It’s the same at the start of every school year. You have good intentions, make big plans, and convince yourself that this is the year when it’s all going to happen.
But somehow, it never works out that way! Life happens and before you know it, the overwhelm piles on, you worry about falling behind, and you start compromising to stay on top.
It’s not fair! College shouldn’t be endless stress, constant all-nighters, and panic at the sheer volume of things to do! Instead, school should be about learning skills for the future, challenging yourself with work you enjoy, AND making the most of all the things only students get to do.
The good news it’s all possible when you practice these SEVEN productivity tips.
Learn to work smarter, not harder and you can get the grades and have a life! Here’s how..
1. Get a planner
Student life is full on (but you don’t need us to tell you that!) Dates, deadlines, socials, to-dos, errands, reminders - with a million and one things on your plate, it’s hard to know if you’re coming or going!
It’s why your student planner is a lifesaver! Use your planner to figure out your life on paper, and you can juggle things around and see how it’s all going to fit. This student essential is a powerful way to build confidence, get peace of mind, and prove to yourself that you’ve got it all covered.
Use your planner to plan it all.
• Keep a log of your assignments - so you’re never caught out with a deadline
• Factor in errands such as your laundry or shopping - so they get done too
• Even plan your meals - so you don’t have to rely on takeouts or suffer from Freshman’s 15!
Create a single reference point for everything to free up mental clutter, cut through overwhelm, and get a ton more done in a lot less time.
The Self Scholar is no ordinary student planner.
Built around the planning and productivity tips baked into the Self Journal, the Scholar is everyday carry especially for students. Designed to make your life easier (even when it isn’t), it’s college sorted!
2. Stick to your deadlines
You’ve got enough on your plate without having to deal with a forgotten deadline at the last minute. You can’t do your best work when you’re panicking and you’ll struggle to focus too. But that’s not all… try to squeeze in something you didn’t expect and it throws off the rest of your week too.
It doesn’t end there. If you’re forced into an all-nighter, it’s going to take a while to catch up on lost sleep and get back into peak, productive state. So don’t let deadlines catch you out and steal your productivity. Instead, keep all your assignment due dates logged in your Assignment Log (there’s one included in your Self Scholar). With a complete list of all deadlines for every subject written down, you can plan ahead and tackle assignments in manageable chunks.
Not only will your work be higher quality, but it will feel manageable too. Keep a clear head, and it’s so much easier to perform at your peak without having to lock yourself in the library.
3. Make big assignments easy - even when they aren’t
There are some assignments that break even the most committed students!
Sometimes it’s the topic. It’s so boring you fall asleep at the mere thought of your reading list. Other times it’s because the assignment is so hard, you’re not sure how you’ll crack it.
You’ll find everything is doable when you chip away at a challenging assignment one step at a time. It’s why there are Project Planning Pages inside the Self Scholar. Instead of tackling scary projects as a whole, make a list of every task needed to finish the job.
What reading must you work through? What research should you complete? What sections must you write? What conversations do you need to have?
With your list finished, no longer are you faced with a daunting assignment; just a list of doable tasks that help build momentum as you work through them. Then all you need to do is plan a time to finish each one (you can use your planner for this). Start small, and you’ll make heavy work feel easy – even when it isn’t!
4. Keep a master to-do list
Trying to juggle a to-do list in your head is a big productivity drain. Far better to empty your head and get all your commitments onto paper using a tool such as the Weekly Action Pad.
This ramps up your productivity in a number of ways:
- If you’re not relying on your memory, you’ll free up valuable bandwidth to use elsewhere giving your productivity and performance a big boost
- You won’t waste energy worrying about what you’ve forgotten
- You won’t waste time turning up at the wrong place or working on the wrong project
- And with it all written down, you can put the jigsaw pieces together in your planner and figure out when you’ll get it all done
Ensure your master to-do list extends beyond your studies. Write down your errands, reminders, socials, coffee dates, and laundry too.
Not only does this tactic boost productivity but it fuels motivation too. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your list shrink as you turn those to-dos into DONES!
5. Plan your week in advance
One of the best things about being a student is the spontaneity. There are the late-night study seshes that turn into an impromptu dorm party or the random coffee dates with friends that last all night. Being free to see where life takes you can open a host of doors and clock up memories of student days that you’ll never forget.
The trouble is you can’t live all your student days this way! Too much carefree living soon puts you behind in the study stakes! So give yourself a productivity boost by planning your week in advance.
The truth is there IS enough time to do it all - if you manage your time carefully.
Weekly plans help you do this.
Instead of taking each day as it comes, plan a weekly overview:
- First up, figure out your three weekly milestones. These are your top priority tasks - the three things you MUST complete even if everything else gets messed up.
- Next, decide what day of the week you’ll tackle these tasks.
- Then start to backfill your time with everything else that’s on your plate.
Take this approach and you’ll always get the most important things done. It’s the best way to feel your productive best - even if you have a stack of to-dos to work through.
There’s another bonus. With your week carefully organized, Friday nights won’t be about cramming or playing catch-up. Instead, they can kick-start a killer weekend with friends. You need never suffer from a night of pure FOMO ever again!
6. Cut out the distractions
One of the easiest ways to get more done in less time is to set yourself up for deep focus work.
More often than not, we squander time needlessly because of phone calls, endless notifications, interruptions, and falling into the trap of ‘just checking social’.
It takes your brain as long as 20 minutes to get back into a deep focus mode after an interruption. If you’re only working in spits and bursts, you’re going to take longer to tick through tasks AND you’ll only be working at the superficial level.
Do yourself a favor and discipline yourself to focus on one thing (and one thing only).
• Tell your friends you’re unavailable
• Work somewhere you aren’t tempted to slack off!
• Wear noise-cancelling headphones
• Block the sites that tempt you away
• Turn off notifications and schedule time to check your emails once or twice a day
Do whatever it takes to get into your deep work zone.
You’ll get more done, quicker (and to a much higher standard).
Then, when you’re done, you can party without the guilt and ensure you get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
7. Plan your day by the hour
Ever noticed how a task will happily take up all the time you give it?
It’s because of a phenomenon called Parkinson’s Law, which states that work will expand to fill the time available. Parkinson’s Law steals your time and drains your productivity by reducing the number of tasks you can get through in a particular amount of time.
There’s a simple way to get around this… Give each task a strict start and end time.
You have to be realistic with your time blocks. It’s no use compressing a task into too small a slot. All that does is pile on the pressure needlessly (which drains your productivity further). Instead, set achievable time targets that force you to focus, sit tight, and finish each task in a reasonable amount of time.
Then watch your productivity soar!
Student life is always going to be chaotic and full on. There’s no other option! With a million and one things to juggle, there will be times when you get a serious case of brain freeze and you don’t know how you’ll make it to the holidays in one piece!
But you can set yourself up for success.
You can make life easier for yourself - even when it isn’t! Invest in the tools that help you get organized and practice the disciplines to get more done in less time, and you can have the best of both worlds.
Here’s to getting the grades and having a life.