The ability to be productive doesn’t come easy to all of us. On any given week, the average university student has various responsibilities and distractions which take their focus away from being productive. StudEtree, comprised of current and former university graduates, understands the pressures that comes with being a university student and this is what I’ve learned about managing productivity.
1. Listening to music that immediately helps you focus can have a Pavlovian response. For example, I always listen to Chopin whenever I have to study for hours on end. Why not Mozart or Beethoven? Well, for one, their epic symphonies make it seems as though studying ”capital markets” is a matter of life and death. It’s not. Chopin reassures me of that, he calms me down. His music instantly jolts me into becoming singularly concentrated on the task at hand; it serves as a reminder that it’s time to focus and study. In fact, the only time I listen to his music is when I study. Find your Chopin.
2. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method built on working with time, rather than against time in order to complete tasks without any distractions while remaining hyper-focused in short bursts. In essence, break down your study time into intervals of 25 minutes, then take a short 5 minute break. Rinse and repeat. The deceptively simple Pomodoro Technique has been an effective time management method of mine for many years. You will be astonished just how much work you can done in 25 distraction-free minutes. As for that 5 minute break, you’ll feel as though you’ve truly earned it.
3. Remember how you felt when you proscrastinate. You’ve had a month to do this assignment. It’s due tomorrow. It’s worth 15%. It’s 6PM. You haven’t started it yet. You tell yourself, ”it’s okay, I’m just going to pull an all-nighter. I can do this. I’ve done this before.” It’s deja vu all over again, isn’t it?
So you ask yourself: how did I get here? Perhaps it was when you decided to read the entire Wikipedia entry on the ”Greatest Rap Beefs of All Time” and proceeded to go on an YouTube adventure rediscovering the greatest hits of Ja Rule (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience).
I’m sure you’ve met people who leave everything up to the last minute. In fact, you may be one of those individuals. I’m also sure that you’ve heard these same people boasting about being able to complete their assignments at the last minute. Bragging about being able to pull all-nighters is simply admitting that you’re bad at time management and that you’re essentially unproductive. Remember the ”past you”, now think of the ”future you”. You can make his or her life a lot easier if ”present you” would get down to work as soon as possible. Think of days where you’ve done zero productive tasks. That’s a zero-day. No more zero-days.
4. Productivity is sacrifice and sacrifice is a matter of choice. The modern university student is arguably faced with more distractions than ever before and distractions often fall within the realm of choices. A distraction is essentially anything that prevents you from giving your full attention to a more important matter at hand, and as much as we hate to admit it, we often choose to be distracted on a daily basis.
In his popular TED Talk, ”Inside the mind of a master procrastinator”, Tim Urban talks about the ”Instant Gratification Monkey”, and it only cares about two things: easy and fun. It only lives for the present, it has no memory of the past, and no knowledge of the future.
As a quick exercise, think back to some of the choices that you’re constantly faced with and how those choices effect your overall productivity. Now, think back to some of the most self-disciplined people you know. It could be a parent, a friend, or a colleague. What terms would you associate with them? Willpower? Self-control? Most importantly, are the most self-discipline people that you personally know able to sacrifice their time and energy in order to remain productive?
Do they do the things they have to do first, in order do the things they want to do later? Do you?