Five tips for staying organized

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Beth May (graphic)

Beth May (graphic)

If you’re a student—and even if you’re not—it becomes increasingly difficult to prioritize your time and attention when classes, labs, tutorials, coursework, assignments, a job, chores, and maintaining relationships all require time and energy. At times, the pressures and commitments of student life and home life seem impossible to balance.

The stress of school or work life can be minimized if one aims to organize their workspace, set routines,  prioritize time and energy, and take care of themselves physically and mentally. Drawing on some examples given by the Oxford Royale Academy, here are a few helpful tips for increasing student productivity:

Create a comfortable and productive work environment

Find work or study space with comfortable furniture and enough space to spread out the materials you need.

Maintain a clean and tidy work space. The old adage that “mess creates stress” is certainly true, and odds are you will be better able to focus on organizing your thoughts if you aren’t distracted by a disorganized space.

Eliminate distractions  (easier said than done!)

Find some peace and quiet. Ideally, find a place where there will be few people going by or the privacy of your own room.

Music might help you concentrate by blocking out background noise.  Some types of music may work better than others—Mozart may be more helpful than metal.

Make your phone off limits. If you need to tackle a long to-do list, turn off your phone. Allow yourself breaks and check your phone then.

Stay off Facebook. Quickly logging in to check your notifications can easily turn into wasted hours.

Organize your space

File materials intelligently. Create separate folders or inboxes for each course you take, and file notes, research material, and assignments together. This can be done both digitally and within your physical study space.

Write to-do lists. Keep track of due dates and other commitments by maintaining a list. Being able to cross a task off your list is highly satisfying and could help increase your motivation. If needed, write out multiple to-do lists to keep track of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks requiring your attention and prioritize them.

Time Management

Set study times.  Some may find it helpful to create a daily time table, and schedule in reading, studying, and other tasks.

Stop procrastinating. Don’t put off work until tomorrow if you could start on it, or even get it done today.

Don’t try to take on too much work at once. Break your to-do list into smaller, more manageable tasks. Putting “write essay” on your list when you haven’t even started the research could be demoralizing and overwhelming. Break the large tasks down into stages and celebrate your accomplishments when little tasks are complete.

Don’t leave everything to the last minute. This provides a cushion in case you find your printer is out of ink or your department office unexpectedly closes early.

Build time for relationships and chores into your schedule. Make Skype dates with friends and family, do a load of laundry each night, prep meals for the week, etc. Making time for relationships will help keep you sane and can be a great source of motivation.

Beyond creating a comfortable work environment and managing your time, there are physiological and psychological factors that can influence your productivity. Eating well (and enough) will help boost your energy and aid with concentration. Long study sessions can lead to dehydration, which will take its toll on your concentration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day or plan for water breaks. Sleep and exercise contribute to alertness and energy levels so try to get enough of both. Psychological productivity boosters include adopting a positive mental attitude towards your work, establishing study routines and habits, and rewarding yourself for your hard work.

With midterms done and many assignments to get through before finals, perhaps this list of tips for boosting productivity will help you  get on the right track for the end of the semester. You may be doing many of these things already. If not, perhaps think about incorporating some of these suggestions into your routine. Your mind, body, and transcripts will thank you.

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