Do NOT sleep less! This will impair your performance on the day.
Over these next few days, my advice for those writing the SAICA ITC exam, is as follows:
- Wake up at the same time. When you write on 25 and 26 January, what time will you wake up? Now wake up at that time for the next few days. Your body needs to get used to it, especially if you are a night owl.
- Go to bed at the same time. Work out what time you need to be asleep in order to get at least 8 hours of sleep. Now plan to go to bed 30 mins earlier. The ITC is a physical event that requires you to feel well rested.
- Schedule some exercise. This should help you to sleep better.
- Direct your thoughts. This is a big event in your life and if you are anything like me, your mind will be active as you settle down to sleep. Rather than go around in circles, direct your thoughts towards events that will increase your confidence. Remind yourself of past academic success – you are writing the ITC so that means Matric, Undergrad and Postgrad victories! Feed your mind the truth that you have got what it takes. For more on developing mental skills, read my article here.
- Manage your stress. This is a big topic, and I have collected 10 well-researched actions you can take to reduce stress into an article. Getting enough sleep is point 6. but there are 9 others that could help.
All of these small steps will add up to make a substantial difference. These keystone habits build confidence, as illustrated by the example of Michael Phelps, the winner of the most Olympic gold medals ever (see full article here).
“When Michael Phelps’s alarm clock went off at 6:30 A.M. on the morning of August 13, 2008, he crawled out of bed in the Olympic Village in Beijing and fell right into his routine.
He pulled on a pair of sweatpants and walked to breakfast. He had already won three gold medals earlier that week—giving him nine in his career—and had two races that day. Phelps’s first race—the 200-meter butterfly, his strongest event—was scheduled for ten o’clock.
Two hours before the starting gun fired, he began his usual stretching regime… At eight-thirty, he slipped into the pool and began his first warm-up lap. The workout took precisely forty-five minutes. At nine-fifteen, he exited the pool… Then he clamped headphones over his ears, cranked up the hip-hop mix he played before every race, and waited.
Phelps had started swimming when he was seven years old. His coach, Bob Bowman, knew Phelps could be great, but to become a champion, he needed habits that would make him the strongest mental swimmer in the pool. So Bowman focused on giving the swimmer keystone habits that drew on what’s known as “the science of small wins.”
Small wins are exactly what they sound like. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves. “Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage,” one Cornell professor wrote in 1984. “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.” Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.
Which is exactly why Phelps’s daily stretching routine and eating routine—and every other routine—served as a keystone habit: they created a mounting sense of victory. “There’s a series of things we do before every race that are designed to give Michael a sense of building victory,” his coach, Bob Bowman, told me. “If you were to ask Michael what’s going on in his head before competition, he would say he’s not really thinking about anything. He’s just following the program. But that’s not right. It’s more like his habits have taken over. When the race arrives, he’s more than halfway through his plan and he’s been victorious at every step. All the stretches went like he planned. The warm-up laps were just like he visualized. His headphones are playing exactly what he expected. The actual race is just another step in a pattern that started earlier that day and has been nothing but victories. Winning is a natural extension.”
Keystone habits create small wins. So to identify the keystone habits in your life, look for those patterns that give you numerous, small senses of victory; places where momentum can start to build.”