Fall semester has kicked off, and as a result many college students are readjusting to the groove of things after a long summer break. The first few weeks begin with idealistic plans of all they hope to do throughout the semester. Many times, however, they find themselves at the end wondering where the time went.
While we cannot underestimate the power of highly motivated and ambitious college students to get things done, as individuals we have to recognize our challenges. With so much going on, and so many exciting opportunities for procrastination, it's easy to get sidetracked into a million different things at once.
Now that I am en route to my senior year, I'm using my hindsight to do some things differently. To get my creative juices and motivation flowing when sleep deprived, I'm making some changes that may work for you as well:
1. Charge the phone with your alarm across the room:
Force yourself to have to get out of bed. Avoid the trap of pressing snooze for an hour and then feeling guilty for neither sleeping nor being productive. Decide when you would like to wake up and stick to it. This also means going to sleep at a reasonable time so that you can squeeze in your 5-7 hours of sleep. Often times, the work attempted while exhausted before bed will get done more effectively (and quickly) if you do it in the morning after a night's sleep. As hard as it is to refrain from jumping back in bed, once you shut off your alarm get your day going.
2. Turn your bed (not your bedroom) into a "no-work" zone:
When I've spoken to advisers about time management, it's been recommended that I make my bedroom a place to relax after a long day. But personally, after a full day of classes, activities, and work, I find it comforting to blast my music and work from the comfort of my own room. Instead, what I find helpful is to use the built-in bed risers of my bedframe to elevate it, and make a mental separation between relaxing and working space. When I'm at my desk, I only do work. When it's time for a break, I physically get up from my chair and use the time to tweet, browse Facebook, text, call, watch funny YouTube videos, etc. When I'm in bed, I force myself to use my computer and electronics for entertainment purposes only. It takes a while to get used to it, but I promise it'll become more natural over time if you stick with it.
3. Use multiple Internet engines:
Download your two favorite Internet engines, and designate one for work and one for play. For example, all of the bookmarks in one of my engines are related to schoolwork, and on the other they're related to fun websites and different social medias. This way, you can minimize the temptation to sidetrack. If you're using Google Chrome and you simply want to stick with it, then login with a specific email account when doing work, and then use a different one for the latter. Think about it like creating the online conditions that will help you stay focused.
4. Schedule time for fun!
Knowing that you have fun workshops, games, and other events to look forward to can help you grind through your work time. Also, it can play a role in how you distribute your time between work and play.
5. Plan your schedule strategically:
Even though many of us college students are static for those late classes, rethink how you use your time. Something I've tried is to schedule my work shifts before my 10 am class, so that I'm forced to wake up early and use the time that I would've otherwise taken to catch up on sleep. It's helpful to get into a routine, and strategically schedule things during time slots you know you wouldn't be productive in if you had a choice.
There are many other things you can do, but there certainly isn't a magic way to increase productivity. The key is to recognize your own challenges, and find ways to change your environment so it can increase your enthusiasm and motivation to push you through the semester.
As you experiment with different strategies, the most important thing is that you give yourself a break. Don't be too harsh on yourself if you can't stick to the changes, but don't give up either. Just forgive yourself when you fail, and keep trying new things until you succeed at finding the right changes for you.