The trio of procrastination, time management, and productivity have been frequent visitors this school year… I hope these tips help when an unproductive mood comes around to visit!
Let’s face it: procrastination is a student’s best friend. I’ve had several unproductive moods hit these past couple months, where it seems like I don’t want to do anything I’ve been assigned, but I’ve found some ways to combat it!
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Usually, I have lots of big tasks. Multiple chapters of reading, an essay, a test to study for. What works for me is breaking the big task down into small tasks, like listing each chapter I have to read, or figuring out my claim and brainstorming one day and finding evidence the next. Another thing I tell myself when I feel an unproductive mood coming on is, “I need to get this done.” It seems to be a sort of mantra that if I keep repeating while fighting the urge to scroll social media instead of doing my work, the work gets done. It may not be up to my usual standards, but it gets done.
I know we all have friends or roommates, and they come in handy when you want to be unproductive! Use them as a resource! If you tell them you want to procrastinate, and need to get something done, having them hold you accountable can sometimes guilt trip you into powering through what you need to get done.
My favorite tool to use is the two minute rule. When I’m in a strong unproductive mood, just working half-heartedly on my assigned reading or essay for two minutes gets me somewhere. It’s more than I had two minutes before! Often, after the two minutes is up, I find myself working for at least another three, five if I’m lucky.
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One thing I have definitely struggled with as a student is time management.
It seems like one day, I’ll be productive and get things done with only a little distraction, while others it seems like I can’t get anything done in three hours.
Most of the time, setting a timer on my phone for how long I’ll work on something (and the subsequent break!) before moving on helps me not to waste three hours on one page of math problems. I’ve heard many people use the Podmoro technique, but since my focus doesn’t extend that long, I usually do ten to fifteen minutes of working, and five to ten minutes of break, unless I’m in the zone and I reset my work timer.
A different way of trying time management is using a planner for your weekly or daily schedule. By using one, you can see how much of your time is free or not free, or make yourself a daily schedule by blocking out specific amounts of time for each task you have to complete that day. If you block off when you’re in class, practices and games for sports, and deadlines, you can get a general idea of when you’ll be able to work on things effectively and when they are due!
The best time management tip I’ve come across is start early. That paper due in a week? Outline it the day you get it - you’ll thank yourself for it on Wednesday when you remember you have an essay again. That pile of homework you just dumped on your desk? Make a list, pick one thing, and do it! If you start on something ahead of time, or even just begin on the day you get the assignment, you’ll find yourself with more time to spend on other assignments and less time on stress.
Lastly, productivity in general is sometimes hard, especially if the weather is nice and all you can think about is being outside, or your phone keeps lighting up with messages. What I can offer is a list of somewhat random productivity tips, and hopefully you’ll be able to use some of them to get to work!
1. Have a written list, on paper, that you can cross items off of. It gives me, at least, a feeling of accomplishment when I pick up the pen to cross another item off!
2. Set “Do Not Disturb” mode to come on automatically on your phone if you work on homework at roughly the same time every day. If not, popping it on when you’re working will save you from getting distracted and ending up on social media
3. Music is sometimes very necessary (like to keep you awake or motivated), but other times, silence works wonders for powering through! Try to make a playlist where you won’t have to skip every other song, and if you’re like me and want to see who the new artist is if it’s not your playlist, take a screenshot and look them up later!
4. If your workspace is cluttered, I’m sorry to reveal to you that it’s probably going to be harder for you to work! Usually my desk is my landing place for whatever I’m carrying and for the books and papers I don’t need in class. I end up making a pile for each class, setting the piles on the floor next to the desk, and swapping piles just so I can have enough space for a textbook and my notebook to be on my desk!
5. If you’re prone to snacking while studying, try to limit yourself to a small portion of whatever you’re eating, and brush your teeth or chew gum to prevent yourself from going back and eating an entire sleeve of Ritz, or an entire bag of pretzels. I may or may not have sat here and ate an entire (small) bag of chips while writing this…
6. Post it’s are fantastic! Stick them where you’re sure to see them with deadlines or reminders, especially if you have to print off an essay or remember your phone charger the next day.
7. When I can’t focus, I usually find a different place to work. On the floor of a different room, at the library, or with my friends is enough of a change for my brain to jump back into working productively.
8. Your phone can be a wonderful tool, with alarms, reminders, and timers, if you remember to set them!
Just remember that school isn’t everything - schedule time in for things other than school so you don’t go crazy, but your grades are important! Hopefully, you can use some of these tips and gain some time back from an unproductive mood.