College can be overwhelming when you're trying to maintain your grades, work a part-time job and/or balance relationships. Most of us get distracted with push notifications, text messages and phone calls. According to research conducted by Dr. Larry Rosen, professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, "the typical student" is "distracted for at least five out of every 15 minutes they set aside to study," most often as a result of texting and social media use.
With so much going on, it can be very difficult to stay focused, but it's not impossible.
Here are seven tips to help enhance your productivity:
- Get organized with a to-do list
- Silence alerts and keep open Internet tabs to a minimum
- Break big projects into small pieces
- Use music and headphones to cut down noise
- Find the best environment for efficient studying
- Clean up and organize your work space
- Reward yourself for accomplishments
Make a Schedule or To-Do List
Juggling multiple projects and deadlines at school can be stressful. When you're working on one assignment, it's easy to forget about another. You can help organize your deadlines and manage your time more efficiently with a proper schedule. Figure out when you're most productive and set time aside for homework and activities. Keeping a planner or digital calendar will help you keep track of your classes and assignments. Paper planners are perfect for those who like writing to-do lists and scheduling appointments by hand. One study suggests that the simple act of writing things out helps boost your concentration and memory.
Turn Off Alerts
Constant notifications and text messages are every college student's enemy. Put your phone on silent or in "Do Not Disturb" mode, and close unnecessary tabs on your computer. If you need the Internet, keep one tab open. You can fight online distractions by blocking or hiding time-wasting websites and apps.
Break Down Your Work into Smaller Tasks
Defeat procrastination by breaking a large project into small pieces. It's easier to motivate yourself to do something in smaller tasks rather than jumping into a huge one. If you're having a difficult time studying or getting work done, break up your time effectively. Try giving yourself a 10-minute break for every 45-50 minutes of work you do. Studies show that taking breaks can help you retain information and increase productivity.
If you're working in a noisy environment, use noise-canceling headphones. Listening to music through earbuds can also tune out distracting noises like people talking too loudly or construction work. Often, though, music with lyrics can be too distracting. Researchers suggest listening to classical or instrumental music to improve concentration.
Find the Right Place to Do Work
Some students work best with a little background noise, while others need complete quiet. Get to know your work style and the type of atmosphere you prefer. Are you the kind of person who works better in silence at the library? Or do you prefer the campus coffee shop with ambient noise? Try a few different spaces and see how each study session works out.
Clear Your Desk
Is your desk covered with stacks of papers? Is your computer monitor framed with layers of sticky notes? If so, it's time to get organized. A messy workspace can keep you from getting your work done. Go through your desk and keep only the essentials. A clean workspace can help reduce anxiety and make room for motivation.
A little motivation can go a long way. Setting up a reward system is a good way to encourage yourself to do something. For example, if you finish an essay without any distractions, give yourself a reward like watching a video or taking a nap.