Have you decided on your New Year’s resolution? If you’re a student who wants to kick procrastination to the curb and quit pulling all-nighters writing last-second essays, now’s the perfect time to commit to changing bad habits. It’s a new year, meaning a whole new set of classes, homework, projects, and papers for you to do. This semester, do yourself a favor and conquer procrastination, organize your workload, meet your deadlines, and rock out the rest of the school year!
First, make a plan.
Prioritize your responsibilities.
Every week, look over everything you know you’re going to be responsible for, and then rank them by importance. The top three items are your main priorities and should be tackled first. These are the tasks that will have the most severe consequences if they’re not handled correctly, so make sure you keep them on your mind until they’re complete.
Make your plan at the beginning of every month and week.
Begin every month by writing down your monthly goals, and review them every week. Start your week by prioritizing, and making sure you’re conquering the most important tasks and assignments first. If you sit down and review your short-term goals and responsibilities every month, you can create a schedule that best fits your lifestyle.
As soon as you get an assignment, immediately plan out how you’re going to tackle it. If it’s due in a month, don’t start in 25 days. Plan backward from the due date. For example, it’s March 1, and a paper is assigned to be due on March 30. Plan to have it printed and ready to hand in on March 29 (so you’re not fighting for a spot in line for the printer 20 minutes before class starts only to find out it’s out of ink). This means your final draft should be ready on March 28, and you might want to have a friend read it over by March 26. A rough draft should be done by March 20, at least, so you’ll want to have an outline done by March 10. Finally, you might want to start your research right away so you’ll have enough to fit in to a full, organized outline in 10 days.
Keep a planner, checklist, or bullet journal.
Managing an accurate and up-to-date planner will do wonders for keeping your responsibilities organized. Keep track of important deadlines by using the calendar on your phone, or opt for a more streamlined and precise app like Wunderlist — a highly customizable checklist that’s easy and convenient to use. If you’re creative or artistic — or looking to be — try creating a bullet journal. Designing and beautifying a resource like a journal or planner can inspire you to continually add to it. You’ll be excited to plan out every week using a bullet journal!
Then, stick to your plan…
Limit your internet access.
If you’re a serial procrastinator, then you love to spend at least an hour on Tumblr before digging in to your school project. The best thing you can do for yourself is minimize this distraction and cut yourself off cold turkey. If you’re a MacBook user, try out the free application SelfControl. It allows you to add websites to a blacklist, and set a customized period of time where you’re blocked from visiting those sites. This is great for when you still need to use the internet for research but can’t seem to stop checking Twitter. If this doesn’t work for you, kick it old school and head to the campus library. The quiet, studious environment may help keep you focused, and they’ll have computers you can use without a bookmark to your Facebook page.
Use flashcards when studying.
If you don’t already use flashcards for studying tough subjects, start now. Write key terms or topics on index cards, and go through them every day. A little bit each day will help with naturally memorizing the information rather than needing to cram them all in the night before the exam. Save some trees and use the app Cram on your phone. You can organize flashcards by subject, and keep track of the cards you need to study more.
Use a color code.
Organizing your work using colors is a great way to mentally organize your responsibilities. Give each subject a different color, and use that color whenever you add an assignment to a calendar or list. This way, you can glance at your calendar and quickly assess what kind of tasks you need to accomplish.
Use a whiteboard or corkboard.
Organizing your priorities in various ways will help you keep on top of things. Keep a calendar on your phone or a list in your planner, but also keep your assignments and important dates mounted on a wall or desk calendar, so it’s easy to see and hard to forget.
Use the buddy system.
Any New Year’s resolutions — like exercising or studying more — will be easier to keep with a friend. You’ll hold each other accountable, and get more done. Find a friend you trust to keep it real with you, and plan to meet up with them for study sessions. Alternate which one of you brings brownies.
Finally, don’t stress about your plan.
Work now, play later.
If you’re a habitual procrastinator, create a reward system for yourself. Sure, it’s tempting to put your final paper off another day while you join your friends for trivia night, but if you plan accordingly, you can do both! When you’ve completed a tough task or assignment, aim to treat yourself to a fun time out with friends, your favorite sweet snack, or a 30-minute break watching an episode on Netflix. You’ll feel better about yourself, and thank yourself later.
Learn your most productive time.
Everyone is different. Some people do their best work as soon as they wake up in the morning, and others find they’re most productive at 2 a.m. When it comes to doing cognitive work, The Wall Street Journal suggests that adults’ most productive hours are in the late morning. But for creativity, fatigue may be a contributing factor for thinking outside the box. Depending on what work you want to accomplish, your daily responsibilities, and your personal preferences, experiment with what time of day is the most productive for you.
Take a break!
Studies and experience show you’ll be your most productive self when you allow yourself to rest and take a break. In 2014, The Atlantic published an article suggesting the formula for perfect productivity is working for 52 minutes, and breaking for 17. Another option is to get up from your desk for 10 minutes every hour. Go get a coffee, have a quick chat, or do something relaxing like meditating, listening to music, or indulging in a quick yoga session. This way, when you return, you’ll feel more refreshed and can resume your studies with new energy. Incorporating a rest routine into your study sessions is very important for personal morale and productivity.