As a college student, there’s a lot on your plate: homework, studying, class time, work, and making time for yourself, your family, and your friends. If you can improve your own productivity, you’ll be able to accomplish it all! Let’s get right to it. Here are 10 tips to make the most of your time each day:
Curb the distractions.
It’s too easy for a five-minute phone break to become an hour surfing the internet. Take an honest look at how you spend your time each day. A tool like RescueTime can help you track your digital time by the minute. Armed with that information, you can use RescueTime’s tools to help you stay focused (e.g. alerts for hitting goals and a “distraction blocker” to keep you off certain websites for set periods of time).
Cut the bad habits.
Pay attention to the “time wasters” that are monopolizing your time and start correcting them, one by one. If your phone’s constant dings (even if they’re work- and school-related emails/calls) are pulling you out of the zone, start scheduling “no phone” time to get things done. If social media is your Achilles heel, limit yourself to a few minutes a day a couple of times a day—and be diligent about sticking to your own rules.
Embrace periods with productive potential.
Everyone needs breaks, but think about down time as something you earn. Instead, use your “minutes here and there” as opportunities to check short tasks off your list or make headway on your night’s homework. Thirty minutes in between classes could be an opportune time for studying. Don’t let it slip away because your “quick” coffee break becomes a social hour.
Stay focused on your evening plans.
Here’s a trick: Think about what you have to look forward to. If you work hard to stay on task throughout the day, what’s your reward? A TV show? An earlier bedtime? That novel on your nightstand? Coffee with a friend? Sometimes, having a goal in mind keeps us motivated. That 45 minutes on Facebook could have been spent knocking out a homework assignment—so you won’t have to do it later.
Live by your calendar.
Schedule everything: wakeup time, morning routine, exercise time, class time, work, study sessions throughout the day, dinner, and plans with family or friends. Stick to your schedule as best you can, but allow for flexibility, because as we all know, unexpected interruptions and emergencies do happen.
Find your productive hours.
Pay attention to your habits (both good and bad), your focus level, and your energy. When do you feel most alert? When do you find yourself wanting to succumb to the time wasters (or take a nap)? Plan your most essential daily tasks during your best periods and use the other periods for the tasks that require less focus and/or will help perk you up (think exercise or reading/returning emails).
There are a variety of studies out there that essentially say that too much work is a productivity killer. In other words, the brain can only focus for so long before it needs a break. Check out the Pomodoro Technique (basically this: Set a timer, work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and after five sessions, take a longer 15-30-minute break).
Keep to-do lists.
A master to-do list of everything on your plate is a great way to keep an eye on the big picture. Make sure to break it down further too. Rank those tasks in order of importance. What has to be completed today, tomorrow, this week, or next week? What are the top two to four things you must do today, if all else fails?
Keep track of what you’ve accomplished.
There’s something fulfilling and motivating about looking back at each day and taking note of what you’ve achieved. Whether you keep your to-dos in an app like Any.do, in your planner, or on your digital calendar (Outlook or Google Calendar), keep a running list of those “crossed off” to-dos. This is also helpful when you need to double check when you worked on or finished something.
Be present during class.
This cannot be understated. When you show up for class, be ready to learn. That means putting your phone away, taking notes, asking questions to confirm your understanding, and being attentive and prepared. The more you make of your class time, the easier your study sessions will go.
College is busy, no doubt, and life afterward will be just as hectic. Get the hang of being productive with your time now and you’ll find that there is no goal too big and no task that is unachievable. Now, get back to work!