Students always face great demands and distractions, from work and social life, to sports and extracurricular activities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased these tensions and added even more demands on students’ ability to focus and be productive.
According to Psychological Association, 80-95% of students procrastinate their work. Other factors contributing to decreased productivity among college students are burnout and financial crises, such as job losses due to the pandemic, limited resources, and trying to balance schoolwork with earning enough money to cover expenses.
The coronavirus outbreak has made matters worse, with the sudden shift to distance learning posing challenges for many students. In a recent survey, about three-quarters of college students said online learning was more difficult than in-person learning, citing an inability to stay motivated.
Despite these hurdles, students can use the following set of productivity tips to keep them focused, positive, and motivated in school.
1. Use the pomodoro technique
This popular technique can work for anyone looking to maximize their productivity by turning a task into a sort of focused, short time game. The strategy is named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer (pomodoro in Italian) that its developer, Francesco Cirillo, uses to help him get his job done.
The time management tool includes these steps, namely:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on one task.
- When the “pomodoro” (25-minute work session) ends, put a check mark next to the task on a piece of paper.
- Take a five minute break, then continue with the task or start a new one.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break for 15 to 30 minutes.
If any task requires more than four 25-minute halves, the task should be broken down into smaller, actionable steps. With this method, it’s also important to track down glitches and find ways to avoid them in the future.
2. Create manageable to-do lists
Many people feel overwhelmed or demotivated to complete a task when their to-do list is too long. This is why it is best to limit yourself to 3-5 tasks that you can complete each day.
It is also important that you understand the difference between a task and a goal. An assignment is something that can be completed in a day, such as reviewing lecture notes for an English class or shopping for groceries. A larger and usually more time-consuming goal, such as learning a language or buying a new car.
3. Change your study environment
With scheduled classes you may be bound by a set routine. While this can be comfortable, sometimes our brains and bodies need a change of scenery.
Some people enjoy studying in a quiet space without a lot of noise and distraction, while others thrive on constant sound and interaction. It’s important that you find a learning environment that helps you stay on task.
While at school or at home, you can try changing your environment, such as trying a living room or terrace. Somewhere on campus, such as a quiet outdoor room or library, can also work.
If you are in a metropolitan area, you may have access to Wi-Fi. That’s really helpful. And remember, whatever your environment, the right lighting is critical to maintaining productivity.
4. Do the hardest tasks at the most productive time
To take advantage of optimal productivity, you need to determine when you are most productive, whether in the morning, afternoon, evening, or late at night.
To time your peak performance, ask yourself, when do you have the greatest amount of energy and concentration? Your peak performance is also the time when you have the least amount of distractions.
It is very important that you complete your most demanding tasks during your highest energy point. For example, if you know you’re not the best at math and are about to take a big test, you should study during your peak performance time to help you stay motivated.
5. Stop browsing websites while studying
For many students, the biggest distraction and productivity killer is browsing websites on their phones. We’ve all experienced it. In the middle of study time, we see news articles or tweets which leads to something else. It doesn’t feel like an hour has been wasted.
Research shows that the average person spends more than two hours on social media each day. One tip is to try using social media as a reward for completing tasks.
Another strategy you can use to help you avoid wasting time online is to install a website blocker like StayFocus and others.
Staying on task and motivated to increase your productivity isn’t easy in a world full of demands and distractions, especially when you’re in college. The stresses of everyday life and increasing worry during the COVID-19 pandemic have made productivity even more challenging.
But with the tips above and a little effort, you can adjust your needs, personality, and habits to start living a more productive life.