College students often find themselves juggling numerous tasks. Between classes, assignments, and extracurricular activities, students can struggle with getting enough sleep, maintaining a social life, and taking care of their mental health. Being mindful of your productivity habits will allow you to manage your tasks efficiently. There are many steps you can take towards being productive, but here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to figure out how you can stay focused throughout the day. For more ideas please refer to the article “How to Maximize your Study Time”
- What time of the day is your optimal working time?
Take some time to think about this, and there is no right or wrong answer. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you feel the most energetic in the mornings, the afternoons, in the evenings, or late into the night?
Soon after starting college, I realized that I focus much better early in the mornings. I feel motivated and refreshed as soon as I wake up, and I am less likely to be distracted by social media, my friends, and my family. Starting each day off early has been one of the best decisions I’ve made to ensure a couple hours of productivity. This routine might be familiar to you, or it might not. If you tend to buckle down on your tasks later in the day or even at night, you’re not alone.
Become aware of your optimal working time, and use it to your advantage. Use that time to complete as much work as possible. Cut out distractions. Complete assignments that require the most concentration and leave busy work/lower priority work for times of the day when you tend to feel tired. Figuring out when you feel the most alert and motivated is a great first step to take.
- How do you like to stay organized and accountable?
It’s tempting to start your day off by diving into your tasks, but this can be overwhelming and can lead to burn-out. A simple routine you can incorporate before starting your work is making some kind of a to-do list. You can do this the night before or the morning of. If you’re feeling creative, you can use a planner or journal. If you like using a digital planner, there’s many resources online and several kinds of apps. I’ve been using Google Keep for years. Making a list of your most important tasks and priorities allows you to plan for the day, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment you’ll get every time you cross a task off your list once you’re finished!
- What is your ideal working space?
I love studying in my room; it’s a space of comfort and quiet. However, having my bed next to my desk can be tempting when I start to feel sluggish during the day, and sometimes, I need a change of environment. College is a great time to explore different working spaces. Libraries are a standard working space because they tend to have computers, printers, group study rooms, and quiet study areas. Most universities also have several lounges, which can be great if you don’t like the serious environment of libraries. Some people like working outside when the weather is great, and others like going to coffee shops. Find what place pushes you to sit down and stay focused for a period of time, and don’t be afraid to switch it up from time to time.
- Do you work better alone or in a group setting?
In college, you may want to consider working with some friends or with a study group. This can be a great way to stay motivated. Finding people that share the same goal as you, like a couple of classmates studying for the same midterm, can give you the extra push you need to start studying. While this is a great piece of advice, you might find that working with others can also be distracting. If studying with a group of friends hinders your ability to get work done, it’s okay to say no. Depending on the type of tasks you have to accomplish, figure out if you should just finish them off alone or if you would like the company of others to help you get through it.
- What are some ways you can cut out distractions?
This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer, but it’s critical if you want to maintain your concentration. During this digital age, it seems impossible not to get sidetracked, but there are steps you can take. What exactly makes you distracted? It could be your friends always sending you messages, the constant feeling that you have to check social media or your email, or it could simply be your wandering thoughts.
To limit distractions, you can try putting your phone in a different room, delete social media apps, or install extensions that block social media sites temporarily. There are plenty of apps out there to enhance your productivity like Flora and Tide. I’ve been using Tide lately, and I like that it has a timer based on The Pomodoro Technique. I use the timer to work for 25 minutes with no distractions, take a 5 minute break to check social media or stretch, and then go back to working for another 25 minutes. For those that don’t know what The Pomodoro Technique is, you can read more about the technique here: https://tinyurl.com/y8w8z7wm. The Feynman technique is another commonly cited study method. You can read more about that in our earlier article: https://generalintelligences.org/2020/05/26/how-to-study-efficiently-feynman-technique/
These are just some questions to consider the next time you’re looking for a productive day. Different tips work for different people, so the most important piece of advice is to figure out what works with your lifestyle and schedule!