As soon as you wake up in the morning with the whole day in front of you, it can seem as though you have plenty of time to get a million things done.
At 10am it’s easy to think that you will be able to read three chapters of one of your set texts, write 1,000 words of an essay, tidy your room, cook a healthy meal and go for a 10k run. But by 4pm, you find that instead you‘ve watched far too many cat videos on YouTube and have only read two pages of an article.
Giving yourself an unrealistic expectation of how much you can get done in a day is only going to set you up for failure. Plus it would be difficult to maintain this level of productivity for a long period of time – you will just end up burnt out and tired.
But on the other hand if you don’t have a proper plan and aren’t strict with yourself, procrastination can creep in and stop you from achieving anything.
So here are some tips on how to manage your time effectively. This is especially important now that university students are having to study at home and have more control of their studies.
1. Stick to your timetable
Most lecturers are now conducting their lectures online and chances are they are sticking to their regular timetable and delivering their lectures at the exact time they would under normal circumstances.
This means you should still attend these online lectures at the same time and not assume you will be able to access the videos at a later date. Sticking to your original lecture times means you can maintain some of the routine that you had before and will also give you a way to structure your day.
2. Write down a list of three things you want to do each day
To-do lists are a great way to keep you on task and ensure that you get the things done that you need to. But to-do lists can be counterproductive if they are too long and just overwhelm you so much that you don’t know where to start.
Instead, make a general list of everything you need to get done, from university work to life admin. Creating one big to-do list and dumping it onto paper will clear your mind and ensure you aren’t spending too much time trying to remember every single thing you need to do .
Then every night before you go to bed, take three things from your “life to-do list” and write them down on a daily to-do list to get done the following day. This way you aren’t giving yourself too much to do and you’ll find you feel far more productive when you’ve ticked all three things off your list.
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3. Set a timer
Now that you are having to spend more time studying at home, it can be easy to get distracted by everything in your room. Or even to just sit and stare into space while you put off writing that essay.
Try setting a timer for half an hour so that you work solidly until the buzzer goes and then take a 15-minute break. Get up and walk around your room for a few minutes, do some stretches, make yourself a cup of tea – getting away from your books even for a few minutes can help you feel refreshed.
Setting the time also means that you are more likely to get work done if you think you have to work for just an half an hour, rather than sitting and working solidly for three hours.
4. Limit distractions
And by distractions I mean your phone. Put it somewhere you can’t reach and you’ll be amazed at how much you get done when you aren’t scrolling through Instagram or Twitter every five minutes.
Alternatively if you must have your phone near you, turn off all notifications or download an app that discourages you from unlocking your phone, such as Forest. Forest grows a tree across your lock screen and the tree dies as soon as you unlock your phone.
Identify if there might be any other distractions such as the TV, your reading book or anything else that could draw your attention away from the task at hand.
5. Figure out when you are most productive
Very few people can say that they can maintain high levels of productivity for an entire day. For most people there is a window in the day when their brain is most focused, when they are less likely to succumb to distractions and when they are able to do their most productive work.
Regardless of whether it is morning, afternoon or evening, try to structure your day around this or at least tackle your trickiest tasks during the time you feel the most alert.
6. Set a daily schedule
This is slightly different from writing your to-do list for the day. This is more about setting a schedule for the day and ensuring that you stay on top of all the things you have to get through, but also ensuring that you schedule in leisure time, time for exercise etc.
Not only will it keep you on track, but it also gives you things to look forward to and means that you are more likely to schedule things into the day that aren’t just university work.