Do you feel like you put in hours of work studying at the library or taking endless notes during lectures? Yet, you hardly get assignments completed on time. It’s a struggle. It’s like a mad dash to the finish line when a due date suddenly arrives.
We hear you.
There is a way to stop the craziness. They don’t teach you how to manage your time and stay organized at university. But we have a few tips to help you avoid being counterproductive with your efforts and your time.
Learning to be a productive person. It is one of the best skills to learn as early as possible. If you can nail some of these tried and true techniques, it’s sure to serve you well for the rest of your life. Pinky promise.
Productivity tips for students
With a little effort doing the right things, it’s completely possible to manage your time like a boss. We may not be able to create more time. Use the time you do have to accomplish as much as possible – without making your head feel like it’s going to explode.
Create a routine tailored to YOU.
Waking up, eating meals and snacks at the same time every day improves productivity. It may be difficult to go to sleep at the same time. When you wake up at the same time, your day will be off to a good start.
At first, you may feel a teensy (or maybe a lot) tired in the morning. But keep at it and your body will adjust. Consider putting electronics away 30 minutes before you go to sleep. This helps your body avoid being tricked into thinking it’s still daytime.
Remember to fuel your body with food that feeds your brain so you don’t crash an hour after an energy drink. Although, this might be unavoidable sometimes, try not to make it a habit. If possible, get in 15 – 30 minutes of exercise every day. A walk around the block can do wonders to recharge the mind and body.
Set goals you know you can do.
Sometimes we all get too optimistic and set goals that are… ambitious. This ends up being counterproductive, not what you are setting out to do. These types of goals sound great when you make them. But when not reaching your goals becomes frequent, sooner or later you stop trying.
Try setting smaller goals that are specific, reachable, and with a timetable. When you start a simple goal, like wake up at 8 a.m, you are motivated to reach bigger goals. Start your day with something simple so other goals are easier to do.
The same goes in the opposite direction. If you don’t make a goal, create a small consequence. If you don’t finish your English paper by Friday, you can’t go out with your mates for happy hour. This doesn’t work for everyone but give it a shot (pun intended).
Make a detailed plan and stick to it.
Planning out everything from weekly to monthly helps you keep track of the goings-on in your life. Getting a diary or planner will help you keep track of work, due dates, and social events.
For this to work, you have to actually use your planner. Prioritizing your work by day prevents procrastination and forcing an all-nighter on yourself. Work toward bigger goals by giving yourself a small amount of work each day. Steady wins the race.
Remember to write down all aspects of your life. Running, reading a book, or meeting your mates for happy hour are all a part of your schedule. It’s important for your brain and body to have downtime. If not, you will lose motivation or get burnt out. No one has time for that.
Give some thought to your workspace.
Students may think they have an efficient, quiet space to get work done, yet they are unproductive. Choose a place where you can easily concentrate. A place or area that doesn’t allow distractions to your workflow.
Loud music or a large crowd make it difficult for many students to focus on assignments. People-watching can be more entertaining than doing your work. This is especially true when you don’t feel like doing an assignment. Is your go-to spot the library? That’s perfect. As long as your friends aren’t asking questions, suggesting breaks, or being distracting.
Setting your study space up against a wall is not the most fun idea. But it will prevent your mind from wandering and keep you focused. Try noise-canceling headphones if you can’t find a quiet place to work.
One thing at a time.
Having many little things to do can make the day feel chaotic. If you have something that will only take a few minutes, just do it. Exclude things like emailing assignments, calling mum back or feeding your cat.
When a task takes more than a couple of minutes to do, put it on a list. Lists are your friend. When you complete your mental mini-list, you feel like you are getting stuff done. Focus on getting important things finished. Then starting more time-consuming projects will help you stay balanced.
Try different list-taking methods to see which one fits your life best. Apps, pen and paper, scheduled reminders on your phone are all fantastic options. They keep you focused and productive during the day.
Stay up to date on your area of study.
Get inspired about something you care about. This keeps you motivated and ready to work. Try bookmarking a few sites or setting alerts for keywords that interest you. When something gets published, you will get a notification. This helps you stay up to date on the latest info in your field.
Reading articles backed by experts deepens your understanding of your passion. At the same time, you increase your vocabulary and grammar for school assignments. Pay attention to how writers keep their articles concise. This is good to note when you have an essay with a limited word count.
Staying involved with industry-related articles gets your creativity flowing. This can impact a school assignment in a positive way by adding life into your assessments.
Do the most annoying, time-sucking, and hard task first.
We talked about doing easy and quick tasks first. But if you have the time and it’s important, start with the least enjoyable task. It’s common for students to do the easy things first. They get messed up when they continue putting off the harder things they don’t want to do.
When you do that, you become unproductive again. When you start with the dreaded project that’s due in a week, all you have left are the smaller, more fun tasks to do. And you will enjoy the simple projects way more.
Full disclosure, it’s going to be hard to start these types of assignments. The ones that are hard, boring, or you don’t know where to start with. Starting with these gets you energized. You will be happy to move onto the smaller projects on your list.
Give the Pomodoro technique a go.
This time management method breaks down work into small, bite-sized pieces. Working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. This has shown to make people more productive. They aim to get as much done in the time limit they allow themselves.
Research shows that people who work harder for a smaller amount of time are happier1. You may even find that it’s hard to take your 5-minute break because you’ve gotten into your groove. Take the break so you don’t fall into a productivity slump.
It’s the same as when you take an exam that is timed. You are so focused on what you are doing because you know the clock is ticking. You likely try to finish before the allotted time is up so you can check your work. The same concept works outside of the lecture hall.
Music or no music?
Many students claim that they need music to get assignments completed. Be honest with yourself. Do you need music or do you want music playing in the background? If you know deep, deep down that you can’t concentrate with it, turn it off.
Some people do need music to keep them focused and that’s completely ok. Everyone is different. Try different genres to see which helps you to stay focused and get work done.
The “Mozart Effect” says that Mozart’s classical music improves mental performance. Or try something with a good beat to help you stay awake. Usually, lyrics are distracting but you can try it. Be sure the lyrics don’t become part of your English essay.
Take a break from your screens.
By “break”, we mean pull yourself away from anything related to what you have been working on. Grab a cuppa tea, go for a walk, have a chat with your flatmate. Something to give your mind a little break.
You may think that spending 5 hours studying is a good thing. (guess it sort of is.) But, It is impossible to stay laser-focused for such a long stretch of time. When you make long study sessions a habit, that can lead to burnout and unhealthy habits.
It’s all about using your time effectively so you keep your stamina for working smarter, not harder. When you get to the point that your eyes hurt from looking at a screen for hours, you are well past due for a screen break. They are important for your brain and your eyes. Don’t skip them.
Ignore social media when you study.
For many, social media is a way to wind down from the day or a study sesh. But this can cause stress. Seeing where other students are at in their academic careers can cause you to compare yourself. Seeing that your friends went out while you had to study can lead you to feel left out.
Try disabling your push notifications for socials like Facebook and Whatsapp. Even when you check your phone to make sure it’s not something “important”. It still takes a few seconds to get back into study mode.
Consider putting your phone on silent and putting it face down. Then you still get the notifications but you aren’t’ tempted to see what it’s all about. Think of all the time you save by unplugging from socials.
Everyone is unique in the way their mind works and stays focused. All of these tips are suggestions. Some may work wonders for you. Other ideas may have you staring off into space (literally daydreaming about life on the moon).
Find what works for you and what doesn’t.
Need some tips on how to use a planner to increase your productivity?
Check out our blog. (https://studentfm.co.uk/how-to-use-your-student-planner-effectively-and-save-time/)