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Enhance Your Productivity System With These 5 Tips

As we slowly bid farewell to the summer and welcome a new semester, many of us may find ourselves caught in a balancing act with classes, extra-curricular activities, and internships. If we're not careful, failure to plan ahead can derail our plans for success.

This is where a solid productivity system comes in. What better time than now to make sure yours is serving you? Here are some tried and tested practices that can help you excel during your college career.

Create functional to-do lists

A to-do list is one of the most basic yet important tools for any productivity system. Not all to-do lists are equal, though, and if you're creating lists that are overflowing with vague and untimed tasks, you'll quickly become overwhelmed.

It's helpful to separate lists based on category (that's right - there's no reason the shopping list should be mixed in with a checklist for your next history project). Additionally, elements of a to-do list should be time-sensitive. Instead of saying that something needs to be accomplished “tomorrow,” try to allocate a specific time to it. This could help to avoid unnecessary postponing and procrastination.

My personal favourite to-do list app is TickTick. It's available on both desktop and mobile platforms, and since my phone is usually in my possession more often than a physical list, it's extremely convenient. It also has a few more useful features than many of the pre-installed, standard apps on phones and computers.

Set up and maintain your calendars

Chances are you're probably already using a calendar to log events and reminders. However, there are some things you can do to make your experience even more streamlined, like creating separate calendars for your personal life, classes, and work. Whenever an important date or deadline comes up, log it right away; this will ensure that you don't have a backlog of items that you need to commit to memory. Additionally, while I'm not a serial color-coder, I've found that assigning colors to each calendar creates a useful visual cue that helps me compartmentalize information about upcoming events.

I use Google Calendar because it syncs across multiple devices and integrates well with my other productivity apps.

Use a Pomodoro timer

Sometimes when we're working on large projects, it can seem like there's so much to do and not enough time to get it done. We find ourselves becoming distracted, watching the clock tick, and giving in to drifting thoughts while our deadlines draw near.

I've found it helpful to use a pomodoro timer whenever I'm tackling a challenging project. The pomodoro technique is a simple practice for enhancing productivity. The idea behind it is that you do 25 minutes of focused, uninterrupted work, followed by 5 minutes of rest. Not only does this encourage regular breaks, but if you decide on specific parts of the project that you want to tackle within each 25 minute period, you gain more clarity about what it is you need to accomplish.

The pomodoro timer built into TickTick is an added bonus, but there are dozens of other pomodoro apps for all platforms. Additionally, you can set your own custom timers with a basic clock.

Organize your file system

You may not realize it, but having documents scattered in drawers or on your computer's file system can slow you down, confuse you, and interrupt an otherwise smooth workflow. Plus, who wants to spend more time searching for a file than getting actual work done?

I try to stick with digital copies of files when I can, and these are organized into appropriate folders. I have folders for each class I'm taking, as well as subfolders for notes, assignments, and other miscellaneous documents. I also like to bookmark or favorite the folders that I use frequently so that I have quick access to them.

Don't underestimate the power of writing things down

As much as I love the convenience of technology in managing my productivity, I will always appreciate the simplicity of physically writing things down. Along with my digital tools, I use a journal to jot down quick notes about upcoming assignments and projects. I also like to have a whiteboard near my workstation so that I can see everything I need to do with a quick glance. Using both digital and analogue methods helps to create a layer of redundancy, ensuring that you don't miss any important details.

Remember: these are simply suggestions for laying the foundation of an effective productivity system. Feel free to tailor these practices to your own needs, experiment with different apps and methods, and discover a system that's unique to you.

Greer Jackson is a Howard University journalism major, computer science minor from Georgetown, Guyana. Her interests range from photography and writing to coding and web design. She considers music an existential need, literature a godsend, and tea a must-have. When her head isn't buried in a book, she's usually behind the viewfinder of a camera or shamelessly enjoying solitary moments of introspection.
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