I know that for many of us, things feel pretty out of sorts right now. Between spiking COVID rates, snow and icy surfaces, and the recent ammonium nitrate fire scare all leading to canceled classes, this semester has not felt like real life. At least for me, and I’m sure many of y’all share this sentiment, I’ve gotten out of the habit of staying productive because of so many class cancellations and not having to turn things in. However, I’m hoping that these next few weeks until break should be pretty normal (although at this point, who honestly knows), and with classes back to usual times, I need to get back into my normal routine for being productive. As someone who is a master procrastinator but also very efficient, here are my top tips for staying productive and efficient.
USING A PLANNER
My number one tip for staying productive and on top of your assignments is to get a planner. I prefer planners with space for each day plus a monthly calendar. Everyone has their own method of keeping track of assignments, but I would suggest writing down homework the day it’s assigned and crossing it off when you’re done (which I find to be pretty satisfying, LOL). I have also found it helpful to designate some sort of indicator of a high-priority assignment. For example, if I have something due that night or the next day, I underline it. Then, I know to get it done first before the other assignments. I also like to use the monthly calendar to schedule club meetings, commitments, and papers/exams so I can see my major priorities in one place. I use this Kate Spade planner, but there are hundreds of planners out there, and what matters most is that you find what works best for you.
THE POMODORO METHOD
Like many others, I do not have a very long attention span, and the amount of time I need to spend on homework and studying each night as a pre-med student FAR exceeds that attention span. Enter the Pomodoro method. This method inserts small, scheduled breaks into periods of work. Depending on how focused you are or how much work you have at a given time, I would recommend either the 25/5 method (25 minutes of work, 5-minute break) or the 45/15 method (45 minutes of work, 15-minute break). There are dozens of Pomodoro study timers on Youtube (try out this video for example). You can also use a website I found called Pomofocus.io, which allows you to make a list of your tasks and designate a certain number of Pomodoros for each one. I find that this helps me stay on task and productive and I can study for hours at a time when necessary when using this method.
DO NOT DISTURB
One of the biggest obstacles towards being productive is constant notifications from Snapchat, Instagram, texts, etc., to eliminate these distractions, I’ve found that using Do Not Disturb has been pretty effective. Although it’s tempting to respond to notifications as they roll in, it’s much easier to ignore them if you can’t see them appear on your screen at all. This even goes for emails – I am guilty of pausing my work and responding to emails because technically, it’s school-related, right? But even that distraction is just as harmful to productivity, so I’ve just gotten into the habit of turning off notifications entirely.
THE RIGHT MUSIC
This tip applies to whatever you feel like listening to, but if you’re looking for less distracting music, I would recommend either Lo-Fi music (my current favorite Lo-Fi playlist) or, surprisingly, video game music, which is designed to help you concentrate. That being said, if you don’t listen to music while you work because you can’t focus, that’s okay. As I mentioned earlier, to each their own.
SCHEDULING “ME” TIME
This one feels counterintuitive, but no one can work all day. This is why, even on my busiest days, I’ve made a point of scheduling some time, usually 30 minutes to an hour, for myself. You can use this however you want, hanging out with friends, taking a nap, watching Netflix, or hitting the gym. We are reward-oriented creatures, and that list of tasks you have to get done may seem dang near impossible if you don’t have anything to look forward to once you’re done. Although it may feel like you’re wasting your time by taking it for yourself, it is much easier to get back into work once you’ve taken a long break.