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How to Be Productive In School: In-Person or Online

Whether it be through Zoom University or attending in-person classes, schoolwork and other assignments are piled onto your workload each day, and sometimes the deadlines can make your head spin.

Two tests and an essay in the same week, and it’s not even midterms yet? I’ve certainly been there and done that! It may sound daunting, and even if you feel like there’s not enough time in the world to study, taking the time to really balance your priorities is key.

No matter what your major is, being a college student is certainly not a walk in the park, but I’ve learned that tackling your worries with the right mindset and managing your time wisely really helps. Although it may sound cliché and like something everyone should know, I find myself going back to these basics listed below when I start to feel lost in my schoolwork.

  1. Planner, Planner, Planner

In elementary school, my teacher would make us write down our homework in our planners every day before the last bell rang. It was always a competition to see who would write down stuff first, but I never really looked back to see what I had to do. Now that I am a lot older, I definitely see the importance of writing things down: it gives me a sense of routine as I shift to work mode and ask myself “what do I have to do today?”.

In my opinion, it is a lot easier to organize your to-dos and deadlines within a weekly/monthly planner spread rather than scattered sticky notes. Even so, there are many planners that fit different time frames; when thinking about how you would like to organize these goals, would you rather have everything laid out in a monthly, weekly, or 9even daily format?

I personally use the Passion Planner Digital on my iPad, but there are various physical versions and free PDFs if you’d rather not spend money. Passion Planner is different in that it lets you map out each day by hour, instead of vaguely jotting down what you need to do for the day. Flipping back and forth from the daily calendar to the monthly one is especially useful as my individual days can get busy, but I can see what I need to do for the month ahead too.

2. Block Out Time and Noise

You’re studying for the big test tomorrow, only to be distracted by your friend wanting to chat with you. I’ll admit a variant of this scenario has happened to me many times, and even if you feel like you’re too invested in something else to study, you still can do it!

Finding a quiet place, of course, is the first step to this. I am fortunate enough to have a separate office-type room for when I want to study with no distractions, but the library’s individual cubbies or a quiet place on campus works just as well.

Now that you’ve found a place, it might not be the best idea to study for three hours straight only to get burnt out. When I have to study for long periods of time, I use the Pomodoro method – a timer where you have an “on” period of studying for 25 minutes with a break of 5 minutes in between. After four study sessions (equaling an hour), you get a longer break and the cycle repeats.

Just as there are many different ways to study (flashcards, Cornell notes, highlighting books, etc.), there are different ways to approach the Pomodoro method. There are straightforward websites or iPhone apps that are just the timer, but apps such as Flora or Forest that let you plant trees in real time (as long as you effectively study!) could provide motivation too.

3. Lean On Your Classmates and Professors

Your classmates are classmates for a reason – they’re there too learn too! They may be just as confused or confident on a topic as you are, and it never hurts to ask their opinions on the course material. They will be more than likely to share what they felt and are a valuable asset to learning in college.

Professor’s office hours work in the same vein because it is literally an hour (or more) dedicated to answering questions or chatting about anything. They have been immensely helpful when it comes to difficult homework assignments or essay prompts, and you could even end up striking a bond with your professor… which can be great for letter of recommendations!

4. Self-Care is Vital

The old phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” rings true, especially if you commit yourself too much and get stressed out! Compassion fatigue and burnout are things that we have been discussing recently in my Psychology courses, but it is a universal concept. Please remember that you are not a machine, and at the end of the day, caring for yourself is what’s important.

You don’t have to give up pastimes because of school, and if you feel like you need to wind down for a moment or two before getting back to work, by all means, do it! A healthy work-life balance can greatly improve your quality of life as a student.

Again, there are many ways to be productive, and remembering these four techniques can serve as a starting point – feel free to branch out as you see fit! Other school faculty and staff such as tutors or counselors can help too, depending on your needs. Remember that you are not alone in your academic journey; utilizing resources available to you is part of being a successful student. Good luck!

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Kamille Mosqueda

Jefferson '23

Kamille is a third-year Psychology major and Communication minor at Thomas Jefferson University. She enjoys books, shows, baking/cooking, and video games. In her spare time, she volunteers for The Trevor Project and wishes she could have a cat.
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