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How to massively boost your efficiency as a college student

So, no surprise: college is busy. You’re running to classes, you have a thousand assignments you haven’t done yet—some were due last week, you forgot to eat breakfast and lunch, and you just took a three hour nap. As thriving, confident, successful college students, how do we get the most of our time in the day and ultimately our time at school?

Here are my saving graces for being productive, enjoying time with friends, and not dying from a lack of sleep in the process:

1.     Schedule productivity and breaks!

I use pomofocus.io, an online pomodoro timer. It sets you up to work for 25 minutes and take a break for 5 minutes. Every hour, it gives you a fifteen minute break. I started using this when I got a concussion and couldn’t spend extended time on screens. Now, it helps me to use my time most efficiently. Instead of staring at a screen for two hours and bouncing between Buzzfeed tabs, Yik Yak, and a barely-started essay, stressing about how I haven’t gotten anything done, the pomodoro technique helps me focus and be productive in a shorter time. Plus, I get to scream-sing Mamma Mia during the breaks ;) Sorry roomies.

2.     Prioritize what’s most consequential; choose some things to do poorly.

This is a huge one. I learned this in high school when I was taking all intensive courses plus extra electives, dancing 14 hours a week, and playing volleyball at the same time (Why did I think this was a good idea??) There was just no way I was going to do everything I had been assigned and still be able to eat and shower semi-regularly. I realized it was okay to not do the reading for my English class if I had to write a History essay due at midnight. That informal writing assignment that counts for 10% of your grade? Twenty minutes to grind it out and send it in. Especially in college where professors are less likely to hold you accountable for completing non-graded work, it’s easier to prioritize assignments and tasks that are more important than your 12th p-set of the semester or that tutorial critique. It’s easier said than done, but you’ll free up more of your time to sleep.

3.     Use Brain.fm.

It’s like magic. Are you someone who gets distracted easily when you’re trying to do work that you’ve procrastinated or don’t find particularly interesting? The app brain.fm uses specifically curated music to modify your brain waves to help you focus. I know it sounds hippy dippy, but it is science-based and has been a lifesaver when I would rather watch 20 hours of What Would You Do on YouTube than study for my Psych quiz the next day. 👀👀

A subscription does cost money, but I think it’s worth it because it has different genres of music all arranged in a form to help you focus. If you want a similar experience without the price tag, check out music with low binaural frequencies of 14-30Hz (you can find them on YouTube).

4.     Enjoy time with friends!

It’s Saturday and you’ve spent your entire afternoon in the library because you have two essays due and a test on Wednesday. You said you would study this morning, but you slept in and went to the gym, and somehow the morning got away from you. You want to finish one of your essays today, but it’s 9:30pm and you can hear music outside your window. Plus, you can’t help checking Instagram and seeing everyone’s fun pics from last night. All you want to do is go out with your friends! Bestie—go out!! Are you really going to get anything else done tonight that you can’t do tomorrow? And you’ll probably do it better tomorrow anyway when you can fully focus. . .

Feeding all parts of your person is so important to being an effective student. You’re never going to get anything done if you always have FOMO and are sad because you haven’t seen your friends in a week. Do what makes your soul happy. In 10 years, you’re probably not going to remember that C you got on your paper because you turned it in a day late; you’re going to remember the moments you had with people and friendships you still enjoy because of them.

All in all, college life is chaotic. You’re going to feel like there’s never enough time for everything you want to do, but you’re still going to waste time and procrastinate. Don’t be hard on yourself, let go of what you don’t have time to do or don’t do well, and remember not to take yourself too seriously. Also, while we’re giving advice, make yourself some hot chocolate, cuz it is yummy as hell and it’s getting coooold ;)

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Anne Gorayeb

Williams '25

Hi! I'm Anne, Class of 2025 at Williams. I love anything outdoors, I'm excessively clumsy, and you can see me sporting blindingly-bright yellow crocs around campus. Check out my articles for some niche nosh.
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