To achieve high marks at an advanced level of study it is essential that you adopt a critical approach in your written work.
Merely repeating what you have learnt will not suffice.
Rather you must reach a judgement over the topic in question.
You must decide what your main argument will be and support it with relevant facts and sound reasoning.
1. Decide on your main argument - your most important line of argument should run consistently through your essay or other written work. Further arguments, reasoning and evidence will be needed to add weight to your main one.
2. Gather the evidence - you will gather lots of evidence at the research stage of your essay writing but you must then be selective about which pieces of evidence you use.
Too many will obscure your case and make the essay difficult to read and understand, so make sure that you choose the most convincing ones and that they clearly support your main line of reasoning.
3. Consider other points of view - how could someone argue against your case? If you have considered this as you write, your work will be much clearer and more convincing.
You need to look at your arguments objectively so that you can consider not just the strengths but also the weaknesses in your case.
If you can see a weakness and perhaps see that another writer could make a completely opposite case, you should try to deal with this in your essay.
Make the evidence for your main line of reasoning stronger and also bring the opposing view into your essay with evidence that you have found against it. Balance the weaknesses you find with strong evidence.
4 Reach a clear conclusion - this is most important. If your conclusion is not clear, your whole essay will lose its impact.
From the very first words of your introductory paragraph and through all your arguments, the writing should be leading towards your conclusion.
Your readers should be in no doubt as to what your conclusion is.
It is a good idea to write down your conclusion as soon as you have decided what it will be perhaps this will be early on in your research when you have just started to gather evidence – and you may need to refine it along the way, but knowing your conclusion will give you a better chance of producing a coherent piece of work.
5 Review your work - a quick read-through is not enough for critical writing and thinking. That may just find a few grammatical errors or maybe a bit of rewriting that is necessary but with critical thinking, a deeper evaluation is necessary. You will need to ask yourself questions such as:
- Is my main argument clear?
- Have I produced sufficient evidence to back it up? Have I got specifics – names, dates, numerical data, sources and so on?
- Have I put this argument in both the introduction and the conclusion?
- Is any of my reasoning flawed?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
- Is the conclusion clear?
If you can follow these steps and answer these questions, you should be able to produce an essay – or other work – that will earn you good marks.
Being in the flow is arguably the most perfect state to work from. It is a state where your awareness of time almost disappears and you are one with what you do. Although this perfect harmony usually feels effortless, it is the mental state where we produce our greatest results. So you could say flow is the state where peak performance happens.
If we could willingly get into The Zone, how the flow state is also called, especially among athletes, we could use this great state anytime we would want to produce something outstanding.
But how can we get into The Zone?
Directing your Mental Focus
When your mind is your main-processor, your focus is your computer screen. Your mental focus determines where you put your attention and your time. So if you don’t take active control to direct your focus, you risk wasting your ressources. Unless you want to relax, it is much better to set your mental focus on something worthwhile.
Another great benefit of controlling your mental focus is to focus on the good side of life and not so much on the bad side. It sounds funny but our reality is really what we perceive it to be. If you focus on what’s good in your life, your personal goals and what you love your perception of your life will follow. On the other hand you can take your focus away from negative people, news or simple distraction that won’t help you in your personal life.
How to Focus Your Mind to Get Into Flow
Flow happens only when you do something challenging. If it’s boring or too easy to do you just can’t reach that special state, at least that was the finding of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in his concept of flow.
You also need to do something that requires your highest skill level, something that you really can do very well.
Being an artist like a painter or a musician or a computer graphics designer comes to mind. I personally experienced it by designing 3D-graphics.
From my personal experience I also think you have to focus on something emotionally important to you. Something that “juices” you by just doing it and you are probably very proud on the end result as well.
#1 Choose your one most important task
To get the most out of your mind you need to concentrate all your attention on exactly one thing and one thing only. It should be something that you are really interested in, your most important task at the moment.
#2 Avoid any distractions by creating the necessary environment
In order to deepen your focus into what you are doing you simply have to make sure that you don’t get interrupted. Set up your working environment accordingly. Close the doors, mute the phone and turn off TV/radio. Consider unplugging from the internet in order to stop you distracting you yourself by surfing somewhere.
If you lose focus by getting interrupted, you lose the depth and therefore the ability to get into flow. So having a quiet space is key.
#3 Focus all your attention with intensity on your task
Dive totally into it what you’re doing. Become one with it. To reach the state of flow you need to be totally focused at your task. Intensity of focus also creates depth. To increase intensity you already avoid being distracted from step 2. Another thing that helps here is when you are emotional and motivated about what you are doing.
You will never fight for getting into flow; that’s not what I mean by intensity. It feels much more effortless. Intensity means simply that you aim for a deep connection and understanding for your task.
#4 Do it for a reasonable period of time, at least 1/2 hour, better more
Flow doesn’t happen in an instant. It builds gradually and takes time. To get into the Zone you need to focus your mind for at least 1/2 hour. Flow happens in the moment when your feeling of time vanishes and you basically forget about time.
I personally reached flow-states after 45 to 75 minutes and stayed there for at least 2 to even 5 hours. My best quality work comes from those times. And also I enjoyed it so much that I almost got addictive to doing it. Or to be less dramatic, I just loved what I did.
#5 Stay with this task until it is finished (!)
To really enjoy and make the most out of the state of flow you have to stay at your task until you are done. If it is a subtask of something bigger then just finish this very part of the task. This is almost more a productivity tip and the ability to focus your mind very effectively helps a lot to be productive and get your stuff done. Since you stay uninterrupted you have the chance to get the most out of yourself for a longer period of time without feeling that you have to put too much effort into it.
Conclusion about Getting in the Flow
Training your mind and develop a sharp mental focus is a key skill for success and self improvement. The ability to get into flow makes personal peak performances possible. It is a great experience and I would love to hear your own ways of getting in the flow or what you experienced being in the Zone.