Author Archives: James Gupta

James Gupta
James is the CEO & Founder of Synap, an upcoming education platform that uses research from neuroscience studies on how the brain works to enhance the way students learn.

5 Top Tips to Improve Your Productivity!

Whether you’re in work or at school, we all want to improve our productivity. I’ve been running Synap for 3 3 years now, and during that time I’ve also been a medical student – it’s been a lot of work, and it’s a process that’s forced me to learn a few things about time management and productivity.

Work Wise Week takes place next week (14-20 May) and QuickBooks, best known for their invoicing software tools, is looking to share productivity tips to help you save time and decrease your stress. So, in no particular order – here are my ‘Top 5 Tips’ for improving your productivity!

Manage your energy, not your time

People love to talk about ‘time management’ – but the resource we really need to manage is energy. It’s true that you only have a limited amount of time in the day to get things done, but you usually have an even more limited supply of energy – or willpower.

We’re not machines, and the amount of work we can actually get done is more than just a function of how much time we put into it. Our productivity is significantly affected by a range of variables that might broadly be defined as the ‘qualitative state’ of our mind at the time. As an example, I used to write code for hours and hours on end, often until 3 or 4am. I still do from time to time, but what I realised after a few years was that usually, at a certain point I’m mentally exhausted, and in need of a break, some sleep and some food. I’m still ‘working’, and definitely making progress, but it’s taking me far longer to achieve than it would if I called it a day, got a decent night’s sleep, and came back to it in the morning.

The difference between working for an hour when you’re mentally ready for it, versus when you’re out of energy is huge. Whilst it’s always tempting, especially if you’re working on something you enjoy, to burn the candle at both ends, the reality is that we can only sustain it for so long, and in the long term you’ll benefit from having a system in place to recognise when you’r running out of energy.

 

Have a Set Time to Stop Working

Obviously, for various reasons, this isn’t always doable. Sometimes you’ve got to work late, or even overnight, to hit a deadline or to fix a critical error – that’s life. But, generally speaking – imposing constraints such as a ‘stop work’ time each day can really improve the way you work. When you know you have a limit, you start working to it. One of the problems I first faced when I became self employed and working out of my apartment rather than in an office was that, I had absolutely no constraints. I could be at 3pm in the afternoon and I’d be easily distracted because I knew I could make up the ‘work’ time later – often at 11pm or later.

In a more formal working environment, this wouldn’t have happened because I had designated ‘work’ time during office hours, which works as a kind of constraint on what you can do and when.

The freedom of having no constraints is great at first, but it’s a double edged sword and one of the main reasons for failure in a self-employed or freelance kind of environment. By putting rules on yourself such as “I’m not going to reply to any emails after 7pm” or “I’m not going to use any electronics after 11pm” – you start to create rules and a more structured existence for yourself. I think this is especially important for people who are self employed because, you probably love the work you do, and it’s very hard to pull yourself away from it – in the long term, that’s a recipe for disaster in terms of your relationships and hobbies.

Don’t Let Small Things Pile Up

We all know there are two categories of work, there’s the things you really enjoy doing and are excited to work on, and there’s the other stuff you just have to do. Naturally, we all prefer working on the things we enjoy doing – often the larger projects that feel more creative and intellectually challenging. This can often come at the expense of smaller bits of work – the routine things you just have to do, but don’t offer much in the way of personal development.

I have a huge tendency to do exactly this, but I know that if I let the small things pile up, they weigh on my mind pretty heavily, to the point where it actually stops me from being able to concentrate on anything else. Try not to let that happen – have a set time each day to catch up with the daily ‘admin’ stuff, and perhaps a half day or a day each week to really get through them, so then you can focus the rest of your time on the other stuff, without feeling guilty about it.

End on a Cliffhanger

When you finish working for the day, try to finish at an interesting point, one that makes you want to come back to it. The natural tendency might be to stop working when you’re frustrated or bored with a task, but the problem with that is that it makes it more difficult to motivate yourself to come back to it the next day. If, on the other hand, you finish at a point that’s a bit of a cliffhangr, you’re going to be more excited to come back to it, and therefore more easily motivated.

Have Outside Interests

It’s so easy to get completely wrapped up in a project, and to put your relationships, hobbies or other goals to the side. There are of course times where this has to happen temporarily – to meet a deadline for example – but for the most part, you don’t want to be so consumed with work – which represents one pillar of your life – that you neglect all the others. Not only will this be catastrophic for you generally as a person, but even in a work-context, it will make you less motivated, less creative and less effective at your job.

Try to keep up with relationships and hobbies. Read a bit of a book each evening, make plans with people. All of these things will feedback into your work performance too – either creatively, by letting you test or discover new ideas, or just in terms of performance by making you better rested and less stressed over time.

Summary

I hope you found this helpful! Many of the points are obvious, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to apply and stick to. Remember that making even one small change in your life can be a very challenging task, and failing is part of the cycle – don’t be dismayed, just get ‘back on the horse’ and try again!

 

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MRCP MCQs now available on Synap

MCQs for Medical Board Exams (MRCP MCQs, FRCA, MRCS & more) now available on Synap!

If you’re a junior doctor preparing for board exams such as the MRCA, MRCS or FRCA, then we’ve got some good news for you! In conjunction with our content partners at Oxford University Press, we’re pleased to announce that today we’re releasing over 10,000 premium MCQs for medical board exams – all written and peer-reviewed by experts at OUP.

As you’d expect, subscribing to any of these packages also brings the full benefits of Synap’s cutting edge revision platform such as Spaced Repetition, detailed and personalised feedback, the ability to compare results with your friends – and of course our brand new mobile app!

The full list of courses available is shown below:

Each question has been peer reviewed by experts in the field and designed to match the board curriculum. Questions also come with detailed feedback for each answer, so you can understand and learn from your mistakes.

MRCP, MRCS & FRCA MCQs available on the Synap Store

To top it all off, we’re offering a 20% discount on ALL products for January – simply use the promo code NEWYEAR when checking out!

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Synap 1000 Customers

Celebrating 1,000 Customers!

Today marks a significant milestone for all of us here at Synap – after lots and lots of hard work, we’ve reached our first 1,000 paying users, just three months after launching our partnership with Oxford University Press that saw some of their most popular revision materials for medical students being offered on the Synap Store.

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Synap Store offers premium MCQs with Oxford University Press

Announcing the Synap Store, with MCQs from Oxford University Press!

Today we are proud to announce the latest addition to Synap, the world’s most powerful educational website. The Synap Store is a brand new area of the site, that connects students and teachers with professionally written Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) tests from top education publishers.

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MedSocs: Earn £10,000 with Synap!

MEDICAL SOCIETIES – How would you like to earn between £1,000 and £10,000 for your society, whilst offering your members exclusive discounts on the world’s most powerful medical education tool?

If so, we’ve got some good news for you because that’s exactly what we’re doing! This September, Synap will be launching some brand new features, which will give medical students and junior doctors access to thousands of professionally written, peer-reviewed MCQs to help their studying throughout the year.

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Doctor stressed

The ‘Screw It’ Moment in Medical Education

Every year, thousands of bright-eyed teenagers start a 5 year journey to becoming doctors. In the beginning, their excitement is palpable: they want to learn as much as they can about the human body and mind, what can go wrong and how to save lives. But at some point, that excitement and desire to learn for it’s own sake is replaced by the pressures of passing exams and ‘getting through’ the course. Why is that, and what should we do about it?

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Medical Students: We Want YOU!

Synap is looking for enthusiastic, talented UK MEDICAL STUDENTS to join our team as Student Ambassadors!

If you’re a medical student with an interest in medical education, technology or leadership, this could be the perfect role for you! Synap is an online education platform that lets students create, practice and share their own Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), and uses scientific techniques such as Spaced Repetition to help users learn more in less time. We’re looking for enthusiastic, talented medical students to join our team as Student Ambassadors, and help change medical education for the better!

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Scaling A Startup: Structuring Your Passion

Startups, and the founders behind them come in all shapes and sizes, but one common trait that unites us is our rage against the ‘status quo’, and against the rules that keep things the way they are. At it’s core, startup culture champions the Pareto Principle (the ’80:20 rule’), the potential of which is repeatedly demonstrated through Red Bull-fuelled hackathons that puts the traditional development cycle on steroids.

Is it scalable? How will our competitors react? Which market segments should we approach and how? We’ll figure that out later – right now all I know is, it sounds cool so let’s do it.

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Launching a Beta: The Good, The Better & The Constructive

When you release your first app, you’re excited. When you release your second, you’re terrified. Once you’ve released an app, and opened up your creation to be tested to within an inch of its life by other people and stayed up all night trying to explain to people that ‘it’s working fine, your just using it wrong!’, then you realise that releasing an app is just the beginning of a long process of improvement and listening to your users. In this post, I’m excited to share an update on how the first week of Synap’s private beta went, read on for more!

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Top 10 Benefits of Testing Infographic

Testing gets a bad rap, because it’s usually associated with the nerve-wracking, ‘high-stakes’ assessments students get at the end of every year – from GCSE’s to A-Level to University exams. But testing can also be a very useful studying technique, allowing you to objectively test your own knowledge and identify weak areas.

In a paper, ’10 Benefits of Testing And Their Applications to Educational Practice’, Roediger et al identify (as the title suggests) 10 reasons why students should utilise regular, low-stakes quizzing as a study strategy – and we’ve summarised them in a handy infographic below!

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