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Study Tip: The Write-Off Principle

Updated: Apr 6

Everyone's had one of those days...you bring yourself to start doing something, but no matter how hard you try, you can't get the ball rolling. Whether it be studying, cleaning, practising or working out, every day can not be a step forward. Luckily, there exists a controversial technique to deal with such a scenario, we call it 'The Write-off Principle'.



This is one of those techniques we ought to be very careful with. If used incorrectly, we could trap ourselves into an endless cycle of inactivity and idle nothingness


Nevertheless, it remains legitimate in its description and its effect. Though many aren't sure on how effective it is until they actually try it, usually multiple times over


Personally, I like the technique a lot! It reminds me that there are in fact there two sides of the 'productivity coin' which must be respected - 'time on' (Active) and 'time off' (Passive)



Active concerns the activities you 'actively' work towards, it's the 'aggressive' side in which you chase opportunities and build your future, very high energy stuff


Passive, concerns exactly what you think it does, the period of time you rest and effectively cool down from your 'time on', the ‘less aggressive’ side of the coin


Both are equally important and must be respected proportionally if we want to be truly productive because productivity isn't just the act of getting things done, it's also having respect for the amount of time that isn't involved in the high energy activities



The Principle


It's a controversial one, but essentially it's a commitment to drop everything you need to do in the day and relax instead


Relaxing can be done in any way you see fit, but there is one rule. It has to be something that genuinely separates you from your work, both physically and mentally


Sounds crazy right? I'm literally asking you to give up...or so it would seem. But there is a depth to this kind of action



How many times have you found yourself trying to work, but time and time again you discover that you don't really get anywhere


More importantly, you notice that your mind is so engaged in thinking about work, yet your actions just can't seem to align and follow-through


You could've been sat there for hours, but the pages remain blank and your mind remains unenlightened, and somehow, you feel the same exhaustion as if you've actually done so much!



Feeling this exhausted probably comes down to the idea that although you're trying to pursue the right actions, your mind and body are just too stressed to engage with them


Usually, we meet this 'inertia' at the start of a task, but within minutes, a feeling of commitment can develop and you begin to be productive - you might even enjoy it


Although, If after an extended amount of time this doesn't happen and you struggle to enjoy what you're doing, the Write-off Principle might be of use



But, I can hear you ask "can writing-off an entire day really be the right action?" - The answer is a yes, but only if done properly, and only if you genuinely rest


The aim here is to release your mind and body of this accumulated stress, to take yourself completely away from your work and enjoy yourself


Of course, it would be nice if it stopped there and you walk away into the sunset - but your work still needs to be done, I'm sure!



So, this is the next bit - after your successful rest day you must re-engage with whatever you needed to do


The difference being, now you're doing it on the back of a fulfilling rest period. Before, you were starting on a foundation of stress, then accumulating more stress


With hope, you've got rid of an amount of stress thanks to your day off and now actually have the capacity to test yourself, while genuinely getting things done





When to use it


I've alluded to it above, but this is something of a last-ditch effort, the very last technique to be used while studying/working


This technique requires that we respect it and use it carefully. We need to be very aware of defining the times in which we are being lazy and the times in which we are genuinely out of resources and can't proceed


If you're having trouble with motivation as a whole, especially if you're a student - I've covered the trick to motivation before and how to think about it in a different way, here's the link to that



Of course, your opportunity to use this trick is time dependant. If you're edging closer toward a deadline and you're limited on time as it is...perhaps this will have to be a technique for another time


Though if you are in the cramming stage, we've covered that in a previous post too


I should say, this rest day doesn't actually have to be an entire day...it could be an extended period of time or even just a handful of hours, whichever works for you - the important bit is that you find the amount of time that's necessary for your mind to recover



The Benefit


The fruits of this technique come in the form of being able to fully experience both sides of the productivity coin


If we continue to push ourselves too hard and exhaust ourselves to the point of diminishing returns, we will no longer be able to enjoy either the active or passive activities


We will swing between this weird zone of not being able to fully produce work, nor being able to fully relax



You can think of this Write-off Principle as a time to disengage and allow your batteries to charge to 100%, instead of just hanging around 50% all the time by starting work, then burning out quickly


The idea is that if you can fully indulge in the 'rest' period, you unlock the privilege of fully profiting from following the 'active' period. It‘s very similar to having a holiday every now and again that just gives you the feeling of remembering what 'life' can be like!


This technique also helps you understand the idea of quality over quantity (which I'm sure you've heard of before) Either way, it's a fantastic skill to have in your studying arsenal, should it be used correctly



The Danger


Awareness is crucial, mastering this requires we have a real in-touch understanding of ourselves and how we feel


Deploying this technique too often or too quickly can trick our minds into liking the 'passive' side of the coin too much, which of course leads to an imbalance and nothing great at all


If you overdo it on the number of rest periods in comparison to the number of work periods, you'll notice a complacency complex arise - this is a big no-go



To solve such an issue will require a giant reset, one where you will likely have to remove the things you enjoy in order to not do them...which of course begins to contradict many of the things I've said above!


In short, you'll require a hard reset which is not something I'd advise - ever!


To limit the chance of this happening, it's important to use this principle at the very end of your attempt to try and work. Ensure you've really searched deep and realised that this is the right action




The Lesson


Though we've talked about this skill in reference to getting work done and studying, the principle actually extends far further than that


It's teaching us that there's a skill not only in the engagement of tasks but also the skill of 'calling them' i.e, declaring that no more resources should be spent in their pursuit


This 'tool', as a wider achievement, is one that can be used in many areas of your life, it's one that isn't talked about but really should be



Too often do we talk about getting things done and pushing ourselves incredibly hard. Though this is admirable and can be totally valid, there needs to be a discussion which talks about the courage in not perusing tasks that are draining us unnecessarily


Whether it means cutting them off completely, or just for a short time. In both scenarios, they provide a fantastic benefit when you engage in something else or reengage in the original thing


Ultimately, it comes down to being aware enough to understand what your mind and body are asking for and knowing the advantage of providing it




I've heard of many techniques throughout my time yet this is probably the most underestimated one


My opinion is...I really like it, it did take me a while to master though


Throughout university, I practised this technique but I only could do so when the rest of my study plan was successful (starting early in the year etc), this wasn't great for me during the cramming phase - just on the basis of time



For me, I needed pretty long breaks..usually more than a day, for you, it may be different!


Either way, this is going to be something to try if you resonate with what's written above. I hope it can be resourceful, though if not, at least it's something you've tried


Good luck with it!



Thanks for reading

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