February 28, 2020

The Power of Visualization

For me, and for that matter, the rest of my electrical engineering classmates, the past two weeks have been possibly the most school packed weeks to date. Three exams, the usual amount of homework, and an extensive 17 page formal lab report were all packed into 7 days. If that wasn’t enough to juggle, I also had to write a proposal for a summer research grant that burnt an additional 24 hours. Somehow I finished everything even receiving the highest grade in my class for Modern Control Systems Exam 1. To do all this in a time efficient manner, I used a trick made popular by high-caliber athletes known as visualization.

Olympians and high-performers visualize their event before competition. They picture each step, movement, stride, and even their physical exhaustion. This way when it’s time to compete they know exactly what is going to happen and what they need to do to succeed. It is important to visualize what you might do in case something goes wrong. If you simply transpose athletics to academics, visualization is an extremely powerful tool.

Here’s a personal example. Every morning when I wake up, I know exactly what school work I have to accomplish first. On Saturday that was some statistics homework. After eating breakfast, I sat down at my desk. By preference, I relax my body, and stare into the distance. I picture myself picking up my favorite pencil, a Pentel 0.7 mm Twist-Erase, looking down at my homework, and analyzing the statistics problem I must solve. I visualize myself writing the known and unknown values down, coming up with a solution, and solving the problem. The real benefit in visualization, especially for this past week, comes from imaging working extremely fast. Since my time is limited, I often had as little as 90 minutes to do an entire homework packet. Visualizing fast work will trick your brain into doing work fast. Once I have pictured myself finishing the homework, I end my visualizations and get to work just as I imagined it.

This trick is extremely powerful for taking exams too. I picture remembering everything I studied, working fast, getting correct answers, and even skipping things I do not know. This trick doesn't work every time, but it is guaranteed to greatly improve performance in any sport or academic endeavor.