How To Be More Productive In College
When it comes to college, we all want to be productive souls who are constantly getting things done! Yes, productivity is key to get through college unscathed. How do you get into that sweet productivity zone though? Today on the blog I am going to give you lots of tips on how to be more productive in college.
1. Don't Underestimate The Power Of Just Starting
Starting a task can be a really powerful way to up-level your productivity. When you stop complaining, pick a task, and start working on it, you are setting up your brain for a successful work session. What I found more than anything over my years as a college student, is that starting a task is probably the worst part about doing a task.
If the thought of starting your to-do list just makes you want to hide under a rock or your covers, start small. Start with a quick and easy task and then work your way through your to-do list with increasingly difficult tasks. Maybe your first task may be making the to-do list, then sending an email about a group project, etc until you are doing your bigger tasks.
2. Take Advantage Of Missed Time
There is a lot of time throughout the day that is just sort of there. We don't properly use it, and therefore we lose it. Think of this as the time between classes, on the morning commute, while you are showering. All of this time could potentially be filled with productive tasks.
Audiobooks/Podcasts Are Your Friends
Are you reading a book for class? See if they have it on Audible. Audible has a LOT of books and I love to go on there just to see all the cool stuff they have. I have seen some of my school books there because I read a lot of regular books. If you are an English major, perhaps they have some of the books you need for class. It's so much easier to listen to books instead of reading them. Most times I do both and I will buy both the audiobook and real book so I can follow along and highlight important words as the audiobook reads to me.
I have recently gotten into the wonderful world of podcasts. One of my favorites is Dear Hank and John where the brothers Green (Hank and John Green) give out dubious advice and share news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. This podcast got me into podcasting, but since then I have discovered a handful of amazingly awesome podcasts that create some amazing sociological thoughts in my head. I recently have gotten into listening to Snap Judgement through the amazing people at StoryCorps. All of this to say, you can really look for all sorts of different podcasts. There are probably podcasts for any discipline you are studying.
Record Lectures & Listen To Those Too!
If your professor lets you record their lectures, record them. You can then listen to them again when you have those little pockets of time where you could be more productive such as at the gym or on the commute to school. You do want to ask permission first though, not all professors like being recorded, so make sure you ask before you press record!
3. Stop Multitasking And Use The Pomodoro Technique
Everyone likes to think that are master multi-taskers. What I know for sure though is that when you are multitasking, chances are you are doing a great job at one task and a mediocre job at the other task. Stop multitasking. Focus on one task at a time and use the Pomodoro Technique. Seriously, when I started actually using this technique the way that I was supposed to, my productivity sky-rocketed! Yours will too.
Limit Social Media During Tasks
If you are using The Pomodoro Technique, this is an obvious thing, but if you are just using your own productivity technique, then make sure you are limiting your use of social media while you are working towards your tasks. Social media can be a complete and total time suck. Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone:
Oh, I want to take a break from studying, let's check out Twitter. Oh, why is *topic XYZ* trending? That's my favorite topic, but it shouldn't be trending. Let's scroll through this trending topic. Ohhh, this person has a great opinion on this trending topic, let's go to their profile and check out their other tweets. Oh, they share videos and memes from my favorite Twitter account! Let's watch all these videos and laugh at all these memes. I know I should be working, but I will start working at 4 PM. Scroll, scroll, scroll. *Checks time* Oops, it's 4:01 PM, guess I'll have to wait until 5 PM!
If this scenario doesn't sound familiar to you, great! If it does though, you understand how much social media can and will distract you. So, limit your social media during study times. Social media will be there when you get done. It can be hard to put down your phone and feel out of the loop for so long. Part of the reason that I love the Pomodoro Technique is that it allows me to check out my social media every once and a while.
Bottom line, don't go down the social media rabbit hole. Get your work in, and then check out social media afterward.
4. Break Down Your Tasks And Plan Them Out
Tasks are scary. Point blank. If your professor tells you that at the end of the semester you have a 20-page paper due, you are going to get scared. A lot of my papers are 15-25 pages right now in graduate school, and that's a lot of writing. What you need to do is break down your tasks. This will help you be more productive because each task will be easier to start and finish. Instead of looking at the bigger picture, figure out all the little tasks you need to do to finish the big task.
For instance, a 20-page paper sounds harsh. You have to break it down instead. In order to write a paper you have to find your sources, read those sources, write your intro, write your first the sections of the paper, write the conclusion, proofread the paper, turn the paper in on time, and way more steps. You can break down those steps even further. Instead of finding sources you can figure out how many sources you need, how long you want to work on finding sources, and then calculate how many sources you need to find a day for the next how many ever days. You can calculate the same for reading and summarizing sources, writing sections or pages of your paper, proofreading the paper, etc. Breaking down your task is necessary because if you don't, it will be difficult to start your task.
Build In Procrastination Time
We all procrastinate. Some of us procrastinate more than others. If you know you are a procrastinator, build in some procrastination time. If your paper is due on the 8th, make it due in your mind on the 4th. Build in that time, so that you can have time to fix the situation if you do procrastinate. This method works better for longer, end of the year assignments, not ones due weekly.
Use Asana, Trello, and Physical Planners To Break Down Tasks
If you need help breaking down tasks, I say use websites/apps like Asana or Trello or just use to-do lists and physical planners to help you break down the tasks. I really like Asana and Trello because for each task you can add a number of subtasks so that you can check those off as you go along.
Be Very Picky About Your To-Do Lists
To-do lists need to be detailed, but not so detailed that you fall behind and get discouraged. Be very picky about how detailed you make your to-do lists and understand your personality. You want your to-do list to inspire you to act, not get so out of control that it makes you shut down. Being picky allows you to only add what's important while leaving out some stuff. While a big paper may make you freeze, so will a big to-do list.
5. Figure Out Your Study Techniques
A good way to be productive is to study the right way for you. I love this test from EducationPlanner.org called What's Your Learning Style. It's a quick 20 question test and it tells you of three styles which one best fits you (the styles are auditory, visual, and tactile.) I really love this test because it gives you a percentage for each one. I am:
- Auditory: 55%
- Visual: 35%
- Tactile: 10%
This doesn't surprise me, I have always been more of an auditory learner. Being an auditory learner is definitely great for the classroom environment, but knowing your learning style will help you be more productive because you can fill your out of classroom learning time doing tasks that will make you learn things faster and save you time. If you have a bit of time, take this test right now so you can see what kind of learner you are and what advice they have for your learning style!
Here are some other great resources for different learning styles:
Study Tips for Different Learning Styles – Gavilan College
Strategies for Using Your Learning Style Strength – UCLA
Study Advice for Read & Write Learners — The Study Gurus
Study Advice for Kinesthetic Learners — The Study Gurus
6. Stop Repeating Tasks
Lastly, we are going to talk about the time suck that is repeating tasks. This is something that we all do, and we have to actively stop doing this. Whether we check the same email 10 times or we keep refreshing our social media tabs, we repeat a lot of the same tasks way too often throughout the day. Set a limit on these things and think about all of the things that you are doing throughout the day.
In order to stop yourself from repeating tasks you have to acknowledge first that you do it, then set up times to check emails/social media especially as these are some of the most repetitive tasks and ways to procrastinate.
Don't Open An Email If You Don't Have Time To Respond To It
If you know you will need to respond to an email, don't open it unless you have the time to do so. There are certain emails that won't require a reply, in fact, a lot of them won't require a reply. If you know though, that a particular one you have will require a response, only open it when you have time to respond to it. Don't keep opening the same email.
Stop Refreshing Social Media
We talked about social media earlier, but seriously, stop refreshing social media. We spend so much time reading and refreshing social media throughout the day, but sometimes you just gotta turn off your phone or computer and work on your school work. Yes, being disconnected for a little while is no fun, but at the end of the da,y Facebook won't write your college paper for you. It is important to show restraint and stop refreshing social media so that you can get more stuff done. Put your phone on do not disturb or turn your phone completely off while you are trying to get work done. The world shouldn't end if you are trying to be productive for a few hours.
Productivity in college is very important. We are all trying to get more stuff done. Give yourself time to get more work done. Spend less time on social media or checking your email and more time using study methods that actually work for you.
Hey Amanda! This is a great post. I really need to work on breaking down and planning out my tasks. Sometimes tasks don’t get done because I waste too much time doing the previous task. I think putting time limits would help me a lot. I’m also terrible at putting my phone away, but I’m going to try to work on it.