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My 3 Tips for Adopting Productive Routines as a College Student

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brown chapter.

“August slipped away into a moment in time.”

These Taylor Swift lyrics ring true for the majority of Brown students, who just saw their summers come to an end. And while the return of September holds the allure of seeing classmates and enjoying an East Coast fall full of beautiful foliage and delicious seasonal menu additions, it also represents the beginning of arduous classes, clubs, and interviews — and the daunting challenge of balancing it all. While getting back into the swing of things can be difficult, there are numerous ways to make it manageable. Here are my tips for establishing a productive routine that helps you stay on top of work, feel energized, and reduce stress. 

Schedule, schedule, schedule

Google Calendar and scheduling journals are my best friend for college. Between classes, sections, clubs, social obligations, and more, keeping track of everything without physical reminders is almost impossible; unless you have a photographic memory, things are bound to slip through the cracks. I put all of my weekly commitments in a Google Calendar with notifications 30 minutes before each event, which, in addition to reminding me what I have each day, prevents me from double booking myself. 

I also take time the night before to plan out the next day in a more detailed manner, with time estimates for studying, errand running, etc. I also create separate schedules for fitness routines, self-care, and dorm chores to hold myself more accountable. This may not work for everyone, but as a goal-oriented and slightly compulsive person, I find that writing out these schedules and lists makes me far more likely to complete what needs to get done (I get a lot of satisfaction crossing off the tasks, and the physical lists help to make my agendas more tangible and concrete). In addition, these lists help me reduce stress levels and stay grounded and focused on the most important tasks at hand; they enable me to take things one step at a time and be focused rather than spiraling and feeling overwhelmed with a million things to accomplish. 

Start the day with a positive/productive morning routine that does not involve screen usage

Your brain is most malleable during the first 20 minutes you spend awake. What this means is that the activities you pursue during this time set the tone of your day. So, if the first thing you do when you wake up is stay in bed, grab your phone, and scroll through social media, that is all you’re going to want to do for the rest of your day. Thus, I keep myself away from screens for my first 30 minutes awake and instead start the day with affirmations and doing a few tasks that make me feel accomplished (making my bed, working out, stretching, and showering). 

Scientific research has supported that implementing affirmations in your morning routine delivers a host of benefits, including countering habitual negative thoughts, improving motivation, and increasing productivity. If you’re like me, standing in front of a mirror and repeating a bunch of positive phrases might seem a little ridiculous. Because of this, I typically write out affirmations instead (typically a small paragraph that details how the day is going to go, how I am going to feel throughout the day, what I am going to accomplish, and how the day will end). 

In addition, starting the day with a few productive tasks (and avoiding the snooze button) helps me establish a positive momentum for the rest of the day. Making my bed allows me to feel organized and in control. Stretching and working out in the morning helps my body wake up and release endorphins. Showering lets me feel clean and put together for my day. All of these make it easier for me to feel energized and productive. 

Make time for self-care and ritualize some aspects of your day! 

Self-care is so important in maintaining a positive mental state and improving overall well-being — it can boost mood, decrease stress, improve physical health, and increase motivation. Because of this, I make time for the completion of at least one self-care practice a day, whether that be taking a shower with steamers, watching a comfort movie, meditating, or doing a more extensive skincare regimen.
In addition, I strive to maintain a consistent morning and nighttime routine that ritualizes certain aspects. For example, I begin every morning by brewing myself a cup of coffee and drinking it while writing my affirmations. Before I go to sleep, I spend my last 30 minutes awake reading a library book. In addition to this helping me feel more put together and on top of things, studies have shown that having a routine for your mornings and evenings can help manage stress, improve sleep, and more. They help your brain associate certain activities with being awake and falling asleep and thus enable you to have a more productive, healthy, and happy day.

Elle Horst

Brown '26

Elle Horst is a freshman at Brown University from Northern California. She plans on concentrating in International Public Affairs with a Policy and Governance focus. As an avid journalist in high school, Elle is thrilled to join Her Campus as a staff writer. In her free time, she enjoys drinking good coffee, hanging out with friends, going to the beach, and binging TV shows.