Dreading the new school year? You can probably already see the clouds of homework and exam stress looming over you. Stop right there. This year, you can make a conscious effort to be better at time management and increase your productivity, so you won’t feel like you’re constantly worried about deadlines.
The 5 time management hacks we’ve listed below will help you plan better, get more done, be more motivated and maintain your focus in college.
Let’s start this semester on a good note!
1. Eat that frog
If you’ve read Brian Tracy’s bestselling book Eat That Frog, you’ll know that we’re not talking about ingesting a poor amphibian.
Your frog is your biggest, most important task for the day – the one that you’re most likely to procrastinate on. Tracy says that the best strategy is to just get it out of the way and go on with your day knowing that you’ve checked off the “worst” thing that you had to do.
Launch yourself directly into the task that you fear the most – and don’t look back until you’ve completed it. Once you’ve taken action and gulped that fat, ugly frog down, you can move onto devouring smaller, less ugly frogs.
We may have taken the metaphor a bit too far, but you get the point, right?
2. Give the Pomodoro technique a(nother) go
If you’ve ever had to study hard for an exam in the past, chances are that you’ll have tried the famous Pomodoro Technique. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t, but you probably didn’t stick to it. The time has come to give it another try, and this time be consistent with it. After all, it’s proven to make you less susceptible to interruptions and boost focus and flow.
The Pomodoro Technique is all about cycling work intervals with short breaks. You pick a task, set a timer to 25 minutes (or use an app). Stop working when the timer rings, take a short break (3-5 minutes), then start working for 25 minutes again. After 4 work intervals, take a longer break (15-30 minutes), then start again. Each time the timer rings, put a checkmark somewhere so you can keep track of the intervals you’ve completed.
After a handful of study sessions using this technique, you’ll see your productivity shoot up and your brain fog disperse.
3. Start using a weekly planner
Stop trying to keep track of all your tasks and deadlines in your head. And stop scribbling notes on post-its – they seem to have a life of their own and occasionally disappear off the face of the Earth anyway. Instead, invest in a weekly planner. Digital planners – browser or app-based – are great, but there’s something about a physical planner that you just can’t beat. You can use them to set short and long-term goals and keep track of tasks on a weekly – or even daily – basis.
Take the time to fill out your planner for the week ahead every Sunday evening. Set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound – and think of a strategy that will help you reach them. Then review your progress each Friday afternoon.
If you want to go the extra mile and smash all your goals this term, give yourself a small reward for completing each task. Plan those rewards and write them down in your planner. They’ll help you see the light at the end of the tunnel, even at your most unmotivated.
4. Manage distractions
Digital or otherwise, distractions can ruin an entire day of studying if you let them. So take a few minutes before sitting down to study and make sure your environment is distraction-free.
Choose a quiet space – your home, your school’s library or a coworking space. Kindly ask everyone around you to leave you be for a few hours, so as not to interrupt your flow (we’re sure they’ll understand). Alternatively, if you feel weird about it, a big pair of headphones is a great signal that you’re in concentration-mode.
If you’re working on a computer, do not leave your inbox open, otherwise, you’ll end up chain-checking it. If you don’t need an internet connection, turn off the Wi-Fi to prevent yourself from getting sucked into social media. Leave your phone in your bag (or the other room) and on silent mode, so relentless notifications don’t rock your focus. And, if you’re studying at home, definitely don’t choose Netflix as your background noise.
5. Get rid of clutter
No, we’re not going to go full Marie Kondo on you and ask you to pick each item off your desk and ask: does it spark joy? Instead, we’re just going to remind you to tidy up your workspace before you commit to a study session.
Stuff on your desk is not to be taken lightly. Clutter can make people feel immobilised, debilitated. It can curb creativity and mess with your focus.
Decluttering helps you to clear your mind along with your space. It also provides you with a sense of accomplishment and gives you time to think about the work you’re about to do. Action always comes before motivation, not the other way around. So declutter that desk and set yourself up for a motivated study day. Just make sure you don’t let the cleaning turn into procrastination!
Did you find our tips useful? Read our guide to becoming a better leader, too.
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