I have always been one to put off work for as long as possible – ‘the dog ate my homework’ is a well oiled excuse at this point – so I know all too well what it’s like to procrastinate. As much as we’d all love to sit at home watching The Simpsons or catching up on Euphoria all day, it’s just not realistic and won’t help us academically.
Even though exam season is quite far away, it is important to stay prepared in advance so you aren’t catching up on 20 lectures and completing 14 past papers a week before your exams. So, to help combat our urge to lie in bed all day promising ourselves we will “make notes on that lecture later,” here are some tips to be more productive.
1) Using calendars and to-do lists
Whenever I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I have to do and start putting it off, my go to method to help combat any negative behaviours is listing everything I have to do in my reminder’s app (although any to-do list will do). This allows you to break down all sections of your work into more manageable sized chunks which you can dedicate small amounts of time to in between watching shows or leisurely activities. I also feel really motivated to continue as soon as I get to tick an activity off my list.
2) Using “focus” modes
As much as we were told as children that technology – including phones, laptops and tablets – was just a distraction from education, there is no denying it is now a completely normal aspect of academia and continues to replace traditional textbooks. This being said, having access to entertainment and educational resources on the same device can be quite distracting.
Luckily, most modern phones and laptops offer a new feature called “focus.” This allows you to create custom ‘do not disturb’ schedules, allowing you access to only certain apps or pages on your phone, and restricting notifications. These can be completely customised by you as the user. This has saved me several times in lectures by limiting distractions from incoming messages whilst I’m trying to make notes, and has helped me when revising at home by restricting my access Instagram and Snapchat.
3) Being in University
For me, even if I have no lectures or specific need to come onto campus, I will do. The temptation to go for a nap or just watch endless movies when at home can be very overwhelming. For this reason, somedays I will just come into university, find a nice quiet area either in a library or in MECD and just put my head down and complete as much work as possible. I do find it effective every 20 – 40 minutes to take a quick breather, by going for a walk or just getting a change of scenery. It feels extremely rewarding when you finish your work knowing for the next few days you can enjoy yourself and relax – especially over weekends.
4) Organising lecture notes
If my lecture notes are disorganised, it may be one of (if not) the biggest reasons I avoid completing my work. If I’ve left gaps in my lecture notes or started jotting down incoherent thoughts, I’ll just avoid revisiting or forming more detail notes on the subject. One way I have of organising my notes better is (particularly if the lecture is very fast paced) I will write/type in red quickly what each section was about, where to catch up or find more details on the subject. I also do this trick towards the end of the semester by going through past papers and without answering the questions I will quickly leave a note saying if I know how to complete a question, if I partially know how to answer it or if I need to revise this topic completely.
5) Organise study sessions
Even though our friends can often be the reason we do get distracted, if you organise a small group of friends to study together at a set place and set time (I recommend booking a group study room in the libraries) you can often be quite productive. We all encourage each other to stay focused by discouraging the use of phones for social media and sometimes by just seeing someone else working, it can guilt trip you into studying more as well. An added bonus is studying with people on the same course as you as it allows you to work through questions together or communicate more easily rather than through phone calls and messages.