're back on you will need to improve other areas of your life.

  1. Fix your morning/bedtime routines. You can’t control what will happen in a day, but you can control how you start and end a day.
  2. Make it easy to study. Reduce the number of steps that you need to take from deciding to study to starting. Clear your table when you’re done for the day, so that it’s easier to start tomorrow.
  3. Identity change. Start thinking of yourself as a UPSC Topper. Then anytime you have to take a decision ask yourself, “Is this what a topper would do?”. Then choose to do what a topper would do.

Remember, with UPSC prep and in life, what you can do in a day is irrelevant. But what you do can everyday for 12 months will determine your chances of success. So show up everyday and don't sweat the down times.

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