Another semester is underway. How will you make the most of it? We’ve compiled some easy tips to help you boost your productivity and retain most of your sanity through the academic year.
1 Turn off social media notifications.
Social media is great for connecting with your friends and the world around you, but it can be a serious distraction when you’re trying to get into (and stay in) the zone. No matter how much willpower you think you have, ignoring those bings and bloops is always a lot harder than you think it will be.
Turn them off. Put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode and enter your cone of silence. You’ll get that research paper written a lot faster without the interruptions.
2 Figure out when you do your best work.
Some people are energized first thing in the morning. Others thrive when they’re burning the midnight oil. However you roll, make the most of it.
If you don’t really know when you’re at your best, try keeping a time journal for a couple of weeks. You don’t have to get fancy; just use your phone’s note-taking app to jot down when you worked or studied. Note how you felt and how well you stayed on task. After a while, see if any patterns emerge. Do you do your best work in the early afternoon? Great! Plan work and study sessions then whenever possible.
Of course, there’s not much a nocturnal student can do about that 8 a.m. class. (We feel your pain.) You may have to prioritize sleep over working during your peak productivity hours if you know you’ve got a conflict.
3 Skip the to-do lists. Create a schedule, instead.
Some people thrive with to-do lists. If that’s you, then move along. If not, ditch the lists in favor of time blocking. Facing down a lengthy to-do list can be daunting, if not downright oppressive. Organize your work time into a series of time slots so that every segment of time has a job.
Your scheduled time could look something like this:
9-10 a.m. – Research reading
10-10:20 – Coffee!
11-11:30 – Work on research paper outline
Noon – Lunch break
1 p.m. – Class
5 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Finalize outline
6 p.m. – Dinner break
9 p.m. – 10 p.m. – Begin research paper drafting
10 p.m. – midnight – Hang out with friends
Midnight – 1 a.m. – Assigned reading
1 a.m. – SLEEP!
When you focus on putting in the time, you’re more likely to dig in and get your work done instead of finding yourself overwhelmed by an epic checklist.
4 Break monumental tasks into more manageable ones.
You have a research paper to write. If you block out a four hour chunk of time and title it “Write research paper” you’re still likely to feel overwhelmed and unsure how to get started. That’s too much to manage in one big bite!
Instead, think about what you have to do first in the research writing process. Maybe you have to assemble your notes. Then, you should figure out your thesis statement. After that, write an outline. Breaking big projects into bite-sized pieces will make the process a lot more palatable.
5 Plan healthy snacks.
If you know you’re going to be in the trenches for a while, don’t forget to fuel up.
Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress — the “waste” (free radicals) produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells.
—Dr. Eve Selhub, Harvard Health Publishing
Avoid processed or sugary foods. They’re not premium fuel. That energy drink may seem like a quick fix, but it’s probably not doing you any favors in the long term. Excess sugars can worsen your body’s ability to regulate insulin and can cause inflammation. Your body will thank you for crunching on raw vegetables, fruit, or a handful of nuts instead of a box of Sour Patch Kids whenever you need a nibble.
6 Treat yo’self!
You worked hard! Now, give yourself a little reward. Promise yourself that if you finish your contribution to that group project you’ve been assigned (seriously, what’s with the group projects?) you’ll go grab some nachos with your roommate, or climb under the covers and grab a short nap, or pick up your guitar and jam for twenty minutes. Go ahead! You’ve earned it.
7 Don’t skimp on sleep.
Yeah, it’s college, land of the all-nighters. But you’re better than that. You know that sleep is what’s going to get you through your academic career (mostly) unscathed. Inadequate sleep among college students is linked to daytime sleepiness, lower GPAs, and even risk of academic failure. Prioritize shut-eye! Your body and mind will thank you.