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How to be Productive After Class

As a senior in college, I know how easy it is to let sleepiness overtake you after a long day of class, meetings, and stu(dying). You walk into your apartment, set your bag down, and somehow find yourself stuck to your couch hours later, saying, “What? Of course I’m still watching, Netflix!” Sometimes that’s fine, especially if you’ve been really busy, but it shouldn’t be your everyday routine. Here are five ways I keep myself accountable and productive after class.

1. Make lists.  Know what you need to do when you get home, and write it down. Because I’m self-indulgent and usually a little lazy, I even write things that I know I won’t forget to do, like making dinner and feeding my cat, so that I have something to get the “check that off” ball rolling. Be specific on this list — instead of “homework,” write out what you need to do exactly, like “read pages 120-145 in Mythology book, respond to discussion questions on Blackboard.” Being specific on the list will keep you from having to fumble around looking for details when it’s time to get started on your work. If you don’t have any work to do (which is probably unlikely, so check your planner again), you can always write out a workout plan, a dinner menu, or details about your self-care routine. Then, get them done and check them off! 

2. Set non-school related goals. Most of the time, when college students hear, “What are your goals?” we think school-related, like getting our Masters or graduating with certain honors. That’s great, and it’s definitely important, but it’s equally as important to remind yourself and others that you’re more than a student! Always have hobbies and goals that aren’t connected to your school life, so that you have a place to step back from GPAs and course evals when school gets stressful. Personally, I enjoy painting, practicing/teaching yoga, and journaling — all things that aren’t related to my college career at all, and are peaceful things for me to pour myself into when I need a break from textbook learning. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the end of the day, leading you to procrastinate doing your school work, you might find your inspiration again in an activity that isn’t even related to school. Once, I sat at my laptop for almost 4 hours unable to write anything decent. I stopped, worked on some tricky inversions to get my blood flowing in a different direction, and then went back to my laptop and banged out 18 pages of writing that was pretty damn good. True story. It works. 

3. Keep your workspace squeaky clean. I recently moved into a new apartment that came furnished with “modern decor”…aka, all of my tables are glass-topped and it’s a nightmare. Before I can get working in the evenings (or anytime, really) I have to clean my kitten’s paw prints off the desk and put things back where they were before she decided to smack things around and rearrange. The glass cleaner I use smells like mint, and mint has always been a stimulating, invigorating smell for me, so that’s a big bonus. Once I have the surface clean, I can get myself situated with all of the books and other materials that I need to get to work, so I don’t have an excuse to get up and get distracted. 

4. Have a couple “big picture” goals.  These are goals that you won’t accomplish in one day, like getting an A in a tough course or researching/writing a longer paper. You can break these things down into smaller tasks that can be done in a day, like reviewing your notes from the class or saying you’re going to spend X amount of time researching a certain topic for that paper. By breaking down these bigger projects into smaller tasks, you’re much more likely to be successful getting them done. Working daily toward accomplishing a big goal feels great, and will motivate you to keep going with it. 

5. Have a designated stopping time. Aka “Do everything you can to avoid pulling all-nighters.” I haven’t stayed up all night doing school-related things since high school, and my soul is happier for it. If you’re following the tips above on a daily basis and staying organized, there’s pretty much no reason why you’d have to stay up all night doing anything unless you’re in the midst of a “hell week,” a time that’s not midterms or finals but somehow you have a ton of things due in a short period of time. (There are no tips I can give you for hell week. Just do what you need to do in order to survive). Take notice of what amount of sleep serves you best, and adjust your nightly routine so that you’ll be able to stop working and get ready for bed in time to get the amount of sleep you need. In addition to keeping you well-rested, having a solid stopping time can help you power through your work — if you know you have “just X more minutes” until you can stop, you’ll get there. 

[All photos courtesy of Pexels.com]

Olivia is a senior at UNCW, majoring in Creative Writing. She enjoys color coding all things possible and hanging string lights year-round.
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