Which time management tips are great for college students?

Here are 5 hacks to manage your study time like a pro.

HACK ONE. Become laser-focused first thing in the morning with this question: What is the ONE THING I am committed to finishing in my studies today?

  • Why this this question is important: it encourages you to think strategically about your day, it keeps you focused on your studying goal, it forces you to prioritize what’s the most important to finish, and it serves as a personal promise to yourself.
  • How you can incorporate it into your day: put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. Read it out loud as you start your day, and come up with an answer on the spot. Then, as you go through the day, make sure you’re working on completing what you’ve identified as your one thing.

HACK TWO. Prep everything you need.

  • Choose the right location. It can be a desk in your bedroom or someplace quiet, with plenty of daylight and a good lamp for reading. Or, if you don’t have a dedicated working space at home that is farther away from roommates or family, go to the library and find a desk in the back so that you don’t sit close to patrons walking by every five minutes.
  • Gather all the references. This applies to your textbooks, notebooks, laptop if you have one, reference materials (bookmark websites you’ll need in your browser or keep handwritten notes on your desk), and your productivity plan for the day (a checklist of all items you need to complete, either saved as a word document or in a notepad you can write in).
  • Have your essentials ready: a bottle of water, thermos with coffee or tea, a sweater if you get cold, and a snack that will give you energy, such as a banana, some peanut butter, or a fruit and nut mix.
  • Cancel out the noise. Bring a set of headphones with you that reduce environmental noise, and play music on your laptop or phone that improves your brain function (classical music has been very effective according to many studies – try Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Vivaldi, for example). Don’t want any music? Get a good pair of soft silicone ear plugs like these and study in silence.

HACK THREE. Improve your time management technique.

Here’s an important studying tip: use a timer to divide up your day into manageable increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. Here’s how:

  • For learning new information and reviewing: set the timer to 30 or 60 minute blocks. When you’re done with one segment, step away from your desk, and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest: take a 5 minute walk, look out the window, stretch your body, grab a cup of coffee or tea.
  • For practicing exam questions: use the review questions provided either in your textbook or other course materials (if you have neither, create your own questions based on the most important concepts from each chapter). Write the questions down on a sheet of paper. Then, use the Pomodoro technique to give yourself only a short time to answer each question.
  • For memorizing and recalling: practice your answers out loud. Write an outline of the basic points you want to make in your answer, then talk it through out loud. This technique helps you review and retain what you’ve learned in a much better way than just silently looking over the material.

HACK FOUR. Do your hardest and most important work EARLY.

  • Why this technique is important: because the early hours of the day are the most optimal time for your analytical brain to perform the most complex tasks (in the case of studying, these can be reading, comprehension, application, repetition). Some scientists call this time of day the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s roughly 2-4 hours after we wake up.
  • How you can incorporate it into your day: clear your early morning hours for your most important work. For maximum benefits, extend this time until midday so that you cover the most important concepts by lunchtime. The benefit? You won’t be dreading having to study the toughest material later in the evening.

HACK FIVE. Get away (and stay away!) from everything that distracts you.

  • Why this is important: distractions negatively impact your focus and can lower your productivity, so you need to make a conscious effort to avoid them as much as possible.
  • How you can incorporate this technique into your day:
    • Be smarter with your phone: screen your calls, call back if something is urgent, and for the rest, follow up when the time is right for you.
    • Set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus without any disturbances.
    • Set expectations with others (family, friends, roommates, partners) by letting them know you won’t be available in the next few hours, so they don’t interrupt you with their requests, questions or comments.
    • Check your email and social media apps only 2–3 times a day(around lunchtime, later in the afternoon, and evening). Avoid the temptation to check “just for a few minutes” – this can easily turn into an hour without your even noticing!
    • Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news; leave these activities for later, after you’ve completed the studying you need to cover for the day.
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