10 Steps To Become a More Productive University Student

March 2nd, 2009
By Jon H
10 Steps To Become a More Productive University Student

You have probably started your second term at university with a bang, given that we’re clearly in 2009 now, and some of you will be in hectic research mode for your dissertation, it should be clear that you could be productive with your time during your university years.

With Easter on the horizon, it won’t be long before you’ve got a few weeks off to relax (or revise) and think about how things are going to develop, and at the end of this month having exams, more essays and papers to write.
When on campus your time is limited, there are only so many hours in the day and you’ve got to fit in daily lectures (if you get up in time ;-)), scramble for books in the library (before everyone else gets them), and get up to date with what happen over the last week.  You, therefore, want to use the time that you do have productively, because when you’re not there you probably won’t be thinking about it.

I’ve listed the top ten productivity tips that will help you as a university student in the rest of 2009.
Now, you’re probably saying to yourself  “here we go, another one of these lists!” and you’d be right, you probably have seen this type of list a thousand times over on a number of other boring and uninteresting sites and some of those mind numbing books that you’re advised to read.  Well, this is my take on things and to be honest I have a really short attention span when concentrating on things, so hopefully you’ll learn something new different.
1.    Cut out distractions – If you’re at home or at a friend’s, then you’re going to want to eliminate the distractions from around you.  Turn the TV off, your mobile and pop a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door.  If you study better when you have some music on, then you should leave it on, just don’t turn on the radio for music as you’ll become distracted will the news, talking and adverts that crop up.  Cutting out any unwanted distractions will make sure that you can focus on studying and use your time effectively.

2.    Clear your mind – you’ll want to ensure that you’ve not got a hundred and one things on your mind that you have to remember for next week, or that your mind is full of worthless stuff that is happening in your life.  When this happens, you’ll want to take a couple of deep breaths and try to relax – you could also try going for a quick walk around the block or popping on facebook for some jucy gossip, but you only want to do this for 10 minutes or so; so, if you decide to do the latter then you should time yourself – spending all evening on facebook might be fun, but isn’t going to be productive to your university studies is it?

3.    Go set some goals – where do you expect to get to if you don’t know where you’re going?  That’s always one question that you should ask yourself and it doesn’t matter is you’re writing an essay or studying for an exam, you should have an end goal(s) in mind, don’t just mingle along for the sake of it.  These goals should set out an end game, where you want to be with a task or achievement.  If you were thinking about completing an essay then you could think about going to do some research, or reading a number of chapters in a book or a number of articles to help you understand the topic – not knowing where you’re heading to, and the steps that you have to take, can lead any university student to become confused and annoyed.

4.    Buy some Earplugs – eh?  I said go buy some earplugs! (ok, that sounded funnier in my head.)  You can get earplugs dirt cheap wherever you are in the world and they will help you a lot.  When you’re studying, you’ll want to block a lot of the noise out, whether you live with a few friends in a house, in dorms at university or even at home with your family, you’re going to want to ‘hear yourself think’ and get your thoughts together.  Many people do listen to music when they’re studying, but I tend to think this can negatively affect your concentration; you want to study and remember what you read, not recite the words to Brittney’s hit me baby one more time!  Getting earplugs is easy, if you’re a student studying in the UK then I suggest going onto the British Snoring society’s website, you can get about 5 sets for a couple of pounds; they’re a nifty yellow and pinky/red colour similar to pear drops you can get in the shops, although I wouldn’t suggest eating them as apparently they don’t taste so good – not that I’ve tried though 🙂

5.    Get good great at taking notes – I tend to get easily confused when I’m taking notes from a number of sources, if I don’t get myself in order.  You should try a number of different methods that can help you remember what you have written and make sure your notes will be in logical order, which will help when you get down to writing your essay or academic paper.  You may even want to compare a few different methods to find a combined learning method that works for you.  For me, I used to make notes on a book or academic journal by using a notepad, writing in different coloured highlighters for different points, and then typing these notes into a document on my PC.  It may sound like a rather long winded process, but I used to be able to recall much of the information I had read and disseminate it into a paper.  This made writing essays a lot quicker for me, and guess what, it gave me more time to spend in the pub!

6.    Get smelly – now this may only apply to you if you’re of the female variety, but I have been told a few of the men have used it too (on the advice of their girlfriends though).  Getting a scented candle can help you think and clam your subconscious mind (apparently), which helps you process things quicker in the brain and learn more effectively – it will also improve your memory and recall too.

7.    Take regular breaks – working for 3 or 4 hours nonstop may get you thinking you’re being productive, but in actual fact you’re not and it could negatively affect your writing at university.  When you get to the point of your mind wondering or you need to keep re-reading your sentences more than twice to understand them, then you’ll need to take a break from studying.  You could take a walk outside, chat with a friend, or do some stretches to relax your muscles.  One of the main things you are attempting to do here is take your brain away from study (letting it digest what you have just been learning/studying) and relaxing any strain on your eyes.

8.    Water yourself – no, I don’t mean take a shower; you’re going to need to keep yourself hydrated whilst studying, as your brain will be working quite hard.  Also, if you’re like 99% of students at university and college, you will probably have drunk quite a bit over the last few days and your body will need to take on water.

9.    Feed your brain – there are certain foods that help feed your brain, such as fruit and nuts; eating these regularly can help you learn.  Also, try to avoid eating big meals around study time as this will cause your brain to concentrate on processing the food through your system and not on the different tasks you have set yourself to complete during your study period.

10.    Change your routine – ‘a change is as good as a rest’ my grandmother used to say, and this is so true.  You should keep changing the way you study and work at university, until you find something that fits your own personality.  But, you shouldn’t stick with it, but keep tweaking this new routine as it can probably be further improved.

Overall, you want to make sure you are proactive in your learning whilst at university or college, as you haven’t got very long.  Think back to the start of the year, in freshers’ week, you will probably think it was only a short time ago, you’ve only got a few months left until the end of the academic year.  If you’re a final year student at university and completing your academic dissertation thesis, then you’ll certainly want to think about your productivity.  You’re going to be graduating soon and entering the area of work, so the more productive you become now, the more influence you will be able to make on a prospective employer.

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