Ah, university life.
Independence from parental guidance. A thriving social life. Freedom from the obligations and routines of daily school and college classes. Being more or less your own boss. Sounds great, right?
Right – until you find yourself exhausted, reaching for the last drop of an energy drink while battling drooping eyelids at 5am, trying to hurtle through a last-minute deadline that you’ve been putting off for weeks. Instead of studying you’ve been binge-watching Netflix til the early morning, skipping lectures, indulging in takeaways, and going out with friends almost every evening.
For many students who haven’t yet figured out what works for them, that’s the reality of university life, and it can take a real toll on your grades as it’s an unsustainable lifestyle. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s actually quite easy to avoid that downward spiral by following just a few simple hacks.
Here are our best tips for how to be more productive as a university student.
Table of Contents
Develop Your Own Routine
This is top of the list for a reason. Having a routine is absolutely essential if you’re serious about being successful in your studies, and even if you just want to look after your mental and physical health better.
Getting into a routine of waking up, working, and taking breaks at around the same time each day will have a huge positive impact on the way your life feels and how your grades turn out.
Invest in a calendar, daily planner, or even a planning app. That way you can plan your classes, social activities, and lectures all in one place. Having that birds eye view of your upcoming week or month can give you the perspective you need to get motivated and not lose sight of deadlines.
Learning to juggle projects is something that you’ll likely have to do in your professional life too, so this is all good practice for the future!
Plan Your Day in the Evening
Before you go to bed, have a look over your day’s progress and see what you need to do the following day.
Make a solid to-do list with the most urgent tasks prioritised and any extras in a side list.
Putting it in writing will help you to visualise all you need to do, and crossing each task off will give you a sense of satisfaction and achievement which will keep you going.
Tackle the Hardest Tasks First to Prevent Procrastination
This might sound easier said than done, but we often make mountains out of molehills.
Putting off a difficult task only leads to a clogged-up to-do pile. The sooner you start working on the challenging stuff, the sooner you can get it over with.
Again, you need to learn how to create appropriate strategies for problem-solving if you want to have a successful career, so best to start experimenting with strategies now.
Rather than hopping from task to task, work on one thing at a time and do it well. Spend your energy on this task, and you’ll find it much more enjoyable than if you had left it til the last minute on a Friday afternoon when you’re winding down for the weekend.
And once it’s done, you’ll feel great!
Break Goals into Bite-Sized Tasks
To manage those bigger, more daunting tasks, it’s a good idea to break them down into smaller tasks.
Having milestones is a psychological trick that makes those challenging projects feel like lots of smaller, easier ones. Timing yourself in each task can also help you to maintain a realistic routine and help you to plan ahead for the next day’s tasks.
Find Your Space and Time
To be really productive you need to find out what works best for you.
Everyone has certain times of day when they are at their most productive. For most people, that’s before lunchtime but everyone is different, and of course, individual circumstances vary.
Let your productivity peaks and dips be your guide in determining the best time to do tasks.
Your working environment is influential as well. Find a place that gets you in the zone, and keep going back there. Some people find they can concentrate better in the library, others at home (although we recommend keeping study and sleep spaces apart if possible).
Perhaps find a friend to study with, so that you can make study fun and hold each other accountable for any slacking!
Maybe listening to music gets you hyped up to work – if so, great. If it’s a distraction, disconnect.
Tune out Distractions
Even in quiet environments, distractions are a reality of modern life.
With so many phone apps and most of our studying done on laptops with Internet access, it’s easy to get sucked into checking notifications.
Luckily, there are apps out there that act as blockers for social media pages, or you could simply turn off notifications.
The Freedom app is also a great resource to temporarily disable websites that are getting in the way of your productivity.
If you’re studying in noisy places like cafes, then bring some noise-cancelling headphones with you to blot out any nuisance noises.
Take Regular Breaks
Another important motivator is knowing when to take breaks.
If your laptop needs to be recharged every so often, why would you be any different? You are a human being and your brain needs to be given the chance to retain information and refill your energy tank.
That doesn’t just mean sleeping well. It also means taking regular breaks at 90 minute intervals.
It doesn’t have to be a long break – something as simple as making a cup of tea or going for a short stroll can make a world of difference to your concentration levels.
Reward yourself for small achievements.
Take Care of Your Body
Without the structure of a school timetable, it’s easy to lose a sleep routine. But once your body clock has had time to adjust to early mornings, most other things will fall into place.
The importance of sleeping well can’t be overstated. A good way to fall asleep more easily is to disconnect from all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Try reading a book and you’ll fall asleep in no time!
If you’re a night owl, perhaps try Sleep Cycle, an app that includes a smart alarm, which wakes you up when you’re in a lighter sleep.
It’s also super important to make sure you’re fuelling your mind and body correctly. University students are notorious for eating badly and snacking while cramming in revision sessions. That sugar rush might feel great in the moment, but after a while you’ll start to have energy slumps and feel bloated – the antithesis of productivity!
It’s actually quite easy to eat well if you know a few tricks. First of all, drink plenty of water – keep your brain hydrated so it functions properly.
Make sure your meals include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and take inspiration from easy recipe guides online – there are plenty of cooking websites and YouTube channels if you’re stuck for inspiration.
Eat your meals around the same time each day and prepare meals in advance. If you batch prepare meals on one or two days of the week and freeze them, you’ll save lots of time in the long-run and be guaranteed delicious, healthy meals just when you need them most.
And don’t forget to factor in 15–30 minutes of exercise each day. Something as simple as walking to the university faculty building from your conveniently located student accommodation in Leicester can make all the difference to your day’s outcome.
Alternatively, get involved with a uni sports society, or try jogging, yoga, or a gym session to get your body moving. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
Remember to always reward yourself for a job well done. University is for enjoying the experience as well as for productivity – but the two go hand in hand. Make the most of it!