You don’t have to be a busy professional to take advantage of the advice productivity gurus have to offer. Often, their advice can just as easily be applied to college studies, allowing students to improve their time management skills, get organized, and even get more out of class. Even better, mastering some of these habits now will help you out in the working world later on.
Here are a few great ideas from the experts for boosting your productivity as a student.
Craig Jarrow: “Sometimes it’s not what you do, but what you stop doing.”
Think because you’re not a big procrastinator that you aren’t wasting time and getting less done than you might otherwise? Craig Jarrow thinks so. He lists dozens of common ways most of us waste time every day, from getting stuck in traffic to spending too much time emailing back and forth. He suggests that it isn’t what you start doing but all the things that you stop doing that will have the biggest impact on your productivity.
Many of the biggest culprits he singles out are things that online students especially may find themselves prone to doing (getting caught up with email, surfing the web, spending too much time on social media, reading entertainment news), so take a look at his suggestions and see if there’s anything you can stop doing today that will have an immediate impact on your ability to get more done in a day.
David Allen: “Pay attention to what has your attention.”
You can’t or won’t get much done if your head isn’t in the game. David Allen says that this is why it’s critical to deal with these issues that are taking up your valuable attention instead of trying to just work around them.
Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, give your focus to whatever really has your attention, at least enough to get it to a place where you can think about other things. Sometimes that will mean simply creating a plan of action. Other times, you’ll just need to tackle that task first. Once it’s no longer vying for your attention you can better focus on your online course and will be able to complete your assignments much more efficiently.
Tim Ferris: “Focus on your most important one or two to-dos.”
Want to really buckle down and get some things done? Ferris suggests using an app like RescueTime to block all of your social media sites for about two hours each day and then focusing on your most important to-do items. Once the biggest and most important items (and perhaps those that you’re dreading the most) are checked off, everything else will seem like a breeze to accomplish.
This can be an especially useful strategy when you’re trying to write a paper or complete a big project as social sites are a common place to procrastinate when you need to tackle a task that seems so overwhelmingly large. Using this method, you’ll block your ability to procrastinate and will be able to break down your assignment into a few must-do items every day.
Stever Robbins: “How you take notes makes a big difference.”
Taking notes, whether from a book you’re reading or from a lecture, is a bit of an art. How you do it can have a big impact on how well you’re able to use those notes later on both to study and to accomplish tasks associated with them. So how do you get more out of your note-taking?
Robbins suggests taking notes on paper, not on a laptop as this helps with recall, especially if you transcribe the notes onto a computer later on. He also suggests that you create summaries of your notes and highlight them so that you can easily scan through your notes to find what you’re looking for later. Finally, create a system that works for you for organizing your notes, whether you simply put in them in a binder or use a tech tool like Evernote.
Michael Sliwinski: “Small rewards pay off in the long run – reward yourself often!”
Siliwinski is a proponent of a productivity method called “Unscheduling.” Using this method, you will divide your calendar into 30-minute slots and fill in only the things you “must” do (like class, meetings, workouts) and the things you want to reward yourself with (like watching a TV show, going for a walk, or getting a cup of coffee). All the other stuff is blank and you fill it in as you go. For your online courses, you can go through the syllabus and break down each of your assignments into smaller tasks that you can then schedule as must-dos.
One of the big perks of this method is that you ensure that you not only get the stuff you really need to get done accomplished but you also always make time to reward yourself and use your time to do things you want to do. Even better, if you combine this with the Pomodoro Technique as he does (for every 25 minutes of work you get 5 minutes of reward), your day will be a great balance of work and reward, keeping your productive and preventing boredom and burnout.