Five ways to boost your study productivity without turning into a hermit

August 31, 2016
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As a student, the three most valued things in life are sleep, a social life, and good marks. But as the diagram goes, you can only choose two. In your 20s though, your circadian rhythm is something to be feared, not controlled. Do as it says or you’re dead. So that leaves social life vs. good enough marks if you want to land a job that doesn’t involve you wearing a uniform and a name badge.

For some odd reason, going out with reckless abandon until the early hours is so much more satisfying when your first class is at 2pm the next day (and even then, it’s probably not compulsory). This is the uni cycle to which many good students have fallen victim to in the past. But fear not, help is at hand. Take it from a person in their sixth year of uni.

Study efficiently

The core lesson here is that the time you spend studying should be spent ONLY studying. Simple is as simple does: if you’ve dedicated three hours a day to revision, you better not plan on surfing the internet to fill that existential void that’s been growing since you turned 15. As that Latin dude Horace said: rule your mind or it will rule you.

Get into a better routine

Set a bed time and a wake up time. Assign periods of the day to studying and periods to not studying. Have time for one leisure activity a day. It’s the simplest idea, but routine plays a vital role in helping us to work effectively.

Veering from this path once in a while isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What matters is how quickly you return to your routine. Once you’ve done this a few times, getting back on the horse will become easier and easier. If you have a schedule and a routine, you will retain a sense of control over your study life without sacrificing the exciting spontaneity that uni offers. If that’s too much, remember this: discipline gives you more free time than freedom ever will.

Keep a journal

Tracking your daily thoughts through writing can be very therapeutic, helping to relieve the stress and anxiety of study. Simply jotting down your thoughts in the morning before your day begins or as a reflection once the day has ended can help you declutter and put everything in perspective.

You might never read those words again. And if you’re hoping your thoughts have a chance of becoming a published Penguin book, that’s probably unlikely as well. It’s the process that matters and the ritual will ultimately help. 

Kill social media (for a bit)

Our brains are designed to reward laziness and the path of least resistance (it’s called dopamine, bruh). Steve Jobs and Zuck did a great job of creating technology that allows us to constantly be in the company of friends and total strangers around the world. Thing is, cat videos and memes may make us laugh internally for a few seconds, but think about how much they distract you from your ability to study.

Solution? Cut them out of your life for periods when you are studying. Tools like SelfControl (Mac), News Feed Eradicator (Chrome) and Unplugged (iPhone) all help with limiting these temptations. Also, you could just delete Snapchat and see if your life gets any worse.

Take a mental health day once a week

Last but not least (and certainly a favourite pastime of uni students) make sure you take a period of time each week (a day, two days, half a day, whatever) where you do nothing uni-related at all. It’s the same idea as scheduling your uni work – if you designate a Saturday as a mental health day full of fun things that you like doing, you’ll feel recharged for a week of class and strenuous mental exercise.

What works for some may not work for others, which means this is a great opportunity for you to find your productivity niche and work towards it. Otherwise you’ll be the only mature-age student who is yet to leave uni, looking more out of place than Floyd Mayweather in a cooking class.  

Rory Marples

Rory is studying a Bachelor or Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Notre Dame.

Image: Amy Clarke, Flickr Creative Commons license