Plan for the unexpected

The life as a university student bears a certain degree of resemblance to war – not only on an emotional level, but also in a more literal sense. You see, similar to a general commanding troops effectively to overcome the opposition and achieve victory, a student must deploy his or her time and energy effectively to finish off assignments/tests to obtain that dream GPA. Given the similarities in methodologies between the two, many important principles in warfare are also quite applicable to student life. One such principle is the danger of relying on a single plan.

In military planning, the one thing that one can be certain of is that situations change. The saying “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy” is there for a very good reason – there are many more variables in real life than what even the perfect plan can account for, and any of these variables have the potential to scramble the whole plan. The best way to counter such unexpected situations is to leave oneself with more tactical flexibility, so that one can quickly deal with the changes in situation and not left stranded in case the plan unravels. For instance, commanders are always advised to bring more forces than absolute necessary and keep some of the forces in reserve, so that when there is an unexpected breach in the line, the reserves can be quickly mobilized to patch up the breach. Without the tactical flexibility offered by the reserves, the commander wouldn’t even have the option to adapt to the changes.

Study plans made by students are just as vulnerable to the uncertainties of the future; for instance, a sudden bout of sickness tends to leave one too ill to study for a couple of days, which would be disastrous if the student’s study plan was to cram for three days leading right up to the exam. However, if the student had prepared to spread the studying out over a period of two weeks, then losing a couple of days isn’t going to hurt quite as much, as one would have the flexibility to distribute the workload over the remaining ten days. So what’s the take home message? Well, just as one shouldn’t put all eggs in one basket, one shouldn’t put all the studying/cramming in one reading week. Leave yourself with some tactical breathing room – you’ll be glad when you really need it.

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