Being productive is hard, especially at Uni, given most of us don’t have more than around 20 hours of contact time a week! This leaves us with a lot of free time, which never really feels free due to the amount of independent work we “should” be doing. We’ve compiled some key areas you could focus on to be your most productive self, while still leaving time for having fun and being lazy (I mean we are still students…)
Your productive time
Working at the right times during the day is really important to be your most efficient. Most people already know if they’re a morning or an evening person, but it can be a bit more complex than that. A great way to figure out when your best hours for productivity are, is to pay attention to the way you’re working for the next week or so. When you’re having one of those moments where you’re whizzing through your workload effortlessly, take a moment and jot down the time of day and see if you can notice any patterns emerging. For example I work great in the mornings and evenings, but in the middle of the day I always notice my productivity dropping.
It may seem a bit obvious, but a clear space really does equal a clear mind. If you are struggling to push everything around to create a patch of space to sit on your bed with your laptop, this I’m sure will most likely not result in you bashing out that essay in record time. Try and keep a routine of keeping your desk (if you can’t face tidying your entire room) clear of mess, so you can always sit down and concentrate when you need to. Don’t use tidying your room an excuse not to do your essay though…we’ve all done it. Anything can be better than writing that dreaded 3000-word essay.
The release of serotonin will reduce your stress levels, giving you a better mindset to work in. The increase of blood flow to your brain will also make you more alert and energised, ready to tackle that pile of reading you need to get through. It’s great to exercise first thing in the morning, but it’s even better when you’re feeling drained and stressed to perk you up again.
It’s been scientifically proven that listening to music increases productivity so if you don’t do it already, maybe you should try.
This list from the Telegraph of the best music for every kind of work is really handy: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/06/02/this-is-the-kind-of-music-you-should-listen-to-at-work/
However if you still find it distracting just don’t bother. I can only really listen to music when the work I’m doing requires minimal brain effort (which isn’t very often!)
Do the most boring stuff first so you don’t keep dreading it
Obviously you should always do the most urgent bits of work first, but if you’re struggling to prioritise your workload you should always start with the bits you want to do the least. If you keep putting them off it’ll seem harder and harder in your head until you end up with no time and a mega stressed student. (I think we can all relate to this…)
Avoid your phone
Yes I know the group Whatsapp is blowing up and you need to stay involved, but having your phone next to you is a massive killer of productivity. Just move it to the other side of the room and only allow yourself to check it every half an hour. You’ll be amazed at how much quicker you’ll blast through your workload.
Some people swear they can only work in the library, but why not mix it up and try a local café or even a park if the weather’s nice. I personally hate the library, so when I’m feeling too stuffed up in my room I’ll head to a friend’s house to sit and work together. This is especially great if you’re on the same course, because you can work together, discuss ideas, and normally complete work a lot quicker. Divide and conquer!
Plan the night before
Ok this is a tough one for you spontaneous types, but just because it’s written down, it doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. If you make a list of the things you’ll like to do the next day before you go to sleep, you’ll be able to wake up and just jump into it. Don’t feel guilty if you only tick one thing off though, the fact that you wrote it down makes you conscious it needs doing, and the more you get into the habit, the better you’ll know how much you’ll realistically get done in a day.
Do not disturb sign
If you find your housemates barging into your room at all hours of the day ruins your productive flow, just try a sign on your door to make sure they understand you need to be alone for a bit.
We love this cute one from Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/275600414/do-not-disturb-signpersonaliseddoor?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=do%20not%20disturb%20sign&ref=sr_gallery_4
Multitasking is the killer of productivity. Pick one thing you’re going to do, such as reading a paper, and eliminate all other distractions. Switching between tasks will stop you getting into that great work zone, and it’ll take you twice as long to get everything done. This doesn’t mean you can’t take breaks, it just means you should use the breaks to relax, not start doing something else like your laundry.
Bribe yourself with a reward
If you’re doing some really hard questions for a tutorial and it’s taking forever, why not try to motivate yourself with a reward? I love doing this and it really works well, especially during revision season. For example I’ll say once I’ve finished 3 questions I’m allowed to watch another episode of Prison Break on Netflix for the 100th time. Then when I’ve done another 3 I can have a bit of chocolate. It motivates you to work quickly and efficiently, which is really key for ultimate productivity.
Make time for doing what you enjoy the most
Being at Uni isn’t just about doing the work, so make sure you don’t forget that. By working productively you’ll give yourself more time to do the things you love. Go see your friends, go on a mental night out, or watch an episode or two of Netflix (guilty). Make sure to keep a good balance between Uni work and Uni life, you’ll stay engaged when you do need to bash out some coursework.