As we kick off summer break, many students are working at jobs, starting hobbies, or studying for a future class. As such, having a handful of productivity tips handy can help you feel more prepared come September. A few of these tips are not specific to school – they can be applied throughout your life.
Your Habits are a consequence of your Environment.
This may be tricky to understand at first, but it essentially means that habits (positive or negative), are influenced by your environment. This mostly applies to distractions, because having a distracting environment (lots of games, and people to talk to) is what causes these distractions to take shape. For example, lets declare your phone as part of your environment, and say that you tend to lose lots of time checking Instagram instead of studying. Instagram is the distraction which was formed by your phone, or your environment.
We can fix this by following these steps:
Identify the problem.
If you don’t know what is causing your ineffectiveness, you have to start to become aware of when you check your phone, or when (and how) you lose focus. Journal what distracts you, and eliminate them from your surroundings.
Taking the example mentioned earlier, we have identified our distraction as checking Instagram. The best way to deal with this is to either get rid of it, or make it harder to check. We can achieve this by using a website blocker like Blocksite. I personally recommend scheduling the website blocker to run during your school hours. This removes the hassle (and potential distraction) of having to manually toggle it.
As your exposure to the distraction lessens, you start to feel less of an urge to pursue it. We can further enforce this by slowly taking more and more time away from the distraction. In the case of Instagram, you can increase the time for which it is blocked for by 5 minutes each day.
2. DON’T Multitask
To realize the negative effects of this, we have to understand how our brain works. The area of the brain responsible for carrying out ‘processes’ in the brain is called the prefrontal cortex. This includes planning, focusing, decision-making, and even social expression.
The prefrontal cortex is split into 2 parts. When you work on a single task, these 2 parts work together to send signals to your brain. When you try to multitask, however, the 2 parts work separately, which leads you to make triple the amount of mistakes you would normally make.
Furthermore, a study from neuroscientists at the University of London concluded that people who multitasked had a decline in their IQ score, similar to how you perform worse when you stay up all night cramming for an exam.
Put simply, multitasking does more harm than good, and you would be much better off taking one assignment at a time. You will be surprised how quickly you can get the work done.
3. Take Breaks
Taking some time for yourself is essential in reducing stress, and staying focused while studying. If you try to tackle all of your tasks in one sitting, you actually make yourself less efficient, and eventually cause unnecessary frustration.
Moreover, studies show that being too dormant when studying can have negative health effects including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more. Taking a 5-10 minute walk can be enough to reset your mind, regain focus, and get some exercise. Taking breaks also rejuvenate your motivation and your willpower, 2 essential factors to your studying success.
Here are some ideas of what you can do during your break:
1. Have a snack, make yourself a coffee or tea, and sit outside if you have the option to.
2. Go on a short 5-10 minute walk, play with your dog, or go on a run around the block.
3. Stretch your legs, and do a small workout session.
All in all, I highly recommend taking breaks during studying. I personally have tried taking breaks more often for the past few months, and I feel more refreshed and focused during my studies.
4. Less is more.
There are many blogs and gurus that preach doing as many tasks as possible in your day, however many fail to address that doing this is actually less effective for the average person.
This comes with a nice rule of thumb that is easy to follow, but is important in being as efficient as possible while keeping a healthy lifestyle.
If it takes 2 minutes or less, do it. If it is longer than 2 minutes, start it.
This can be interpreted in different ways, but we believe that small menial tasks (like filling out a form, completing a syllabus, taking brief notes, etc.) should be taken care of when you are not as motivated. This causes you to feel accomplished because you completed these small tasks, and can help you regain your energy for the longer projects.
If you have big projects due in a few weeks, take 10-20 minutes per day and work on it. No more, no less (This is of course dependent on how long the project is going to take, and how much time you have).
Taking it little by little guarantees that you are making the most of your 20 minutes, and that you are doing your best work. If you cram it all into one day, you will feel burned out, and will not be able to do the same quality work that you would be able to do if you still had energy.
5. Look at tasks Individually
The threatening nature of having tons of tasks can cause people to procrastinate. They think it is too much work, and that they will never finish it all.
The problem is that you are looking at tasks as one big lump of work, and this can be discouraging. A solution to this is thinking of tasks or assignments individually.
Instead of thinking about ‘homework for the month’, think about each piece of homework as something separate, and use the rule in tip #4 to get smaller tasks done quickly, and make progress in the bigger projects without losing motivation.
With this method, I have never procrastinated school work since adopting it, and I feel my mood improving, and stress decreasing.
If you plan to use any of these tips in your study life, leave a comment, and share this with your friends, so they can get onboard!