February 20, 2021

10 Essential Productivity Tips For College Students

Hello my fellow college students! This is usually the time of the semester where we all could use 10 cups of coffee, a hug, and some extra hours of sleep. I'm in the same boat, and I'm here for you! I go to the University of British Columbia on the Okanagan campus, but since everything is online, I'm actually in Calgary, Alberta doing my courses. I'm in my last semester of my bachelors degree majoring in psychology! I've learned a lot of amazing productivity tips along the way throughout my four years, so I thought I'd share some of the most game-changing productivity techniques I use!

This post is all about productivity tips.

1. Time Blocking

Blocking out and specifically assigning tasks for blocks of time in the day can completely change the game for you! When you’re in five or six different classes, you have assignments after assignments due throughout the semester. When you have that many assignments, you need to be constantly working on them throughout the week and it can be extremely daunting to see all of the assignments you have to do within however many days. When you’re time blocking, write down a specific time (like 9:30-10:15am) and assign that time to a task. According to many studies looking at productivity, your brain can actually only focus deeply on something for a maximum of 45 minutes and then you should take a break. This productivity technique changed my life in university, if only I knew about it sooner!

2. Write Out Your MIPs Everyday

Before you start your productive day, be sure to write out your top 3-5 MIPs (most important tasks) for the day. When I see “write them out,” I mean that you’ll want these MIPs to stay visible to you throughout the day. This can mean taping a sticky note or paper to the wall above your desk or making them your phone or computer background for the day. By doing this, you are constantly reminding yourself of your top priorities of what needs to be accomplished. The worst thing you can do to diminish your productivity is for your most important tasks to be ambiguous. Keep this in mind before you begin your day. 

3. Take Advantage of Proactive Interference

I learned about this technique in one of my intro psychology classes at the university. PI (proactive interference) is a great way to stay productive throughout the day. This basically means if you’re in four classes and you need to study for midterms in all classes, you will want to do 45 minutes of biology studying and then switch to studying your english content after that. This switch in subject allows for a release in your brain (called proactive interference) and actually allows you to remember more of what you study. I guess this is less of a productivity hack and more of a memory tool, but remembering the stuff you study faster is a form of productivity for sure! 

4. Turn off Notifications

I swear my phone buzzes every couple minutes because of some notification for some app I never even use! These notifications distract you and take your attention away from what you’re working on. Then, once you're ready to dive back into studying or working on an assignment, it takes some extra time to get your mind back into school-mode. So do yourself a huge favour and use the time that you allot for school work to be notification-free! 

5. Organize Your Workspace 

Messy desk equals a messy mind and vice versa! Keeping an organized and tidy space where you work allows your mind to feel more organized throughout the day. A chaotic work space can distract you and make it difficult to have a good work-flow. 

6. Listen to Classical Music

Okay, here me out on this one. I’m in my last year of my undergrad and I haven’t used this technique until literally this year! Since we’re all doing school online/at-home, it can be difficult to be constantly listening to pre-recorded lectures or copy/make notes on the PowerPoints posted. So, I typed “classical music for studying” into YouTube while I was doing my work, and my gosh it’s extremely relaxing. It allows me to stay focused and relaxed while going through my school work, but since there are no words in the classical songs, I don’t get distracted by singing the words (like I do with other music). 

7. Use a Planner

If I ever lost my planner, I would be completely lost in life until I got a new one and wrote everything in it again! I use this planner since it has lots of room on each day of the week where I can write the times of my zoom class lectures and all of my due dates. This planner also has full month calendars at the beginning of each month where you can have a glimpse of the due dates in the month ahead. I highly recommend getting one every year! 

8. Think About What You’re Working Towards

Sometimes I feel no motivation to do school work, absolutely none. I feel like sitting on the couch and watching Netflix and working on blog posts (which is ironically what I’m doing right now when I’m writing this lol). These non-motivational types of days are completely normal and it’s totally okay to have these sometimes! But, it becomes a problem when you are consistently having no motivation to do school work and it starts affecting your grades or is causing you to miss deadlines. What I do to fix this is think about the end goal, think about why you started in the first place. For me, I started university to major in psychology and to go on and take a masters of counselling psychology degree to be able to practise as a registered psychologist in Alberta when I’m done. I want to have my own practise one day and work with clients to help them achieve happiness and well-being in their lives and assist with mental health struggles. These big goals of mine keep me motivated to get the grunt work of school out of the way as fast as I can so I can achieve these amazing goals! 

9. Get Enough Sleep At Night

I master this one with a whopping 10 hours of sleep every night (is that healthy or is that too much sleep, I guess we’ll never know!). It’s extremely difficult to stay productive and on-task when you’re tired (or hungover) from the night before. Fun fact about sleep: many studies have shown sleep actually helps you synthesize what you’ve learned the day/night before, which means it can maybe help you remember more of what you studied for the exam you need to take! A healthy amount of sleep (at least seven hours) will also lengthen your attention span throughout the day which will allow you to get more work done!

10. Stay Healthy (Physically and Mentally)

Do not take this last point lightly, it’s the most important point on this list! Taking care of yourself is vital to being able to perform your best throughout the day. Make sure you’re eating properly, moving your body (exercising), and delving into self-care throughout the day at some point! If you don’t feel good physically and cognitively, you will not perform the way you would like to. It’s amazing the huge difference it can make when you really make yourself a priority! Be good to your mind and body...it’s what is allowing you to be the great student that you are! 

This post is all about productivity tips.